THOMAS LARCHER (b.1963): Symphony No. 2 “Kenotaph”, Die Nacht der Verlorenen for Baritone and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 11X009
Reference: ODE 1393-2
Description: Two very powerful and remarkably accessible works from a contemporary composer with an unique relationship with tradition. What makes Larcher's music so compelling is the way in which rather than dismissing the past, or copying it, he seems to inhabit it and write in his own idiom in its context. The large, four-movement symphony is unquestionably a Romantic symphony - not neo-romantic- fulfilling all the requirements of that genre, but treating the conventions of the form in an entirely original way. Had Mahler been able to hear it he might have wondered at some episodes' textures and timbres and the treatment of form, but he would instantly recognized a "Tragic Symphony" in the æsthetic that grew out of his own. A Larcher trademark is the use of abrupt tonal resolutions - maybe the juxtaposition of a sequence of chords in unexpected progressions, maybe an extended passage suddenly landing on a solid tonal centre - to delineate climaxes in the impeccably drafted dramatic arc of the work. The first movement, thrusting and energetic, bears some resemblance to sonata form, with its contrasting subject matter - fast and energetic, haunting and haunted, chorale-like - and inexorable progress toward a massive climax. The slow movement begins as a meditative chorale, but eerie intrusions lead to a contrasting eruption of violence. The scherzo is propulsive, brittle and energetic, with a suggestion of Martinů in its bright orchestration and rhythmic incisiveness, and a nod in the direction of Rabinovitch-Barakovskian minimalism; constantly surprising, the composer delights in using episodes of pitchless texture to link his contrasting sections (here, and at various transitions in other movements). The movement concludes with an accelerating leaden thudding, a brief blaze of tonal chords … and a brief naïve fragment of a Ländler, abruptly cut off. The finale begins solemnly, but a bridging passage of surreal sounds introduces a Baroque chorale prelude, and then then the driven, abrasive, scurrying finale proper. The coda is a tenebrous, lamenting dirge. Die Nacht der Verlorenen (The Night of the Lost) sets a series of utterly desolate, desperate, harrowing poems by the remarkable poet Ingeborg Bachmann (friend and sometime collaborator of Henze). These terrifying glimpses into the tormented soul of the poet (who attempted suicide around the time she wrote them, and died a decade later as a result of her self-destructive behaviour) find Larcher inhabiting a fittingly expressionistic style, a descendant of Gurrelieder, Erwartung, and Wozzeck. The orchestra, richly and dramatically framing the challenging vocal part, as in the symphony is employed with Larcher's highly original and striking sense of color and dense yet lucid texture. German-English texts. Andrè Schuen (baritone), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Hannu Lintu.