Thursday, 15 October 2015

A most welcome release from New Focus Recordings of solo, chamber and vocal works by Reiko Füting

Reiko Füting was born in 1970 in Königs Wusterhausen in the German Democratic Republic, studying composition and piano at the Dresden Conservatory; Rice University, Houston; the Manhatten School of Music and Seoul National University, South Korea.

As well as composition, Füting has performed throughout Europe, Asia and the USA. He teaches composition and theory at the Manhattan School of Music and has appeared as guest faculty and lecturer at universities and conservatories in China, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea and the USA.

He has written instrumental, chamber and orchestral works as well as choral and vocal works.

Now from New Focus Recordings comes a new release of solo, chamber and vocal works by Reiko Füting entitled namesErased.

FCR 152
This new CD features members of New York City’s most celebrated contemporary ensembles, including the International Contemporary Ensemble , Either/Or Ensemble , and the Mivos String Quartet performing works written by Füting over the past thirteen years.

In Kaddish: The Art of Losing (2008) the cello of John Popham opens bringing some quite distinctive ruminations, played remarkably. Soon the piano of Yegor Shevtsov enters quietly as the cello weaves its way ahead, a little theme showing through as it develops. The music grows in tension with a more strident, dissonant piano part and some very fine chords from the cello creating some wonderful textures and timbres. Incisive bowing from the cellist leads into a quieter passage before falling to a halt. The cello and piano slowly lead off again more gently before growing more agitated before another momentary pause. As they slowly move ahead again there is a sense of a heavy burden. Hushed vocal sounds are heard then the piano appears, leading slowly to the quiet coda that ends on a repeated single piano note.

Mezzo-soprano Nani Füting enters high up to open ‘Leises Geigenspiel...’ (Distant violin playing) (2004), slowly extracting some highly characterised vocal shapes in this, the first extract on this disc from Füting’s ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen.’ (‘...collected silence’) a setting of texts by Reiner Bonack.

tanz.tanz ( (2010) for solo violin is based on the choral tunes in Bach’s Chaccone that were discovered by the German musicologist Helga Thoene. These choral tunes are woven throughout the Chaconne and serve as the source material for Füting. The soloist Miranda Cuckson  opens, winding a line of textures, slowly adding bolder, more vibrant chords. She weaves a remarkable texture creating some very fine moments, with absolutely terrific playing. There is always a distinguishable forward line as this violinist reveals some finely shaped phrases. Throughout, a broader theme seems to be lurking. This is a formidable challenge for any violinist; here Cuckson is terrific.

Mezzo Nani Füting brings another extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’, ‘Fiel ein Stück Himmel...’ (‘Did a piece of the sky…(fall)’) in which she combines vocal sounds, sung text and occasional sprechgesang, very finely controlled.

leaving without/palimpsest (2006) is based on the old German folk tune Gesgn dich Laub (Bless you leaves) and brings clarinetist Joshua Rubin and pianist Yegor Shevtsov who opens slowly suggesting a little theme, rising in dynamics occasionally as it develops before falling to a brief halt. The music picks up slowly but halts again as the clarinet joins, bringing some finely tongued sounds between the melody.  Füting often stretches the tonal abilities of the clarinet, verging on the shrill, not necessarily capitalising on the mellower aspects of the clarinet. Nevertheless, some remarkable sounds are produced as the theme moves along, Füting showing how he always manages to hold an overall musical line before ending on a simple hushed piano note.

The third extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’ is ‘Das alte Weingut...(’The old vineyard’) where Nani Füting brings a lower range as she carefully delivers some very finely shaped text, vocally quite superb.

The title work, names, erased (2012) features cellist John Popham and uses musical material from Bach, Berg, and Ligeti, compositionally treated to reflect the erasing process of Robert Rauschenberg  in his famous Erased de Kooning Drawing . The cello opens by ruminating on a motif. Here again this soloist proves to be a very fine artist, allowing a theme to emerge from the closely woven texture of the opening. It is fascinating to follow the suggested musical lines that subtly emerge. There are many little subtleties in this piece that bear repeated listening before we are led to a hushed coda.

