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Louis Andriessen: The only one

Nora Fischer (soprano); Los Angeles Philharmonic/Esa-Pekka Salonen (Nonesuch)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Louis Andriessen
The only one
Nora Fischer (soprano); Los Angeles Philharmonic/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Nonesuch 7559791733   19:35 mins

Following the awful news in December 2020 of Louis Andriessen’s dementia, it’s plain that The only one is among the final works of this brilliantly influential composer. There’s no sense of waning powers nor any loss of iconoclastic spirit in its unnervingly surreal 20-some minutes. Composed in 2018 for the genre-straddling vocalist Nora Fischer, it’s effectively operetta-cum-cabaret disguised as an orchestral song cycle.

Five autobiographical poems by Delphine Lecompte are set in English translation. Each grapples with profound alienation encountered in everyday banalities of life routines, ageing and lust, couched in alternating glib detachment and abrasive, sometimes harrowing, intimacy. The anti-narrative is perfect for Andriessen who, true to form, eschews conventional ensemble for one with few strings but added saxophones and electric guitars.

Juxtaposing a slew of styles from motoric post-minimalism and nonchalant pop ditty to Viennese waltz – and even a hint of Symphonie fantastique in the second orchestral interlude – it’s a vivid soundworld, performed with post-modern cool by Fischer and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.


Steph Power