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Alban Berg
The Viennese School - Teachers and Followers

Alban Berg - Sonata, Variations from "Lulu", Hans Erich Apostel - Kubiniana, Fritz Heinrich Klein - Die Maschine, Andante rubato, 10 extonale Klavierstücke, Theodor W. Adorno - Drei kleine Klavierstücke, Klavierstück

Steffen Schleiermacher - piano
Martin Zugehör - piano

MDG 613 1475-2

Here is an unusual and inspiring disc, researched and performed with infectious enthusiasm by musical polymath Steffen Schleiermacher (photographed) who has devoted himself as pianist, conductor and composer to music of the last 100 years.

Did you know that Berg wrote some 60 works before dignifying his popular piano sonata as his Op. 1? Schleiermacher tells us how highly wrought is this powerfully emotional piece, with "virtually no note composed accidentally - - everything from motivic cells subjected to strict logic" (T. W. Adorno). Schleiermacher gives a persuasively strong account of it, not seeking to make it 'beautiful'.

Adorno himself is featured as composer, but most valuable in this selection is the accessible music of Fritz Heinrich Klein, who had played a prominent part in his teacher Berg's life, being a crucial innovator in the development of twelve-tone music. His Die Maschine was the very first printed twelve-note composition, and Berg was indebted to Klein for his Mutterakkord with all twelve tones and eleven intervals. Another of his inventions, the Pyramidenakkord, has the twelve tones with intervals decreasing upwads by grades.

At this distance in time, the music sounds surprisingly natural, and Klein's Die Maschine for piano four hands (about which he was self-deprecatingly ironic) is a delight. So are Apostel's Ten Pieces after drawings by Kubin.

This sequence leaves us with a new perspective on Berg and his times; unreservedly recommended - good reading and good listening.

Peter Grahame Woolf

also recommended:

Hommage to August Stramm
works by Rihm / Heisig / Ruhm / Vogel / Walden / Reinhold / Babbitt / Schleiermacher

Steffen Schleiermacher piano Hildegard Wiedemann mezzo soprano Holger Falk baritone etc

Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG3071495

This release confirms Steffen Schleiermacher (b.1960) as an exploratory pianist/composer who makes each of his CDs unique.

This one is built around the literary pioneer August Stramm (1874-1915 - he died fighting for the Kaiser), "inventor of modern poetry" and in Schleiermacher's opinion comparable to Kandinsky & Schoenberg.

Schleiermacher's own works here include a text-song accompanied by a heavily prepared piano, and a double bass composition reworked for bass flute, with the text of a Stramm poem as "a semantic basis" and as "a filter to defamiliarise the flute sound".

There are works for "phonola" (a German pianola) and the participants include a mezzo, a baritone and a violist. Collectors will be interested in Rihm's opus 1 songs to Stramm words which made him "feel like a composer" for the first time.

Some of the musc collected here is sensuously beautiful; other rebarbative and far from listener friendly...

I am glad to have heard it; made sense by Schleiermacher's insightful and informative commentary.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Hauer Etudes


Steffen Schleiermacher

MDG MDG6131640

Pianist/musicologist Steffen Schleiermacher's CDs for MDG are accumulating and exploring most valuable by-ways (rather akin to Ralph van Raat in Holland, whose Otte recording may be thought of as equivalent to this one).

Hauer is remembered for quarreling with Schonberg as to who invented 12-tone music. This disc puts that completely to rest. Hauer's music here, dedicated to Schoenberg is talked about but rarely heard. They turn out to be euphonious - almost simple, very clear and transparent [Schleiermacher], a few mildly pleasant, and one or two would be worth including in recitals.

Far more interesting is Schleiermacher's essay, surveying the whole scene, including Hauer's associates, such as Itten whose image is an entirely appropriate cover picture, and so too are the pictures of the tortured Hauer - and too the Steinway of 1901, just right for the music.

Impeccable recording and production, well worth while for students of early 2000 piano music.

Peter Grahame Woolf