LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Antiphonen; Omnia Tempus habent; Prescence
PERFORMER: Tabea Zimmermann (viola), Julie Moffat (Soprano), Peter Rundel (Violin), Michael Stirling (Cello), Hermann Kretzschmar (Piano); Ensemble Modern/Hans Zender
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61181 2
There are some composers whose work gets more elusive the better you know it. Bernd Alois Zimmermann seems to fall into that category: on disc his output is starting to get the attention it deserves, yet with every work that is recorded it feels as if one has to start again, that the rules have changed. The most substantial of the three works on this wonderfully well-played collection is the ‘Ballet blanc in five scenes’ Présence for piano trio, composed for the Stuttgart Ballet and choreographer John Cranko. Its music is often dense and rebarbative, very Fifties in its spiky surface, yet there are sudden outpourings of rhetoric and a larding of quotations from earlier composers that instantly betray the composer and his uneasy relationship not only with the language of postwar music, but with the whole musical tradition.
Présence is perhaps the hardest nut to crack here: both the viola concerto Antiphonen, in which the players deliver fragments of texts culled from everything from the Bible to James Joyce, and Omnia tempus habent, a cantata for soprano and 17 instruments based upon a text from Ecclesiastes in the Vulgate version, have a sensuous quality in their approach to sound that is much more immediately engaging and provides a way into Zimmermann’s strange, rather discomfiting world. Andrew Clements