Tuesday 21 October 2014

Given the spectacular nature of Adriana Hölsky’s sound world, many contemporary music enthusiasts will be rewarded by a new release from Wergo of works that feature the organ

Music educator, composer and pianist Adriana Hölsky (b. 1953) was born in Romania where she studied piano with Olga Rosca-Berdan at the music school in Bucharest and, later alongside her piano studies, composition with Ştefan Niculescu at the Bucharest Music Conservatory.

Following her move to Germany in 1976, she continued her studies at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart, studying composition with Milko Kelemen and chamber music with Günter Louegk. She regularly attended the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music and, in 1980, received a teaching position at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart. Between 1997 and 2000, Hölszky was professor of composition at the Rostock University of Music and Theatre and since 2000 she has been professor of composition at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg. Since 2002 she has been a member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. She has been the recipient of numerous prizes including most recently the Bach Prize of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (2003).

In addition to a number of works for the stage, Hölsky’s compositions include choral and vocal works, orchestral and chamber works, instrumental works and works for percussion.

A new release from Wergo www.wergo.de/shop entitled Wie ein glasernes meer, mit feuer gemischt…(What looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire…) brings together three significant works that feature the organ. …und ich sah wie ein gläsernes Meer, mit Feuer gemischt… for solo organ, Efeu und Lichtfeld for violin and organ and …und wieder Dunkel I for percussion and organ.

WER 6789 2
Organist Dominik Susteck www.dominiksusteck.de has made contemporary music something of a speciality working with students to whom he devoted numerous projects with compositions by György Ligeti, Kurt Schwitters, John Cage and Terry Riley. Susteck has played numerous first performances of works by Erik Janson, Luis Antunes Pena, Stefan Froleyks, Peter Köszeghy, Timo Ruttkamp and Joana Wozny.  As a composer and organist Susteck has received many awards and, since 2007, has been the composer and organist at St. Peter Art Centre, Cologne. For Wergo www.wergo.de/shop  he has already recorded organ works by Stockhausen's, Ligeti and Rihm. 

A high metallic motif over a pedal underlay opens …und ich sah wie ein gläsernes Meer, mit Feuer gemischt… (…and I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire…) for organ (1996/97). Soon there is an organ outburst followed by a series of sudden phrases and outbursts. There is a steely quality to much of the writing as shafts of sound or fire, interact with glacial chords. Susteck is a fine soloist, managing all of this work’s unpredictable moments with panache. Later the organ fairly roars with life, interspersed by a little staccato motif. There are some terrific dissonances and slurred phrases. Hölsky creates an amazing tapestry of sounds, often hardly sounding like an organ, otherworldly, angular, complex in structure and rhythms, creating so many colours and textures before dancing to an overpowering coda.

This is an amazing work that vividly creates what the composer describes as ‘…vivid pictures of light and colour alternate with calm and mysterious moments…’

Efeu und Lichtfeld (Ivy and Field of Light) for violin and organ (2008) is said by the composer to be a poetic metaphor for ‘the restrained yet lively simultaneity of these two very different instruments’.

Violinist Sabine Akiko Ahrendt www.wergo.de/shop/en_UK/artists/23/sabine-akiko-ahrendt  joins Dominik Susteck, opening with rapid, shrill violin bowing that adds even more to Hölsky’s organ textures. The music is often percussive, often shrilly bowed with sudden pin point notes and chords from the violin punctuating this sound world. The organ provides a background out of which it too sends sudden sounds, often with pulsating, longer held notes that strangely compliment the violin figurations. Ahrendt draws a tremendously raw sound as the work ends.

One feels that, despite little forward momentum, a tremendous journey has been completed. This work is brilliantly played. With both instruments very well balanced.

Percussionist, Jens Brülls https://myspace.com/percussionmalletsdrums , https://en-gb.facebook.com/jens.bruells  joins Dominik Susteck for …und wieder Dunkel I (…and again Darkness I) for percussion and organ (1985/90). Again I am grateful for the composer’s comment that each movement of this work is ‘associated with a fragment from Gottried Benn’s poem ‘Ein Wort’ – the composition can also be understood as a musical realisation of the patterns of movement in the poem as a whole’. The text of the poem is given in the CD booklet.

The first movement, …ein Wort (…a word) opens with an animated organ motif soon joined by a variety of drums giving a wealth of texture to the organ that provides a staccato motif in a variety of textures. Both percussion and organ seem to have their own musical line yet strangely complement each other. At times it sounds as though the drums are trying to conquer the organ as it continues its unstoppable phrases. Both seem to run out of steam at the end.

Movement II, …ein Glanz (…a glow) brings a mysterious, pulsating organ over which percussion rumble before the music slowly heaves itself up with unearthly sounds. Hölsky creates what in many ways is closer to that of an electronic sound world, so unlike conventional instrumental sounds are these. This is quite remarkable music showing that Hölsky has a very fine ear for colour and texture. As the organ pulsates louder the percussion counter with louder rolls of tam-tam before the music fades to the end.

Rhythmic percussion opens the third movement, …ein Flug, ein Feuer, ein Flammenwurf, ein Sternenstrich… (…a flight, a fire, a burst of flames, a steak of stars…) to which the organ adds loud chords. Organ bursts occur against colossal drum rolls with further thundering deep pedal notes against lighter percussion creating squalls of sound. As the coda arrives, individual percussion instruments allow the music to gently and delicately fade.

Finally we come to Movement IV …und wieder Dunkel, ungeheuer, im Ieeren Raum um Welt und ich. (…and again darkness, awesome, in the empty space around the world, and I) that brings a broad spacious, cavernous atmosphere with the organ providing an underlying surface over which a multitude of percussion sounds appear. This is otherworldly music again. There are arpeggios on organ against rhythmic percussion, pulsating organ sounds and much detail going on, brilliantly captured by these artists before the music fades at the end.

This is a strangely captivating work that creates the most remarkable sounds from both organ and percussion.

Lovers of contemporary organ music will want to have this disc but, given the spectacular nature of Hölsky’s sound world, many contemporary music enthusiasts will be just as rewarded by this new release.

The performances are spectacularly fine and the recording is absolutely first rate. There are excellent booklet notes. Whilst the playing time is just over 44 minutes in duration, the spectacular content more than compensates, in fact one feels that nothing could really follow.

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