Monday, 9 May 2016

namesErased - new music by Reiko Füting

Reiko Fueting - Names Erased
Reiko Füting namesErased; New Focus
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Apr 13 2016
Star rating: 4.0

Strongly characterised and intensely wrought chamber and vocal music by this USA-based German-born composer.

The composer Reiko Füting was a name new to me. He was born in the DDR in 1970 and studied at Dresden Conservatory, Rice University, Manhattan School of Music, and Seoul National University. He currently teaches at Manhattan School of Music where he is chair of the theory department. This disc, namesErased, from New Focus Recordings presents us with a selection of Füting's recent vocal and instrumental music.

So we have Kaddish: The art of Losing played by cellist John Popham and pianist Yegor Shevtsov, tanz.tanz played by violinist Miranda Cuckson, leaving without/palimpsest played by Joshua Rubin (clarinet) and Yegor Shevtsov (piano), names, erased (prelude) played by John Popham (cello), ist-Mensch-geworden played by Luna Kang (flutes) & Jing Yang (piano), land-haus-berg played by Yegor Shevtsov (piano), light, asleep played by Olivia de Prato (violin) and David Broome (piano), finden - suchen played by Eric Lamb (alto flute), John Popham (cello), Yegor Shevtsov (piano), and ...und ich bin Dein Spiegel performed by Nani Füting (mezzo-soprano), the Mivos Quartet (Olivia de Prato, Joshua Modney, Victor Lowrie, Mariel Roberts), interspersed with movements from ... gesammeltest Schweigen sung by Nani Füting.

Most of the pieces on the disc seem to have extra-musical or musical connections, either building on pre-existing musical structures of referring to non-musical ones. This might be inferred perhaps from the epigrammatic nature of the title, but there is nothing pastiche-like about Reiko Füting's work, he speaks with a very definite and rather striking music accent.

Reiko Füting
Reiko Füting
Kaddish: The Art of Losing for cello and piano was an 80th birthday gift to a German musicologist. The piece is based on the novel, Kaddish for a Child Unborn by Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz, though the title also refers to a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. We start with just a solo cello playing a sequence of motifs, all harmonic heavy; in a technique which crops up a lot on the disc, the cello and then cello & piano explore the opening motifs repeating and varying. The tone is serious and thoughtful, there is n evocative piano postlude which recapitulates the material.

tanz.tanz for solo violin is based on German musicologist Helga Thoene's analysis of Bach's Chaconne with its structure of chorales woven into it. Though the title also refers to the novel Dance Dance Dance by Japanese writer Haruki Marakami. There are hints of the original in the piece as the violin incessantly explores a group of motifs using a variety of playing techniques (arco, pizzicato, marcato, harmonics).

leavng without/palmisest, for clarinet and piano, based on an earlier composition for piano, leaving without, which in turn had a German folk-tune Gesgn dich Laub (Bless you leaves). The piano plays note clusters which seem based on intervals always rising or falling. The style is austere and spare despite the harmonic clusters, and when the clarinet joins it uses a number of advanced techniques and the two instruments seem to re-visit the piano's material but in a different way.

names.erased (Prelude) is based on quotations from Bach, Berg, Ligeti and Füting's own compositions, and is related to the solo cello suites by Bach, and to Robert Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning. It uses a lot of string crossing, a la Bach, but with harmonics and orther interesting effects. There is a magical sound world which is light and evocative, as if the lower part of the music had been erased.

ist - Mensch - gewordenfor flute and piano is based on fragmented quotes from Josquin, Bach, Schumann, Debussy, Boulez, Feldmann, Tristran Murail, as well as the importance of the number three (three flutes, three words, three main pitches, three sections). Using advanced flute techniques, the fragments interact in dialogue between the instruments cycling round the various motifs. The texture is transparent, and the overall feel thoughtful, though I did not really detect any of the quotations. It leads straight to the thoughtful piano solo land - haus - berg which is based on Beethoven's, Schumann's and Wolf's setting of Goethe's poem Kennst du das Land.

light, asleep, for violin and piano,
was originally based on a 17th century song, though by the time the work was finished Füting feels that only the title and general atmosphere reflect the source material. It is a spare and evocative with the two instruments intersecting rather than accompanying each other.

finden - suchen, for alto flute, cello and piano, again has this sense of spareness, with the three instruments cycling round the material, and a sense of lines intersecting in space rather than creative dialogue.


The works are interspersed with movements from ...gesammeltes Schweigen, setting poems from the collection Gespannte Stille by Reiner Bonack set originally for baritone and piano and here heard in a version for unaccompanied mezzo-soprano. Each movement is quite short and the style expressive, the jagged intervals making the piece uneasy feeling.

The final work on the disc, ...und ich bin Dein Spiegel for mezzo-soprano and string quartet is based on excerpts from writings of Mechtild von Magdeburg (c1207-1282), as well as a Minnelied and a medieval Latin sequence. It opens with mezzo-soprano Nani Füting singing unaccompanied, a rather chant-like medieval melody which she then proceeds to de-construct, the quartet takes over examining the material in intense fashion before all five performers join together to create something rather intense as Füting develops the material and then suddenly ends mid-air.

The performances on the disc are exemplary, and all convey the strong impression of Reiko Füting's voice. His style of composition is one which does not take prisoners, but within its severity, intensity and logic is a sense of magic too. This is music which repays listening.

Reiko Füting (born 1970) - Kaddish: The art of Losing (2014)
Reiko Füting - tanz.tanz (2010)
Reiko Füting - leaving without/palimpsest (2006)
Reiko Füting - names, erased (Prelude) (2012)
Reiko Füting - ist - Mensch - geworden (2014)
Reiko Füting - land - haus - berg (2009)
Reiko Füting - ...gesammeltes Schweigen (2004/2011)
Reiko Füting - light, asleep (2002/2010)
Reiko Füting - finden - suchen (2003/2011)
Reiko Füting - ..und ich bin Dein Spiegel (2000/2012)
John Popham (cello)
Miranda Cuckson (violin)
Joshua Rubin (clarinet)
Yegor Shevtsov (piano)
Luna Kang (flutes)
Jina Yang (piano)
Nani Füting (mezzo-soprano)
The Mivos Quartet (Olivia de Prato, Joshua Modney, Victor Lowrie, Mariel Roberts)
New Focus Recordings 1CD [75.36]
Available from Amazon.co.uk.

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