The fourth extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’ is ‘Die Teiche im Dunst...’ (‘The Ponds in Mist’) where mezzo-soprano Nani Füting rises from a lower pitch as she slowly allows the music to unfold in this remarkable, if short, piece.

ist - Mensch – geworden (was – made – man) (2014) is based on quotations from such diverse composers as Josquin, Bach, Schumann and Debussy with additional material from  Boulez, Morton Feldman, Beat Furrer, Jo Kondo, Tristan Murail and Nils Vigeland. Flautist Luna Kang and pianist Jing Yang www.morningpiano leap out suddenly as strident flute and piano chords are heard. The flute slowly subsides in more subtle textures before leading ahead with drooping notes and piano accompaniment. There are some lovely flute arabesques within a rather fragmentary line. As the flute develops the melodic theme, there are varying tempi with more strident, staccato passages. Flautist Luna Kang intersperses occasional breath and vocal sounds before repeated shrill flute phrases.

land - haus – berg (land – house – mountain) (2009) is for solo piano and takes settings of Goethe’s poem Kennst du das Land, wo die Citronen blühen (Do you know the land where the lemons blossom) by Beethoven, Schumann and Wolf. Yegor Shevtsov brings a rolling theme that is nevertheless broken by rests. It is rhythmically varied, the pianist bringing a really lovely feel to the music through his fine phrasing. Later there is a repeated note like a drip, drip before the music increases in flow yet still with occasional pauses. The lovely coda arrives with a single note. This is rather a lovely piece.

The fifth and final extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’ is "Hoch im Gebirge..." (‘High in the mountains’) where mezzo Nani Füting brings some intense phrases as she moves around to a hushed coda.

light, asleep (2002) for violin and piano opens with pianist David Broome introducing a broadly fragmented theme. Violinist Olivia de Prato  enters quietly bringing a longer musical line, developing the theme with some fine textures and timbres. Later there is a dissonant piano passage that develops the theme before the violin re-joins with some lovely phrases that burst out in little surges. The music moves through some very fine passages for solo violin before the coda.

finden – suchen (to find, to search) (2002) was written for a concert of works by former students of Jörg Herchet on the occasion of his 60th birthday.  Here the alto flute of Eric Lamb  is soon joined by cellist John Popham and pianist Yegor Shevtsov in a tentative theme, finely phrased with some lovely sonorities. Little flute trills rise out as the music is taken slowly and gently forward, building moments of more decisiveness  before the flute brings the gentle end.

‘...und ich bin Dein Spiegel’ (‘and I am Your reflection’) (2002) for mezzo-soprano and string quartet was a commission for the Festival Magdeburgisches Concert and is based on excerpts from the fragmentary writing of Mechthild von Magdeburg (c.1207-1282). Mezzo-soprano Nani Füting is joined by the Mivos String Quartet (Olivia de Prato and Josh Modney (violin), Victor Lowrie (viola) and Mariel Roberts (cello).

This work gives Nani Füting a more sustained opportunity to bring her considerable vocal skills to a more extended piece. She enters alone with a simple little melody, showing her very fine voice, musical, flexible and melodic. She then varies the melody, bringing a variety of vocal techniques, moving around vocally, often showing a terrific ability to suddenly rise up high. The quartet enters slowly, picking over the theme in fragmented chords before rising in passion and developing some very fine moments with terrific textures and sonorities. When Füting re-enters she brings some declamatory phrases that complement the quartet, showing terrific control in her dynamic leaps. There is a vibrant, volatile passage for swirling string quartet strings bringing a terrific outflow of textures before Füting returns along with quieter, yet still strident, quartet textures leading to this mezzo’s final outburst at the end.

This is a terrific conclusion to this disc.

It is Füting’s ability to subtly develop themes within a richer and often quite complex texture that is so attractive. The recording is detailed, revealing every texture and timbre and there are useful notes as well as full texts and English translations. 

This is a most welcome release. 

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