New music saved from corporate dumpster
Some really sparkling gems are back in the catalogue thanks to inspired dumpster diving by independent label Brilliant Classics. Rifling through the bins outside Universal Music's plush HQ has resulted in a clutch of important re-releases from the lean and mean Dutch label of material originally released by Deutsche Grammophon.
The highlight for me is the CD above which captures four late works by Bruno Maderna. The Italian composer, who died of cancer in 1973 aged 51, is usually associated with the Darmstadt group of composers which includes Berio, Boulez and Stockhausen. But Maderna's large output was remarkably varied and included film scores and opera. He also edited early music and was a superb conductor - I have written here previously of how his 1973 performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony was a musical epiphany for me.
Maderna's Quadrivium from 1969 takes pride of place on the disc. Like many of his peers Maderna was fascinated by numbers and Quadrivium is scored for four orchestral groups with four percussionists playing two xylophones, two vibraphones, two marimbas, two glockenspiels and two sets of tubular bells. The composer explained meaning of the title Quadrivium, which literally means 'crossroads, as follows:
'I was thinking of the four liberal arts: arithmetic, algebra, music and astronomy...Also four is a magic number. Four elements...four directions of the compass.'The performances by Giuseppe Sinopoli and the NDR Sinfonieorchester on the disc are outstanding as is the 1980 Deutsche Grammophon recording while the Brilliant Classics mastering and documentation, which this note draws on, is also excellent. And here is the clincher, I bought the Maderna disc for just £5.99 at independent store Prelude Records. I may be wrong but Brilliant Classics do not seem to offer a download option.
Also rescued from the dumpster by Brilliant Classics is DG's late 1960s set of Hans Werner Henze's first six symphonies with the composer conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. Perhaps dumpsters were a sub-text in Pierre Boulez's infamous quote about Henze:
'Whatever rubbish he puts out he still thinks he is King'But don't let that put you off. This 2CD re-issue of the Henze symphonies is quite unmissable if you don't already have the recordings from their original release.
And to complete the hat-trick for Brilliant Classics there is the LaSalle Quartet's account of Alexander Zemlinsky's four string quartets. This re-release also includes a rarity in the form of the First Quartet by Hans Erich Apostel (1901-72), a pupil of Berg and Schoenberg, sample it here. As I've said before, buy or live in darkness.
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