Wednesday 26 September 2012

Endlessly fascinating music by German composer Moritz Eggert in a new release from Audite

Regular followers will know that I am always keen to hear new music so, when I received details of a new release from Audite of music by the German composer, Moritz Eggert, I was extremely interested to hear the disc.

Moritz Eggert was born in 1965 in Heidelberg and studied piano and composition with Wolfgang Wagenhaeuser and Claus Kuehnl at Dr.Hoch´s Konservatorium in Frankfurt, with Leonard Hokanson at the Musikhochschule Frankfurt and with Wilhelm Killmayer in Munich at the Musikhochschule Muenchen. He also played keyboard in various bands, together with guitarist Marcus Deml.

Later he continued his piano studies with Raymund Havenith and Dieter Lallinger, and composition with Hans-Jürgen von Bose in Munich. In 1992 he spent a year in London as a post-graduate composition student with Robert Saxton at the Guildhall School for Music and Drama.

In 1996 he played the complete works for piano solo by Hans Werner Henze for the first time in one concert and, in 1989, he was a prize-winner at the International Gaudeamus Competition for Performers of Contemporary Music. He is a regular guest artist at festivals around the world and has been commissioning composers for various chamber music projects. He lives in Munich.

As a composer, Moritz Eggert has been awarded prizes such as the composition prize of the Salzburger Osterfestspiele, the Schneider/Schott-prize, the ‘Ad Referendum’ prize in Montréal, the Siemens Förderpreis for young composers, and the Zemlinsky Prize.

Moritz Eggert has covered all genres of music in his work which includes nine operas as well as ballets and works for dance and music theatre, often with unusual performance elements. His concert-length cycle for piano solo, ‘Haemmerklavier’, is among his best known works and has been performed around the world. In 1997 German TV produced a feature-length film portrait about his music.

In1991, together with Sandeep Bhagwati, he founded the A*Devantgarde Festival for new music and, in 2003, became a member of the ‘Bayerische Akademie der Schoenen Kuenste’.In October 2010 he became professor of Music and Theatre at Munich University.
I had not heard any music by Moritz Eggert until receiving a copy of this new CD from Audite Records Entitled The Raven Nevermore this new release features six works by the composer written between 1985 and 2010.

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world) for voice, electric guitar, piano and strings (2010) was a collaboration with the singer Inga Humpe from the pop band 2raumwohnung with the idea of designing a musical concept around Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and its associated Rückert lieder that provides the title and text of this work. Inga Humpe improvised a melody around which Moritz Eggert provided harmonies. The work, that is hauntingly quiet, has a gentle jazz quality to it which is strangely attractive. The haunting vocals are provided by Inga Humpe herself.

Tetragrammaton for string orchestra (2009) refers to the Hebrew theonym (or proper noun) that refers to a deity, transliterated to the Latin letters YHWH or Yahweh meaning God. In some of his works Eggert has chosen mysterious titles in order to ‘focus on the unspeakable.’ At nearly twenty one minutes this is the longest work on this disc.

The work opens with harmonic sounds that are reminiscent of the Hardanger fiddle used in Norwegian folk music. I love this sound and, as this work progressed, I was attracted to the different effects that Eggert draws from the strings. There is a feeling, during the earlier stages of the work, that the music is moving but yet not going forward – perhaps this is what Eggert calls ‘…circling around something that isn’t definite.’

The music at times becomes more strident before the return of the harmonies of the opening.  At times Eggert seems to be playing with the effects that he can obtain from the strings, with increasing dissonance. Later pizzicato strings provide contrast before the string sound becomes richer and the music seems to gain more direction. The piece ends quietly with a solo violin over hushed strings before a sudden chord ends the work. This is a lovely work and I am thankful that Audite has recorded it.

Der Rabe Nimmermehr Ouverture (The Raven Nevermore Overture) for chamber orchestra  (1991), that gives this disc its title, concerns itself with the idea of transience and decline as does the Edgar Allan Poe poem of that name. There is certainly a narrative in this more strident and rapidly varying piece but it is difficult to follow at one hearing. In subsequent hearings I felt I could detect a struggle between quiet harmony and discord.

Adagio – An Answered Question (1994/2011) for string orchestra is a more static work that nevertheless has moments of drama to avoid any lack of interest. Musical phrases seem to emerge from the static background and the piece rises to a rich climax before the quiet coda.

Der ewige Gesange (The eternal song) for strings (1985/89) is a short, but effective piece lasting less than three minutes where the string orchestra opens, rises to a climax where there is a simple descending motif, then falls back again.

The final piece on this disc is Drei seelen (Three Souls) for violin and piano (2002). There are three movements: the first rapidly changing between a melody for the violin and a more strident theme. Here again Eggert uses the harmonics of the violin to great effect. After a second movement that has a melody that seemingly revolves around itself in a quasi-minimalistic way, there comes a final that mixes Eggert’s contemporary style with a more traditional classical sound.

So is there a distinctive voice at work here? I certainly think there is with his use of strange harmonies and harmonics and his sudden flights of fancy where themes appear out of a seemingly static background or where the music suddenly changes direction. Tetragrammaton could easily take its place in the repertoire of works for string orchestra.

The performances are first rate and the booklet notes very informative. Sadly there are no texts provided for Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen but there are many on-line sources for Friedrich Rückert’s poem.

If you are open to hearing contemporary music that is endlessly fascinating, sometimes challenging, but often very beautiful then you should try this CD.


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