Magazine article Gramophone

Kurtag: 'Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir'

Magazine article Gramophone

Kurtag: 'Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir'

Article excerpt

Kurtag [G]

'Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir' Four Capriccios, Op 9. Four Songs to Poems by Janos Pilinszky, Op 11. Grabstein fur Stephan, Op 15c. Messages of the Late Miss R Troussova, Op 17.... quasi una fantasia ..., Op 27 No 1. Double Concerto, Op 27 No 2. Samuel Beckett: What is the Word, Op 30p. Songs of Despair and Sorrow, Op 18. Four Poems by Anna Akhmatova, Op 41. Colinda-Balada, Op 46. Brefs Messages, Op 47 Natalia Zagorinskaya sop Gerrie de Vries mez Yves Saelens ten Harry van der Kamp bass Jean-Guihen Queyras vc Tamara Stefanovich of Elliott Simpson gtr Csaba Kiraly pianino/spkr Netherlands Radio Choir; AskolSchonberg / Reinbert de Leeuw ECM New Series (M) (3) 481 2883 (151' * DDD * T/t)

Across the 11 works on this three-disc set, which don't sit too happily under the title 'Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir' whichever way you cut it, Gyorgy Kurtag's unmatched and exacting qualities as a composer make themselves felt in typically intuitive ways. In almost all the pieces included, from the ostensibly well-mannered ... quasi una fantasia ... to the kicking and raging Songs of Despair and Sorrow, we are reminded that while the music of Kurtag's colleagues became ever more transcendent and international, he himself dug deeper into his own country's soil and was never afraid to get mud on his shoes. A work such as Four Poems by Anna Akhmatova proves that sophistication is certainly not a casualty of that process.

Songs of Despair and Sorrow might bear allusions to Russian traditions in more than the language it sets but Kurtag's vocal friction, ordered polyphony and unsettled whispering can be heard in works vocal and non-vocal throughout this collection, and indeed throughout Kurtag's output. He sets Romanian in the biggest single movement recorded, Colinda-Baladd, based on a colindd collected by Bartok in 1913. …

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