Issued simultaneously with “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” (ECM 2229), his dazzling account of Bach’s music for oboe, “Induulchen” puts the focus upon Heinz Holliger as composer of idiosyncratic genius, defining a sound-world of his own. Here, Holliger’s creativity draws inspiration from arcane Swiss sources, setting the poetry of Anna Maria Bacher who writes in the endangered idiom of “Pummattertisch”, and verse by the late Albert Streich, who wrote in Brienz-German. As conductor Holliger draws committed performances from a cast of gifted chamber musicians and singers Sylvia Nopper and Kai Wessel. The outcome is intriguing, mysterious and often strangely beautiful.
Holliger has described Anna Maria Bacher’s poetry as “a force of nature, like an avalanche or a thunderstorm”. It has inspired one of Holliger’s most complex works of verbal art. In the liner notes Michael Kunkel writes that it is near-impossible to describe the cycle Puneigä sequentially: “Multiple sound-worlds coalesce in a single work distinctly rich in connections, contrasts and perspectives that is nonetheless comprised of a number of short, atmospherically and stylistically similar songs and interludes (…)
“New Music’s literary canon revolves around a relatively small selection of names: Hölderlin, Beckett, Celan, Mandelstam, Robert Walser, Nelly Sachs... For Holliger, not entirely uninvolved in the establishment of this canon, it is increasingly difficult to continue working with a body of literature that has worn thin in numerous musical reworkings. In this context, his long-standing penchant for dialects and local idioms, preferably of a Swiss nature, becomes very topical indeed: The poetry of Anna Maria Bacher and Bernadette Lerjen-Sarbach (Gränzä, Borders) or the legends of the Upper Valais (Alb-Chehr) were, from a composer’s point of view, still untouched and had, for Holliger, similar significance as art forms outside the realm of high culture as for his teacher Sándor Veress, for Anton Webern (op. 17) or Béla Bartók (Cantata profana). And in Induuchlen (Darkening), Albert Streich’s Brienz-German verses provide even more opportunity to dip into Bartók’s ‘pure fountain.’”
Michael Kunkel’s liner notes provide background and context for the compositions and poems presented here.
This has been a remarkable season for Holliger at ECM New Series. Long one of the label’s core artists, he has been ubiquitous in 2011, with three discs already benefitting from his music and/or his active presence: pianist Alexander Lonquich recorded Holliger’s “Partita” alongside Schumann’s “Kreisleriana” (ECM 2104); the album “Manto and Madrigals” (ECM 2150) featured three sketches from Holliger written especially for the violin and viola duo of Thomas Zehetmair and Ruth Killius; and Jörg Widmann’s album “Elegie” (ECM 2110) found the resourceful Swiss musician in his first recording as a pianist, duetting with clarinettist/composer Widmann on “Fünf Bruchstücke”.
One of the most versatile and accomplished musical personalities of our time, Holliger was born in Langenthal, Switzerland, in 1939. He studied oboe with Emile Cassagnaud and Pierre Pierlot, piano with Sava Savoff and Yvonne Lefébure and composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez in Bern, Paris and Basel. After winning first prizes at international competitions in Geneva and Munich, he embarked on an unparalleled career as an oboist. As a conductor, he has collaborated with the most distinguished orchestras and ensembles for many years. The recipient of numerous awards and prizes (including Composers Award of the Schweizer Tonkünstlerverein, Art Prize of the Town of Basel, Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, Music Prize of the Town of Frankfurt, honorary doctorate of the University of Zurich, Zurich Festival Prize, Rheingau Music Prize and others), Holliger counts among the most strikingly original contemporary composers in the world today. At the Zurich opera house, his opera "Schneewittchen", based on a text by Robert Walser, was received with international acclaim, and was subsequently the subject of an ECM recording (ECM 1715/16). Other major recordings of Heinz Holliger’s compositions on ECM include the “Scardanelli-Zyklus” (ECM 1472/73) after poems of Hölderlin, “Beiseit/Alb-Chehr” (ECM 1540), “Lieder ohne Worte” (ECM 1618), the multiple prizewinning “Violinkonzert” (ECM 1890), and the 2009-released “Romancendres,” a meditation upon artistic sensibilities in German musical and literary romanticism.