Holliger: Schneewittchen

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Holliger
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Schneewittchen
PERFORMER: Juliane Banse, Cornelia Kallisch, Steve Davislim, Oliver Widmer, Werner Gröschel; Zürich Opera Orchestra/Heinz Holliger
CATALOGUE NO: 465 287-2
As if being acclaimed the greatest oboist of the last half-century were not enough, Heinz Holliger’s parallel achievement as a composer of great refinement and individuality is steadily being recognised, too.

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Schneewittchen (‘Snow White’) is his first opera (premiered in Zürich in October 1998) and, as anyone who knows Holliger’s earlier, multi-layered works would expect, this is by no means a straightforward telling of the fairy-tale. The libretto is taken from an expressionist play by the Swiss dramatist Robert Walser, in which the five archetypal characters of the tale reassess their relationships and go over the story from different perspectives.

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The result is fascinating, a labyrinth of interconnections and implications which radiates outwards from the story towards the dramatist’s own life and relationships; Holliger’s score follows the text faithfully, reflecting all these facets. In its vocal writing and in the astonishing range of colours that he draws from the orchestra, the music is wonderfully varied. This is an opera of infinite fascination and superbly performed here by all concerned, with the soprano Juliane Banse outstanding in the title role. Andrew Clements