Following Heinrich Schiff’s widely-acclaimed recital disc (ECM New Series 1912) with Frank-Peter Zimmermann and music of Honegger, Ravel, Martinu, Pintscher, and J.S. Bach (the New Yorker spoke of “fierce intelligence and implacable virtuosity” and the album was a Gramophone Editor’s Choice and a BBC Music Magazine Chamber Choice), the Austrian master cellist returns to play Friedrich Cerha’s Cello concerto, of which he is the dedicatee, on a recording that looks at artistic independence in Viennese music-making. The disc is released in time for the Mondsee Festival where Schiff is artistic director and Cerha, acknowledged as Austria’s greatest living composer, is composer-in-residence this year: More details: www.musiktage-mondsee.at
The present recording also underlines ECM’s collaboration with Peter Eötvos and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, an association that has led to important releases including Elliott Carter’s “What Next?” (ECM New Series 1817) and Kim Kashkashian’s exploration of 20th century Hungarian music in a programme with compositions of Bartók, Eötvös and Kurtág (ECM New Series 1711) which won the Cannes Classical Award in 2001.
As Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich points out in his liner notes, Friedrich Cerha (born 1926 in Vienna) is a musician who has stood above the “schismatic rivalries” of musical modernism, being one of very few composers associated with both streams of Viennese dodecaphony: J.M. Hauer’s on one side, and Schoenberg’s on the other. The post-Schoenberg school is especially indebted to him for his completion of Act 3 of Alban Berg’s “Lulu”. Around the world, the work continues to be performed in Cerha’s version. In 1958 Friedrich Cerha co-founded the ensemble ‘die reihe’ which remained under his direction until 1983 and continues to be a committed force in the cause of contemporary music. Cerha’s orchestral cycle “Spiegel” and his operas “Baal” and “Der Rattenfänger” are amongst his major works.
In 1989 the Wien Modern Festival commissioned a cello concerto from Cerha. The result was “Phantasiestück in C’s Manier”, now the 2nd movement of the present three-movement concerto completed in 1996, in response to a commission from the Berlin Festival. It is a powerful work of concentrated energy and textural density. Cerha notes that “Intricacy and multi-layeredness are characteristic elements of my recent essays in concerto form.” Cerha sets Heinrich Schiff some tough challenges in his journey through the ever-changing symphonic fabric, and brings the solo cello into arresting timbral combinations with unorthodox instrumentation that includes organ, soprano sax and conga drums, as well as more conventional orchestral forces. Jungheinrich: “The point is not so much colouristic effects as rather, in Cerha’s words, the ‘integration of fundamental modes of musical cognition.’”
Friedrich Cerha has been awarded a number of composition prizes, including the Prize of the City of Vienna (1974) and the Great Austrian State prize (1986) - which he donated for performances of works by young composers. In 2006 he was given the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (leone doro alla carriera) of the Biennale di Venezia.
Franz Schreker’s Chamber Symphony in one movement is a richly inventive work in glowing timbres written in the middle of World War I, in 1916, to celebrate the centenary of the Vienna Academy of Music. Schreker (1878-1934) loved sound above all, dreamed of new instruments, and tried to substitute for their absence with compound blendings. “I often hear sounds that can scarcely be realized with existing means”, he admitted. His visions were timbral, biographer Christopher Hailey has noted, “his complex emotional insights captured in the iridescence of his orchestra.” He sought “a dematerialized array of ever-changing colours. No work better captures this sonic ideal than his Chamber Symphony…Its shimmering opening, in which first the flute, then the violins float above the aural mists of celesta, harmonium, piano and harp, is music of otherworldly magic.”
Heinrich Schiff was born in Gmunden, Austria, in 1951 and played the piano from the age of six before turning to the cello four years later. After studying with Tobias Kühne and André Navarra he gave his debut in Vienna and London in 1971. This launched a remarkable solo career that has led to performances with all the great orchestras and pre-eminent conductors in the major music centres of the world. For years he has taken a special interest in contemporary music, working regularly with many leading composers of our time and presenting premieres of their works. A recent example is Johannes Maria Staud's Cello Concerto, which he performed with the Vienna Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim at the 2006 Salzburg Festival.
Schiff has recorded all the central works of the cello repertoire, from Vivaldi to Lutoslawski and Bernd Alois Zimmermann. In addition to his busy career as a cellist, over the last two decades Schiff has conducted many great orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Philharmonia, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Munich Philharmonic, the German Chamber Philharmonic (Bremen), the Northern Sinfonia, the Copenhagen Philharmonic, the Stuttgart RSO, the Winterthur Collegium Musicum, the Bruckner Orchestra (Linz) and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra.
As well as being a highly regarded composer –his opera “Three Sisters” won numerous awards - Transylvania-born Peter Eötvös is one of the best known interpreters of contemporary music. Between 1968 and 1976 he performed regularly with the Stockhausen Ensemble, and from 1971 to 1979 he collaborated with the electronic music studio of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne. In 1978, at the invitation of Pierre Boulez, he conducted the inaugural concert of IRCAM in Paris, and was subsequently named musical director of the Ensemble InterContemporain, a position he held until1991. He has worked extensively with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the National Philharmonic Orchestra (Budapest), the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and many other orchestras – from the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His association with the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra dates from 1994.
CD package includes German-English booklet with liner notes by Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich