Twentieth-Century Orchestral Works
In terms of 'art music' alone, the 20th century offers a range of possibilities that would be difficult to encapsulate in a single retrospective. Yet such is the intention of 'Ruckblick Moderne' - a series of eight concerts given on consecutive nights in Stuttgart in 1998 - and, in terms of what is represented, it comes close to pulling it off.
First-generation modernism having long been absorbed into the repertoire, only the barest representation is needed for context. Most of the works are self-selecting, although Schoenberg's intensely expressive Op 22 Lieder should be far better known, while Mahler's Totenfeier (essentially the opening movement of his Second Symphony) is a starkly original statement which, though dating from 1888, anticipates many developments in orchestral sound. Three Occasions represents Carter's inclusive late style at something near its best, but Rudolf Barshai's dutiful transcription of Shostakovich's overrated Eighth Quartet does little for a still supremely relevant figure.
Good to see the post-war avant-garde accorded a measure of musical as well as historical importance. No Stockhausen, Berio or Xenakis, but we have Boulez's sensuous e e cummings portrait, and Nono's magnificently dated evocation of the Chilean poet Luciano Cruz. Cage is represented by two late choral miniatures, while Maderna's Third Oboe Concerto is a capricious statement from a figure whose uneven output cries out for reassessment. Zimmermann's Ubu ballet is a calculated, yet lacerating study in stylistic overkill, its warning of cultural complacency even more significant now than in 1966. Kurtag's spatially complex
Performances throughout are well prepared and committed, under a team of conductors - Michael Gielen, Lothar Zagrosek and Hans Zender among them - synonymous with what is innovative in contemporary music-making. Stylishly packaged, with notes in German only, this is a flawed but representative guide to a flawed but fascinating century.'