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Holler: Spharen for Large Orchestra & Live Electronics


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Audio CD, May 25, 2010
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Product Details

  • Performer: WDR Rundfunkchor Koln
  • Orchestra: WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln
  • Conductor: Semyon Bychkov
  • Composer: York Holler
  • Audio CD (May 25, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Neos
  • ASIN: B003JMGKJ6
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,032 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Sphären, for orchestra & live electronics: 1. Wolkengesang
2. Sphären, for orchestra & live electronics: 2. Windspiel
3. Sphären, for orchestra & live electronics: 3. Erdschichten
4. Sphären, for orchestra & live electronics: 4. Regen-Kanon
5. Sphären, for orchestra & live electronics: 5. Feuerwerk
6. Sphären, for orchestra & live electronics: Sphärentrauer
7. Der Ewige Tag (The Eternal Day), for choir, orchestra & electronics

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus on April 9, 2013
The Czech composer Bedrich Smetana wrote the epic Má Vlast (My Fatherland) from 1874-1879, a cycle of six tone poems for his native Bohemia. The German composer York Holler (b. 1944) has written a cycle of six "sound images" for the Earth. Inspired by "sojourns in the North-Italian alpine-lake landscape," Holler's electro-acoustic cycle is more compact than Smetana's at about half the length, and lacks the strong melodic content of its Romantic era predecessor. But I believe the appeal is similar, based on the evocation of nature, with music that is of our time. Moving beyond nationalism, it expresses our connection with all life, with the ecosystem, at a time when all of life is imperilled.

"Spharen" (Spheres) 2001-2006 -- 39'22
for large orchestra and live electronics
WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln -- Semyon Bychkov, conductor

I) Wolkengesang (Song of the Clouds) 5'40
II) Windspiel (Wind Chime) 5'57
III) Erdschichten (Layers of Earth) 7'49
IV) Regen-Kanon (Rain Canon) 5'56
V) Feuerwerk (Fireworks) 8'17
VI) Spharentrauer (Sorrow of the Spheres) 5'44

Holler's music is not overtly radical, clearly falling on the Henze side of the Henze/Lachenmann divide in contemporary German music. But it is complex, constructed from embryonic sound shapes that are developed throughout the six pieces, linking the entire cycle. The use of live electronics is very effective. The liner notes provide no information at all, but it is integrated seamlessly with the orchestra, giving an extra shimmering layer to the timbre, and sometimes adding an underlying rumble as in the high point of the cycle, "Erdschichten.
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York Höller has been composing since the 1960s, following an individual path through modernism by first eschewing serialism for free atonality, then developing a great interest in the combination of instrumental and electronic forces. He's come to greater prominence in recent years, especially after received the Grawemeyer Award in 2010 for his orchestral work "Spheres" On this hybrid SACD release from Neos, Semyon Bychkov leads the WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln, with the WDR Rundfunk Chor joining on the second piece.

Since it won the most prestigious award for classical music composition, I had high hopes for "Spheres" for orchestra and electronics (2001-2006). The work consists of six movements, each of which the composer calls a different "sound image": Wolkengesang (Sound of the Clouds), Windspiel (Wind Chime), Erdschichten (Layers of Earth), Regen-Kanon (Rain Canon), Feuerwerk (Fireworks) and Sphaerentrauer (Sorrow of the Spheres). From the start it presents an epic scale, with longheld bass notes and tolling bells. However, for all the large form, most individual moments in the music feel like fluff, like Hovaness or the late works of Rautavaara. "Spheres" is simply too long, and if it were reduced to its meaty parts, it would be a quarter of the length. Granted, I am listening on a simple stereo setup, and the spatialization inherent in the work might make all the difference if I could hear it in surround.

"Der Ewige Tag" for mixed choir, orchestra and electronics (1988-2000/2002) is a setting of three very different poems, but which placed together trace the course of the sun from dawn in the east to sunset in the west. Ibn Sharaf's 13th-century "Morning" is a love poem where the beloved is a metaphor for God.
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