BRETT DEAN (b.1961): Voices of Angels for String Trio, Double Bass and Piano, SOFIA GUBAIDULINA (b.1931): Ein Engel for Mezzo-Soprano and Double Bass, Meditation on Bach’s “Vor Deinen Thron tret ich hiermit” for Harpsichord, String Quartet and Double Bass (w/ Bach’s original transcr. for string trio and double bass), ALFRED SCHNITTKE (1934-1998): Hymn II for Cello and Double Bass.
Catalogue Number: 08W055
Description: The main works on this curious but rewarding concept album by the featured ensemble here (apparently they like to put on 'themed' concerts like this) are the Dean, a half-hour work of epic perspectives, and the powerful Gubaidulina Meditation. Dean's piece is explicitly 'about' angels; timeless beings present throughout history, mysterious, terrifying, powerful, consoling, beautiful, inhuman. As he often does, Dean begins the work in pointillistic fragments, in this case emerging around the note E (for Engel; he wrote the piece during his years in Berlin), which is important throughout the work, and gradually becoming hyperactive, like a tumultuous fluttering of wings. Suddenly becalmed, the music becomes immensely slow, melodic and much more tonal, and descends into the depths. A sudden flurry of activity, and the piece is transformed into a propulsive, wingèd wild ride. The first movement concludes with ethereal melodies woven over a steady strumming bass. The second movement, ‘Different Realms’ begins as a series of strongly rhythmic, ecstatically pulsing dances, with a distinct tonality. The activity subsides, and the work ends in the realm of utter stillness, an ethereal high E hovering timelessly over the pulsing bass of the first movement. Legend has it that Bach dictated his chorale prelude on "Before Thy throne I now appear" on his deathbed, and Gubaidulina's work, effectively a new and extended prelude on the same chorale, reflects this proximity to death - appropriately enough too, the chorale text being the supplication of a soul newly arrived before God's throne. In a succession of wildly inventive, eerie and strange timbres, the piece explores motifs from the chorale, with the chorale melody shifting in and out of focus. The work reaches a powerful climax over a slow, relentless ostinato, and finally reaches a grand hymnlike statement of the whole chorale before the harpsichord ends the piece with the B-A-C-H motif in rich harmony. The CD ends with Schnittke's haunting, tenebrous Hymn II, sonorous, solemn and mysterious. Stockholm Syndrome Ensemble with Andrej Power (violin), Lawrence Power (viola) and Christianne Stotijn (mezzo).