LUTZ-WERNER HESSE (b.1955): Ich habe dich gewälht - Symphonic Poem No. 2, Op. 82 (Iris Marie Sojen [soprano]. Thomas Braus [speaker], Wuppertal Opera Choir, “Amici del canto”, Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra; Julia Jones), Infinite Landscape - 2 Orchestral Pictures, Op. 44 (Bremerhaven Philharmonic Orchestra; Marc Niemann).
Catalogue Number: 08X058
Description: An absolute treat for collectors who wish that even more music of the very first rank had been written during the last flowering of opulent late-romanticism and its immediate aftermath a century-and-a-bit ago. Hesse appears to be a particularly distinguished representative of the (growing? It seems that way) group of composers who wholeheartedly embrace the æsthetics of that period, and pick and choose very, very carefully what more recent developments they allow in to enlarge their vocabulary. With this in mind, he couldn’t have chosen an better collaborator in absentia than the remarkable Else Lasker-Schüler (1869–1945) the eccentric Bohemian Expressionist poet who identified herself with an imaginary Oriental world and whose extraordinary poetry, full of religious and exotic imagery, passion, love, dance, moonlight and blood, straddle the line between dream, art, and delusion. These overwrought, visionary, ecstatic texts find a perfect foil in Hesse's music, a heady, luxuriant blend of Mahler, early Schoenberg, Schoeck, Schreker, and the like. After a dramatic recitation of "The One Frightened Away" a magnificent symphonic portal swings wide to admit us to a strange world of shadows and passion. Next "Song of my Life" combines introspection and a powerful surge of restless energy. There follows an enchanted, mysterious nocturne, full of longing and gorgeous, enfolding warmth, and one of the poet's many love songs, set to a breathless, palpitating post-minimalist accompaniment. "I have chosen You" from which the work takes its title, begins with a very Mahlerian elegy, taking up in glowing harmonies and swaying motion by the choir. The following movement exposes the Expressionist skeleton beneath the Romantic finery, in recitation over the eerie tones of brushed tam-tam and sautillé strings, abruptly dismissed by a nightmarish, stamping Totentanz, culminating in terrified shouts of "Der Teufel!". By complete contrast, "Prayer" is simple and devout, gentle and tranquil in mood. The fittingly impressive Epilogue begins with the towering pillars of the Prologue, then revisits themes from throughout the work, with pealing bells in canon leading a Brucknerian ascent toward a final, glowing summit. Infinite Landscape comprises two extensive orchestral tone poems, inspired by the landscapes of the American west. The first is slow and imposing, suggesting mountain ranges and infinite skies, and has a more than passingly Brucknerian feel to the thematically cohesive section that follows the mysterious "daybreak" opening. The second is vigorous, energetic and ostinato-driven. If Bruckner had written one of his great scherzi after somehow attending a performance of Philip Glass' Akhnaten, this is exactly what it would sound like.