HANS ZENDER (b.1936): Schumann Phantasie for Large Orchestra, Bardo for Cello and Orchestra. Heinrich Schiff (cello), SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden und Freiburg; Sylvain Cambreling, Hanz Zender (Zender).
Catalogue Number: 10J109
Label: Hännsler Classic
Reference: CD 93.128
Description: 'Schumann-Phantasie' is another example - a particularly effective one - of Zender's ongoing (since the 1960s) attempt to contextualise familiar works in a contemporary setting, to prevent their becoming museum pieces, lacking their original power to shock and surprise. His very personal approach to this mission is to incorporate the classical work into a 'composed interpretation'. Which means, in this case, an orchestral transcription of Schumann's Op.17, using the full resources of the modern orchestra - and by full, things that would not have occurred to Stokowski in his wildest hallucinatory nightmares are fully implied - and adding (here and there) harmonies and musical material of Zender's own. Interludes by Zender, derived from but no longer sounding like Schumann's material are also added. It's either a grotesque act of sacrilege (but if you think that, don't buy the CD - go listen to Schumann's original instead; it's still as wonderful as ever) or an exhilaratingly imaginative exercise in creative reimagination. 'Bardo' is original Zender; a quarter-tone work, essentially, alternating sections of cello solo (sometimes accompanied) and ensemble tutti; a journey through a strange intermediate realm between consciousness and dreaming, between life and death, clearly represented by the generally unexplored interstices between the chords and notes of most western music. It's up to you to decide whether this or the Schumann 'transcription' is the bolder stroke of avant-gardism but the same potent creative force motivates both; would that all contemporary music held a fraction of this level of creativity.