Lachenmann Schwankungen am Rand
Barely a year has passed since I reviewed Klangforum Wien’s fine accounts of both Mouvement (– vor der Erstarrung) and ‘…zwei Gefühle…’, Musik mit Leonardo. (Incorporated into Lachenmann’s recent opera, Das Mädchen mit den Schwefehölzern – Kairos, 8/02 – ‘…zwei Gefühle…’ here makes its third appearance on CD, and a previous recording of Mouvement by Klangforum Wien also exists on the Accord label.) Though released before this new reading, Klangforum Wien’s Kairos recording was made after Ensemble Modern’s, which dates back to 1994. To complete these preliminary, train-spotterish annotations, I should add that it was Ensemble Modern who gave the first performance of Mouvement in 1984.
Both recordings are highly accomplished, but it is possible usefully to distinguish between them. The sound recording for ECM is more clearly imaged and has better presence. Perhaps ‘…zwei Gefühle…’ sounds less bleak and sparse, more tightly controlled in Ensemble Modern’s account, but then I’ve listened to the piece quite a bit since my original review, and I may simply have become acclimatised to it in the interim.
One clear difference is that in the Kairos recording Lachenmann himself assumes the role of both speakers in ‘…zwei Gefühle…’, whereas two musicians of Ensemble Modern take on those parts here. Lachenmann’s delivery is more deadpan (and, yes, bleaker) than theirs – which suggests that the composer readily envisages different approaches to textual delivery. That is instructive, given the difference in ‘feeling’ that results from the schizophrenic division of labour in this new version.
If I’m inclined to prefer Ensemble Modern in the two pieces common to both recitals, one should say the same concerning their choice of a companion piece. For those who care about such things, the inclusion of Schwankungen am Rand of 1974/5 fills the CD more generously than do the two early choral pieces on Kairos. More seriously, it allows one to trace Lachenmann’s orchestral music across three decades (‘…zwei Gefühle…’ dates from 1992). Schwankungen am Rand is perhaps more representative of its composer, too: it is a marvellously rich, detailed piece, exuberant where ‘...zwei Gefühle…’ is introverted. The disc starts with a bang, and that forward motion propels the whole recital. It is a splendid achievement, and a must for anyone with an interest in contemporary music.
As with his mentor, Luigi Nono, Lachenmann’s style seems to grow ever more concentrated. At any rate, his annotations to this issue are, as much as anything else, a personal memoir of Nono’s importance as teacher and friend. It allows a glimpse – quite rare in his programme notes – of Lachenmann the individual, and I must say I found it very moving.