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Philip Clark
Gramophone, March 2008

Reimann's music is ripe for rediscovery

Aribert Reimann is most renowned for the adventurous spirit of his operas and for his "day job" as a Lieder-accompanist to a roster of singers that has included Brigitte Fassbaender, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Christine Schäfer. On this side of the Channel, Reimann's message has struggled to assert itself: the 1989 ENO perfortnance of his Lear (a work designed for Fischer-Dieskau) cruised for a critical bruising in the broadsheets and his music has been notable by its absence since. These two CDs make a powerful case for an individual voice that's ripe for rediscovery.

Reimann's output for solo piano has been small, but the four works documented on the first disc show a composer with awesome understanding of the DNA of the piano, especially the unerring "rightness" of his chord voicings and ability to exploit the possibilities of the instrument as a resonant sound-box. The First Sonata was written when Reimann was a student of Boris Blacher in 1958, and is rooted in post-Bergian harmonic principles. If the atonal Viennese-waltz atmosphere of the first movement is derivative, then Reimann proceeds to build confidence by the bar: the lyricism of the second movement shows an instinct for unusual but telling note-choices, and the fleet finale pursues spiky moto perpertuo figures through a labyrinth of taxing metre changes.

Spektren (1967) and Variationien (1979) are the work of a mature master. Both pieces are built around fastidiously voiced clusters, too harmonically methodical to be random blocks but too dense to be mistaken as harmonic function. In Spektren, spectra of colour and rhythm rebound out of clustered fundamentals. In Variationien clusters seed harmonic and pitch material that Reimann opens up into a dynamic, searching dialectical journey.

The Naxos disc contains three Paul Celan settings given sympathetic readings by baritone Jaron Windmüller. Reimann's rule of thumb seems to be that less is more, and his terse orchestral settings and understated melodic writing allow Celan's poetry the dignity of speaking for itself. The final piece, for voice and piano, combines starkly resonant piano sounds with dramatically astute vocal writing. What Reimann does best.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2007

Aribert Reimann was born in Berlin in 1936, and studied composition with Boris Blacher at the city's Hochschule fur Musik. It was an accompanist that Reimann made an early career working with the great names that including Fischer-Dieskau, Brigitte Fassbaender, Ernst Haefliger, and more recently Christine Schafer. It is the relationship with singers that has shaped much of his output as a composer, all three works on this disc featuring the baritone voice. They are settings of words by Paul Celan, a poet born in Czernowitz (now part Romania), but who fled to Paris via Vienna with the onset of Communism in his homeland. His poems are mainly in a non-logical language, sounds of words creating visual images. The two met in Paris in 1957, and it was in those word sounds that Reimann found an artist working in a style complementary to his own. Zyklus, composed in 1971, introduced me to Reimann in the concert hall a number of years ago, the score I admired greatly, though I am well aware that his atonality is an acquired taste best left to those who are into cutting-edge modernity. Essentially the voice and instruments - a large orchestra without violins - work independently, Reimann seemingly commenting on the words in sound. It was dedicated to Fischer-Dieskau who gave the first performance in Nuremberg later that year. Kumi Ori came twenty-eight years later and is musically in the same abstract mode, the words from Celan supplemented by three Psalms. It was first performed in 2000 by the baritone, Yaron Windmuller and the North German Radio Orchestra. Finally the short Die Pole sind in uns for baritone and piano, the accompaniment played both on the keyboard and inside the instrument. That dates from 1995, but Reimann is not a man to change his style of writing. Windmuller has both a wide vibrato, and the vocal stamina for these taxing scores, his clarity of diction is excellent and I will happily take his intonation as authentic. Gunther Herbig draws very detailed playing from the Saarbrucken orchestra, and the recording from the radio studio is good.

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