DEFINITIVE RECORDINGS
Friedrich Cerha - Spiegel


FRIEDRICH CERHA - Spiegel - Momente - Monumentum - Sylvain Cambreling (Conductor) - Dennis Russell Davis (Conductor) - Friedrich Cerha (Conductor) - SWR-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden - ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien - Kairos 0013002KAI

If music is often described or defined as being created from very well organized noise, than I might be right in thinking that the work of Friedrich Cerha (1926-) is noise created from very well organized music. So well organized in fact that when you look at pages of his orchestral scores, you could compare them to works of art. The symmetry of the layout is uncanny. The perfection of a Beethoven piano sonata looks, on paper, like a hundred ants crawling all over the page, whereas the shapeless sounds of a Cerha creation look, on paper, like a painting. It seems that the random juxtaposition of notes in music creates order, whilst the pre-determined and calculated arrangement of notes creates chaos.

Not very well known except for the fact that he had completed the third act of Berg's Lulu, alas means that his music is rarely recorded. I myself would attempt to describe his work as a meshing together of John Oswald's 'Spectre' and the musical interludes by György Ligeti in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. But don't think for a second that this music is just endless and shapeless meandering. The slightest change, the addition or removal of a single element, can sometimes have a drastic effect on the character of the sound. Although mostly soft and quiet, it does sometimes build to oppressive, overwhelming waves of sound. One segment in particular during Spiegel VI sounding like an army with destructive determination marching through your living room. Constant oscillating fluidity is the main material used to create the fabric that holds a work together. And because of this paradox between chaos and perfect symmetry, it demands the utmost precision and synchronization from all the players of the orchestra. This is fascinating music for all the wrong reasons. Spiegel VII is particularly gripping in its scope and vast soundscape. New sound worlds are created in which you forget that you are listening to a symphony orchestra.

These are not new recordings, but this 2-CD collection is a new release out September 2010, grouping these great recordings together. The Spiegel I-VII was recorded by the SWR-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg with Sylvain Cambreling conducting in 2006. Monumentum was recorded in 2001 with Dennis Russell Davis leading the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, and the same orchestra under Friedrich Cerha himself, recorded Momente in 2007. All of them very commited and convincing interpretations. The sound reproduction of this Kairos recording is exemplary and is breathtaking in its dynamic range. The booklet is loaded with detailed and enriching text by Cerha himself and great comments by other composers, my favorite of which is the following by Gyorgy Kurtag: "Friedrich Cerha's Spiegel deeply impressed me. The impulsive drama, the constant - sometimes quite low-velocity - emotional movements had me captivated to such an extent that I almost didn't notice that I had already listened to 80 minutes of music. I completely forgot to listen for how it had come to be, how it was made; I constantly had visions, sometimes large Rothko-like surfaces, sometimes Munch paintings, and then Turner or simply landscapes long familiar to me that blended into one another, at times eerily lit and then friendlier once more. I am thankful that I was able to experience this; Sylvain Cambreling's recording is magnificent - and I hope to have the opportunity of hearing Spiegel in concert someday."

Winner of the 2011 International Classical Music Award (ICMA) for best contemporary recording.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2010