KAHN: Six bagatelles, Op. 5 (1938). Eight Inventions for Piano. (1937). Ciaccona dei tempi di guerra (1943). Short piano piece (1951). Five bagatelles.
Thomas Günther, piano
CYBELE RECORDS SACD 160.403 TT: 59:22
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ZIMMERMANN: Requiem for a Young Poet (lingual for speakers, soprano,bass, three choirs, orchestra, jazz combo, organ and electronic sounds, to texts from various poets, features and news reports)
Claudia Barainsky, David Pittsman-Jennings, Michael Rotschopf, Lutz Lansemann; Tschechischer Philharmonischer Chor Brno; Slowakischer Philharmonischer Chor; Europachorakademie; Eric Vloemens quintet, Jan Hage, Joao Rafael; Holland Symfonia; Bernard Kontarsky, cond.
CYBELE RECORDS SACD 860.501 TT: 63:10
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RIEHM: There are apricot trees, there are apricot trees (for bass clarinet, violin, trumpet, trombone, cello, and recorded sounds)(2004). Ahi bocca, ahi lingua (for four vocalists).(2004). Sleep, sleep, John Donne, sleep well and trouble yourself not.(for violin, bass clarinet, accordion, and keyboard). (1997).
Various performers
CYBELE RECORDS SACD 860.701 TT: 65:04
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BARLOW: Ludus ragalis. Stücke für Selbstspielklavier (Player Piano). Cogluotobüsisletmesi (1978)
Hermann Kretzschmar, piano; Klarenz Barlow (player piano); Irmela Roeicke Piano Quartet
CYBELE RECORDS SACD 960.308 TT: 71:31
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FONTYN: On a Landscape by Turner (1992). Through the Centuries (2001). The Jade Ring (1996). Four Sites (1977).
Janacek Philharmonic Orch/David Porcelin, cond.
CYBELE RECORDS SACD 860.601 TT: 59:19
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Four of these five well-produced SACDs are of interest only to the most dedicated avant-garde listener. Repertory seldom, if ever, will be heard in the concert hall. Two feature music for piano. Erich Itor Kahn (1905-1956), German composer of Jewish extraction, who often performed standard repertory in concert, founded the Albeneri Trio. In 1928 he worked with Hans Rosbaud for the Southwest German Radio Service, promoting music of many leading composers of the time including Stravinsky, Bartók, Webern, Roussel and, in particular, Schoenberg; Kahn gave the world premiere of Schoenberg's Piano Piece, Op. 33a. Kahn introduced conductor René Leibowitz to that composer's twelve-note technique. This disk contains mature solo piano works of Kahn including Ciaconna del tempi de guerra, written in 1943 for Ralph Kirkpatrick (hard to imagine!). Thomas Günther, a specialist in this music, plays all of this challenging music.

Piano music of Clarence Barlow (b. 1945) is featured on this disk that begins with his Ludus ragalas, 13 preludes and fugues that combine the European fugue and the Indian raga, performed here by Hermann Kretzschmar. Four pieces for player piano played by the composer are followed by the major work, the half-hour Cogluotobüsisletmesi, heard here in the version for 8 hands on 4 "identically retuned grand pianos" played by Irmela Roeicke, Hermann Kretzschmar, Jürgen Kruse and Benjamin Kobler, with James Avery directing this intricate score.

Cybele is doing their part to promote music of Rolf Riehm (b. 1937)—they have already issued 4 disks of his music. Do not get Rolf Riehm confused with his contemporary, Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952), who composed Verwandlung 2 for Riccardo Chailly's first concert as conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra September 2, 2005: the premiere performance can be seen on a fine DVD (REVIEW). Rolf Riehm's music is in-your-face avant-guard, particularly the 30-minute There are apricot trees, there are apricot trees, that features a spoken text by Inger Christensen read by the author with a background of instrumental interjections. Ahi bocca, ahi lingua is for four vocalists, an excerpt from a Monteverdi madrigal updated by Riehm. "Sleep, sleep, John Donne, sleep well and trouble yourself not" will be for many the most outrageous assault on music, in which during its 19-minute duration we hear the spoken and shrieking voice, a blasting whirring techno beat, and many other sounds that probably will offend most listeners. Approach with extreme caution!

Jacqueline Fontyn (b. 1930) is perhaps Belgium's best known composer, a distinguished teacher and a conductor as well. This fine SACD offers four of her orchestral works, all exquisitely orchestrated and with exotic, shimmering Impressionistic textures. This is highly complex music, very accessible, and beautifully played by the Janácek Philharmonic under David Porcelijn's knowing leadership. The excellent engineering perfectly captures the music's beauty.

Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970) was one of the better known German composers of his time particularly for his opera Die Soldaten that was premiered in 1965. He composed in varied musical styles, atonal, twelve-tone, serialism, and his interests were broad and included jazz and pop music. His major work is this Requiem for a Young Poet, completed in 1969, a year before Zimmermann committed suicide. In this he originally intended to include only texts written by young poets who committed suicide. It is a massive composition scored for three choruses, soprano and bass soloists, various speaking parts taken by actors and chorus members, organ, jazz combo, electronic tapes and a huge orchestra. Because of these demands, this music is seldom performed, and now we have the opportunity to hear it doubtless as the composer intended. This is a disturbing work, and many listeners will find it difficult listening—but one cannot question the integrity of the composer, or this spectacular performance which was recorded in Harlem in 2005. Cybele's engineering is totally effective in capturing the varied, overlapping massed sounds. Recommended without hesitation! In Germany, this was selected as one of the top choral recordings of the year—and it deserves the award.

R.E.B. (February 2009)

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