INKPOT#77 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: Funeral Music One (FM1): Homage to the 50’s. Duo 46 (Guitar Plus Records)
Siegfried Behrend: Spielmusik (1952)
Waldemar Bloch: Sonate (1956)
Albert Reiter (1905-70): Sonatine (1956)
Otto Siegl: Sonatine in d-moll (1956)
Jen Takcs: Divertimento Op.61 (1956)
Jan Truhlr: Zwei Kompositionen Op.71a (1952)
Beth Ilana Schneider violin
Matthew Gould guitar
Guitar Plus Records 321-2(?)
Introduction. “Twentieth-century classical music” is often associated with what seems to the untrained ear as jarring and un-musical compositions by composers such as Schoenberg (with his infamous ‘twelve-tone technique’). Still, modern compositions form part of the progressive development in mainstream classical music, and though they may seem alien to ears brought up on Mozart and Beethoven, are actually reflective of the present time that we live in.
Guitarist Matthew Gould and violinist Beth Ilana Schneider have come together as Duo 46 to record music written by Central European composers during the decade 1950 to 1960, a time of great turmoil for all who were involved in the Second World War and its devastating aftermath.
The theme for these pieces is reflective of the rampant paranoia and anti-government sentiments at that time. The inlay includes a long list of major world events in this period (“1951: South Korea invaded”; “Elizabeth II is crowned Queen of England”, “The Mickey Mouse Show premiers on TV”). Though this odd collection of sentiments may seem irrelevant to us today, it provides a reasonable insight into what was on the people’s minds as they went about their daily lifelihood, and the events that shaped and defined an era and gave birth to the schizophrenia behind these compositions.
The Music. Bartolozzi’s Serenata opens the disc with a disconcerting, eerie melody on the violin accompanied by a robust guitar. Dissonance and rhythmic tension pulls the piece into a string so taut it slices through the mind – hardly serene at all, yet it makes a definitive opening statement for this recording.
Behrend’s Spielmusik (1952) is somewhat more tonal, although strange combinations of notes do appear. The composer, being a prolific champion in modern guitar performance, noticeably gives the guitar centrestage in this five-movement work, with more showy fingerwork and knowledgeable integration with the violin part.
The other works on this recording are rather more palatable, though it is not until the last, Truhlar’s Zwei Kompositionen, that a melodic form finally overtakes the modern elements in the music. Guitar and violin blend to give some surprising and unusual acoustic effects in Bloch’s Sonate, and Reiter’s Sonatine in three movements is written in a pseudo-Baroque style. With the guitar giving a lute-like sound, one gets the impression of dances of the ancient French courts.
Because the pieces having nondescript titles like “Sonatine” and “Divertimento”, it is difficult to analyse these pieces in terms of programme, other than the fact that they were inspired by anti-government sentiment, as suggested by a short vivid article by David M. Williams (“Power, Perfection and Paranoia”) in the liner notes. These introduce the composers in general but give no indication of introducing the pieces in particular, which is rather unfortunate given that twentieth-century classical music is best interpreted bearing in mind the thoughts and turbulent emotions that went behind creating it.
Most of the music written here is a vehicle for the angst and emotion of the people living in that particular point in time, and the efforts of Gould and Schneider would be even better rewarded if the background to each piece is explained for the majority of the uninitiated.
Soo Kian Hing is now taking a short holiday on the planet of Naboo.