Kagel: Rrrrrrr…; Ludwig van; Der Eid des Hippokrates; Unguis incarnatus est; MM 51

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Rrrrrrr…; Ludwig van; Der Eid des Hippokrates; Unguis incarnatus est; MM 51
PERFORMER: Alexandre Tharaud, Eric Le Sage (piano), Philippe Bernold (flute), Hervé Joulain (cor anglais), Marc Marder (double bass), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Ronald Van Spaendonck (clarinet), François Le Roux (baritone); Rémusat Choir
CATALOGUE NO: AECD 0311 (distr. Harmonia Mundi)
Which living composer would name a piece after the medical term for ingrowing toenail (Unguis incarnatus est), reminding us mischievously that the phrase ‘incarnatus est’ also occurs in the Latin Mass; and then, in the piece itself, quote distorted fragments of Liszt’s Nuages gris while asking the pianist to make a measured thumping noise with his metaphorical ‘Unguis incarnatus’, namely the pedal? Only one: Mauricio Kagel, the jester in the very solemn court of the avant-garde. It would be wrong to call Kagel’s amusing subversions of the Great Western Tradition witty; they’re much too sinister and violent for that. Alexandre Tharaud throws himself into the fun with gusto, and he also brings an amazing variety of touch to the music itself. Not all the music is dark: there are moments of quiet, moonlit beauty in Rrrrrrr… (based on musical devices beginning with the letter R, in case you’re wondering). And the half-remembered scraps of Beethoven in Ludwig van have a ghostly pathos, well caught by the excellent ensemble, which includes that wonderful French baritone François Le Roux. And the recording is fabulously detailed without being clinical. The CD is an entertaining, if ultimately rather chilling, introduction to a hugely influential composer. Ivan Hewett