Goebbels: Surrogate Cities: Surrogate; Suite for Sampler & Orchestra; The Horation – Three Songs; D & C; In the Country of Last Things

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COMPOSERS: Goebbels
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Surrogate Cities: Surrogate; Suite for Sampler & Orchestra; The Horation – Three Songs; D & C; In the Country of Last Things
PERFORMER: Jocelyn B Smith, David Moss (vocals); Junge Deutsche Philharmonie/Peter Rundel
CATALOGUE NO: 465 338-2
Much of Heiner Goebbels’s work, especially his music theatre, is tightly focused – the celebration of game playing and artistic creativity in his wonderful Black on White (recorded by Ensemble Modern on RCA), the disquisitions on travel and strangeness in Or the Hapless Landing (ECM) – but the multi-media Surrogate Cities, commissioned by the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, explores a much wider canvas. It’s an evening-long collection of works that confronts the complexities of urban life, through a variety of texts and sampled sounds.

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As always with Goebbels the music has an astonishingly wide range of reference. Jazz riffs and rock licks constantly erupt through the surface; the textures are indefinably fresh and there are constant surprises. So the opening Suite, with its skeleton of Baroque forms, is punctuated with sound bites of city life, and overlaid with the singing of a Jewish cantor, while The Horation sets texts by Heiner Müller with the melodic directness and memorability of songs by Eisler or Weill. And where Surrogate uses ostinatos to build up a tremendous sense of expectation before Hugo Hamilton’s text is declaimed at full voltage by the astonishing David Moss, In the Country of Last Things alternates impassioned string eruptions with a laconic reading of Paul Auster’s words over a smoochy pizzicato bass and a high wordless soprano. Amazing stuff. Andrew Clements