Kurtag: Signs, Games and Messages; Hölderlin Gesänge; … pas à pas – nulle part…

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Kurtag
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Signs, Games and Messages; Hölderlin Gesänge; … pas à pas – nulle part…
PERFORMER: Kurt Widmer (baritone), Mircea Ardeleanu (percussion), Heinrich Huber (trombone), David LeClair (tuba); Orlando Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 461 833-2
In Tarkovsky’s film Nostalgia there’s an apocalyptic scene where a man has to carry a guttering candle through a stagnant pond; if the candle goes out, the world perishes. It’s a scene György Kurtág asked the players on this CD to imagine while rehearsing ‘Eine Blume für Dénes Zsigmondy’, one of the 19 vividly intense miniatures that makes up Signs, Games and Messages. It clearly worked. You can really feel a sense of agonised careful slowness as one strange haunted sound moves to the next. The performers have clearly lavished the same care and imaginative sympathy on every movement, and as a result each one stands out with amazing clarity. Not all of them are tragic or spectral. The ‘Homage to Bach’ has a beautiful lightness, and there’s a streak of grotesque humour too, as in ‘de pied ferme…’ with its bizarre quotation from Bizet.

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Alongside these instrumental piece are two song cycles, one based on Hölderlin, the other on Samuel Beckett. These, too, are made up of many tiny maximally intense pieces, sung by baritone Kurt Widmer in a voice of such immense grainy depth that any hint of preciousness is banished. A marvellous CD, with a sound that’s clear yet resonant. Ivan Hewett