Kagel: 1898; Music for Renaissance Instruments

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COMPOSERS: Kagel
LABELS: DG
WORKS: 1898; Music for Renaissance Instruments
PERFORMER: Children of the Hauptschule Peter-Griess-Strasse, Köln-Flittard & various instrumentalists, Collegium Instrumentale/Mauricio Kagel
CATALOGUE NO: 459 570-2 ADD Reissue (1973, 1969)
For somebody whose music is so elusive, Mauricio Kagel has proved quite a survivor. In a way it’s conceptual art for the ears – music to talk about. Even then it can be exasperating: its apparent concerns marginal, its irony unfathomable, its whimsy stopping short of satire. These reissues from the Sixties and Seventies, for all the finesse of the playing, chase after issues no longer vital: the interface of tonality and radical modernism, and the then-new possibilities of creating contemporary music for period instruments. For 1898 Kagel had stringed instruments made with horns instead of bodies, as in the early days of recording (the piece was a 75th anniversary commission from DG). The sight may be wonderful, but when the music itself is recorded most of the effect has to be imagined. Over them a children’s choir squeaks and bubbles, and tries to go bananas in an over-controlled way. Music for Renaissance Instruments is less bland. As it builds towards an explosive pile-up it makes engaging sounds with hooting choruses of recorders or crumhorns buzzing in overtones like a cross between a didgeridoo and a frog. If it comes across now like a slice of history itself, perhaps that’s the point too. Robert Maycock

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