GMCD 7153 – Music by Max Kuhn

The Haffner Wind Ensemble of London, Vasari Singers, Jeremy Backhouse – Conductor, William Fong – Piano, Alan Hacker – Basset Horn, Brigitte Dolenc – Piano

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BC Christian News • SEPTEMBER ISSUE 1999
VOL. 19 #8 • Formerly “Christian Info News”

20th century Swiss composer Max Kuhn wrote a number of choral works; this CD features two of his a cappella sacred compositions, and a variety of instrumental works.
‘Man Lives But a Little Time’ is a motet with a suitably sombre tone, whose sobriety is mitigated by the occasional increase in intensity, especially during the Hallelujah portion.
‘Missa Brevis,’ composed in the 1950s, was the second mass Kuhn produced; the work shows both imagination and sensitivity to the subject matter. The meditative Kyrie starts quietly and builds up to a heartfelt ‘Christe Eleison.’ The Gloria includes a striking, brief passage featuring some nice counterpoint between two simultaneous, distinctly different melodic lines. The Credo is appropriately assertive; the Benedictus starts quietly, then bursts into energetic Hosannas; and the Agnus Dei has a slow and determined quality.
Of the instrumental pieces, the whimsical ‘Serenata for Wind Quintet’ is the most interesting. And soloist William Fong shines in the delightful and dizzying Presto from ‘Five Piano Pieces,’ in which the piano chases the melody all over the keyboard like a drunken bumblebee.
The music is generally free of the 20th century love of dissonance. Melodically, it is both lyrical and adventurous. The Vasari Singers are fine, although one of the tenors sounds a bit strained in the brief solo passages; but this doesn’t seriously mar the overall beauty of the performance. All told, this is a welcome sampling of this composer’s work.