Eotvos: Chinese Opera; Shadows; Steine

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LABELS: Kairos
WORKS: Chinese Opera; Shadows; Steine
PERFORMER: Klangforum Wien/Peter Eötvös
Composed to mark the tenth anniversary of the Ensemble InterContemporain, Chinese Opera has become the best-known of all Peter Eötvös’s concert works, a vivid and diverting example of his knack of creating memorable and original instrumental imagery. It’s operatic in the sense that the movements seem to illustrate some undisclosed dramatic scenario, Chinese in the occasional use of an oriental sound-world and its bald, abrupt juxtapositions of different types of material. The work has evolved through several versions, the longest of which consisted of three scenes, separated by a pair of comic interludes and framed by a prelude and epilogue, but it’s just the three scenes that Eötvös conducts here, making a taut and satisfying structure which the players of Klangforum Wien deliver with plenty of panache.


Since Chinese Opera, Eötvös’s music has become even more immediate in its impact. The superb Shadows, a double concerto for flute and clarinet, shows the power of this later style, using a spatial arrangement of the ensemble and electronic projection of its timbres to create an all-embracing elegiac world that resolves finally into a tender folk-tinged melody, while the fiercely concentrated Steine explores the tensions between composed and improvised music, with the harp playing a central, pivotal role. Andrew Clements