ENNO POPPE (b.1969): Fell for Drumset, Stoff for 9 Players, Brot for 5 Players, Haare for Solo Violin, Zug for 7 Brass Players.

Catalogue Number: 01W058

Label: Wergo

Reference: WER 7395 2

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Poppe's music never fails to make a powerful impact, and to be surprisingly, even paradoxically, approachable, given the extreme unorthodoxy of his methods. This collection explores a wide range of those methods in a varied, stimulating recital of ensemble pieces. What the works have in common is that they are all highly structured, literally with mathematical precision, and this includes the quarter-tone and microtonal scales and harmonies that are a habitual part of the composer’s vocabulary. Equally fundamental to Poppe's idiom is that these techniques, though audible in the sense of the music's rigorous organization of its component parts, are kept firmly in the ‘composer’s workshop', and the impression is of natural forms and symmetries. Fell, for drumkit, is based on small building blocks, constantly in flux and sounding simultaneously organised and improvisatory (it is in fact entirely notated). Undeniably viscerally exciting, the piece is both an homage to the tradition of the rock drumkit and a wry send-up of it. If it were played in a rock context, it would be one of the most ambitious drum solos ever attempted, and its constant metrical shifts and timbral distinctions would cause great bemusement in the audience. Stoff exemplifies these same principles, to completely different effect. The nonet is organised in sections based on the number nine, which are in turn derived from nine basic elements, which expand exponentially into more extended motifs and even melodies. The components are typical Poppe materials; microtonally inflected lines and chord sequences moving in microtonal steps; gestures of a note or two progressing through different timbres and attacks. These algorithmically determined progressions produce a sense of vital, burgeoning, organic growrh, typical of the composer’s music. The brass, piano and percussion scoring of Brot suggest free jazz, with muted trumpet and improvisatory drumkit, and highly irregular rhythmic accents from the piano reinforcing this impression; but again, the piece is constructed from recurring motifs, in this case from an instrumental episode in Poppe's opera Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung [Work Food Home]. The timbres and textures sound very like avant garde jazz, but the overall impression created by the piece is nothing of the sort, instead suggesting a precisely calibrated, complex machine. Haare is elaborated from the tiniest of elements; two little glissando figures which initially resemble bird cries or the meowing of cats. The music's tendrils expand and extend like an organic efflorescence - likely determined by some undisclosed algorithm, but sounding like a living organism, described in the minutest detail by "completely new expressive values on the violin when you combine and question the traditional techniques of vibrato, portamento, bow pressure, and bow speed" as the composer says. The brass septet Zug occupies similar territory to the eerily imposing orchestral Fett (11W064), constructing a landscape of impossible shapes and colors from microtonal harmonies and the rich overtone-laden timbres of horns, with their non-tempered overtone series and continuously variable trombones (and one of the trumpets is fitted with a quarter-tone valve to assist in producing a range of microtonal inflections). Having established this landscape of " ... twisted spectral chords, or maybe bashed and dented nature", the music is then set in motion like some lumbering but intricate machine of unknown purpose, accumulating an inexorable, highly directed momentum as it speeds toward a completely inconclusive conclusion. Dirk Rothbrust (drumset), Hannah Weirich (violin), Ensemble Musikfabrik; Enno Poppe.


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