WALTER STEFFENS (b.1934): Guernica for Viola and Orchestra, Op. 32 (Rainer Schmidt [viola], Northwest German Philharomic, Herford; Janos Kulka), Pintura del Mundo for Orchestra, Op. 12 (North German Radio Symphony Orchestra; Klaus Weise), Le Cantique des Cantiques for Organ, Op. 84 (Friedhelm Flamme [Muhleisen organ of St. Paul Church, Harsewinkel, Germany), Siguiriya for Mixed Choir, Op. 3c (North German Radio Choir; Helmut Franz).
Catalogue Number: 07M092
Label: Labor Records
Reference: LAB 7084
Description: teffens has produced musical works in response to some eighty paintings to date; the idea of composing a musical analogy to a work of visual art is hardly new, but can seldom have been pursued so assiduously. Given the diversity of artistic styles represented even in this modest selection from the composer's output, his adoption of a self-proclaimed pluralistic approach is perhaps not surprising, but even within the context of a single piece, a wide-ranging polystylism is evident. Steffens' underlying vocabulary is a system based on eight-note rows that appropriately treated yield atonal, modal and tonal results. Picasso's harrowing Guernica gets a full-blooded orchestral treatment, with a literal air-raid siren included; in its later stages the work's imposing dimensions and structure bring out more tonal elements of Steffens ' language, with hints of Bruckner and Sibelius. Munch's 'Scream' is represented by two brief Lorca settings for a cappella choir. As in the orchestral pieces, tonal referents are used as symbolic 'opalescence', ingeniously suggesting the play of light within an image, and even the texture of the medium used. The Bosch 'Garden of Earthly Delights' gets an atmospheric treatment, the saturated orchestral tones and angular, disturbed thematic fragments obviously suggested by the nightmarish scenes of the original. The largest and most ambitious work is the symphony for solo organ suggested by Chagall's Biblical images. Here, richly colored Messiaenic chromaticism derived from the painter's sumptuous oils alternates with more traditional church-organ writing, suggesting the texts from the Song of Songs on which the work's five movements are based.