The School of Understanding

COMPOSERS: Michael Mantler
LABELS: ECM
PERFORMER: Jack Bruce, Per Jørgensen, Mona Larsen, Susi Hildgaard, Karen Mantler, John Greaves, Don Preston, Robert Wyatt (v); Michael Mantler (t, con); Roger Jannotta (cl, bs cl, fl, ob); Bjarne Roupé (g); Marianne Sørensen, Mette Brandt (vn); Mette Winther (vla);
CATALOGUE NO: 537 963-2

Advertisement

Vienna-born composer Michael Mantler calls this ambitious, deeply-felt work ‘sort-of-an-opera’. Set in a language school, it deals with the struggle of students (Karen Mantler, Don Preston et al) and their teacher (Per Jørgensen) to gain perspective on the suffering and chaos they perceive all around them.

An Observer (Jack Bruce) and a Guest Observer (Robert Wyatt) comment gnomically on the proceedings, and the whole climaxes in a highly affecting musical visit to the literary apotheosis of such metaphysical enquiry, Beckett’s What is the Word. Inevitably, since the work was conceived as a multi-media presentation involving video etc, much is lost in only hearing it.

Advertisement

However, the sensitivity of the music – faultlessly performed – the felicitousness of the casting and, above all, the intellectual cogency of Mantler’s original concept, combine to make the whole project his most fully realised work to date. Chris Parker