Wolpe: Enactments for Three Pianos

COMPOSERS: Wolpe
LABELS: hat[now]
ALBUM TITLE: Wolpe
WORKS: Enactments for Three Pianos
PERFORMER: Josef Christof, Steffen Schleiermacher, Benjamin Kobler, Irmela Roelcke (piano); James Avery (conductor)
CATALOGUE NO: ART 161 (dist. Harmonia Mundi)
Stefan Wolpe’s unusual stylistic journey, from hard-hitting agitprop composer of the Weimar Republic to uncompromising avant-gardist after the Second World War, can be traced through the three works on this disc. The earliest piece, March and Variations for Two Pianos dating from 1933, the year that Wolpe was forced to leave Germany after the rise of the Nazis, is relentlessly angry music, its abrasiveness underlined here by the furiously percussive piano playing of Josef Christof

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and Steffen Schleiermacher. Maybe Wolpe’s intention was to pound

his audience into submission, but

I wondered whether the performers here were being too literal in allowing little opportunity for

a sense of emotional relief.

There’s also considerable tension in the later Enactments for three pianos, a suite of five extended pieces of such textural complexity that for this recording a conductor is on hand to ensure that the ensemble is held together. Without having access to the score, I cannot comment on the accuracy of the performance, though there is little doubt that the pianists, supported by a clear recording, make every effort to characterise the individual movements effectively, particularly in the concluding

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Fugal Motions with its almost anarchic jazzy rhythms. Erik Levi