This is a reissue of a great album of contemporary vocal classical music. It took me quite some time to learn to appreciate vocal classical music, and so while I found this disc to be intriguing when it was first released in 2001, I didn't finally hear it until many years later. Christoph Eschenbach leads the NDR-Sinfonieorchester Hamburg and the Damen des NDR-Chores Hamburg, with Claudia Barainsky singing soprano and Dietrich Henschel singing baritone, in three compositions by Matthias Pintscher (b. 1971).
"Herodiade-Fragmente" (1999 -- 23'54) is a setting of extracts from Mallarme's symbolist poem. Claudia Barainsky is spectacular, opening with a fortissimo cry, but periodically subsiding into silence. The lyrics are included in French in the original 2001 Teldec disc, and while I found an English translation online, I find that the emotion is intense and the expressionist music powerful enough that the lyrics are not essential. Pintscher's idiom is modernist, but drenched in Romantic sensibility. His writing for both soprano and orchestra is impressive, and they blend to create a dark, vivid mood.
"Sur 'Depart'" (1999 -- 16'22) sets Arthur Rimbaud's poem to music for three orchestral groups, three solo cellos, and sixteen women's voices. This is a mysterious work, strangely compelling. I have found several varying English translations of the text, provided in the booklet only in the original French, but here is my favorite:
"Seen enough. The vision appeared in all atmospheres.
Had enough. Uproars of cities, in the evening, and in the sun, and always.
Known enough. The impasses of life. -O Uproars and Visions!
Departure into new affection and new clamor!"
"Music from Thomas Chatterton" (1998 -- 25'27), with text by Hans Henny Jahnn, is taken from Pintscher's opera, and features Dietrich Henschel singing baritone. The music is based on the true tragic tale of the poet who committed suicide at 17. Jahnn was a pacifist who fled Germany for Norway during World War I, and for Denmark during World War II. It was back in his native Hamburg in the 1950s that he wrote the story that became Pintscher's libretto. Like "Herodiade," Pintscher creates a compelling vehicle for vocal and orchestra. "Thomas Chatterton" is punctuated by many silences, and many crescendos, but overall is quite beautiful, not the sort of cacophony one might expect. Unlike the other two pieces, I have not been able to find an English translation of the German text, but like "Herodiade" the music works phenomenally well without focusing on lyrical content.
This album is strongly recommended to anyone interested in contemporary classical, and especially those who appreciate vocal classical music.
This Apex disc is a budget-price reissue of material originally released on Teldec in 2001, one of the first portraits of Matthias Pintscher. The German composer was born in 1971 and made a name for himself in the 1990s by extending his country's avant-garde tradition. Here Christoph Eschenbach leads the NDR-Sinfonieorchester Hamburg in music for voice(s) and orchestra.
"Musik aus 'Thomas Chatterton'" for baritone and orchestra (1998) is a concert suite of bits from Pintscher's opera on the English poet and literary forger who died at the age of 18. Dietrich Henschel is the baritone. "Hérodiade Fragmente" for soprano and orchestra (1999) is a setting of Stéphane Mallarmé's dramatic poem on the Jewish princess Herodias, divided roughly into two parts separated by long silence. The writing for soprano is hyperbolic, articulating grand sonic contours with the intelligibility of the poem ascribed a lesser role. Claudia Barainsky appears in the soprano role. "sur 'Départ'" (2000) sets a Rimbaud poem for three orchestral groups, three solo cellos, and sixteen women's voices.
I have tried really hard to get into this disc, but I remain less than won over. There is no doubt a gift to the orchestration here, and though working in the German tradition, the glittering colours have something "French" about them. But Pintscher's music is so derivative of his modernist forebears in the long silences that permeate his work and the explosions that punctuate them. It's all too much a retread of 1980s Wolfgang Rihm especially (compare Pintscher's "sur 'Départ' to Rihm's "bildlos/weglos", for example), and as Rihm was then following in the footsteps of Lachenmann and Nono, that makes Pintscher's music all the more an epigone. I just cannot hear much of an original voice here. It seems there are listeners out there who really dig what Pintscher was doing here, but I'd rather go back and explore the German tradition more.
But if I compare this disc with other recordings, perhaps much of my disappointment is due to Eschenbach's conducting Another performance of "Hérodiade-Fragment" can be heard on a Neos release with soprano Marisol Montalvo and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern conducted by Christoph Poppen. I find the Neos recording better recorded (and also available in surround sound due to the SACD layer). Plus, the differences in timings are remarkable: Poppen's conducting is a full five minutes shorter than Eschenbach's, a tighter pace that keeps it from dragging like the disc here.
"Musik aus 'Thomas Chatterton'" has also been recorded on a Kairos disc with baritone Urban Malmberg and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by the composer himself, and this too is shorter than Eschenbach's reading by three minutes. Pintscher maintains a sense a tension that is missing from the Eschenbach.
Thus this NDR-Sinfonieorchester Hamburg/Eschenbach disc might be better left to Pintscher completists.