Reviews

GMCD 7318 – Piano Works by Emmanuel Nunes & Rudolf Kelterborn

See Siang Wong – Piano

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Musikforum 4/2008

“Komponieren kann vielerlei bedeuten: zeigen, dass man Bach-Bartók-Boulez drauf hat oder gar Cowell-Cage-Sprache sprechen kann…oder man hat, wie Emmanuel Nunes, wirklich etwas zu sagen. Trotz einer Nähe zu Boulez zeigt Nunes in seinen frühen Litanies in jeder Phrase, jeder Pause wie jeder aufblitzender Girland, dass seine Musik inspiriert ist und vor allem in der Lage, den Hörer in einen grossformatig angelegten Kosmos zu ziehen, dessen Raum- und Zeitarchitektur nicht gleich überblickt wird, sich aber so spannungsvoll aufbaut, dass hier niemand vorzeitig aussteigt. Dabei ist ein merkwürdiger Zwiespalt zwischen struktureller Kühle und emotionaler Intensität, zwischen präsent-präziser Zeichnung und über den Horizont weisendem Bogen, der diese Musik auszeichnet: Nunes beweist, dass man Raumtiefe komponieren kann und dass Architektur auch episch sein kann. See Siang Wong öffnet das musikalische Tableau mit höchster Anschlagskultur und optimalem Spannungsaufbau, was auch den farbenreichen und kaleidoskophaften Klavierstücken von Rudolf Kelterborn zugute kommt, in denen sich ein weites Spektrum der musikalischen Möglichkeiten findet, die die Avantgarde sich im vergangenen halben Jahrhundert erkämpft hat.” Hans-Christian von Dadelsen, Musikforum, Magazin des Deutschen Musikrats

All Music Guide, July 2008

“Guild ‘s Piano Works by Emmanuel Nunes and Rudolf Kelterborn features pianist See Siang Wong in works by Portuguese composer Nunes and Swiss composer Kelterborn. Both of these composers have maintained strong academic affiliations in Europe, Nunes with the Instituit fur Neue Musik in Freiburg im Breisgau and the Paris Conservatoire and Kelterborn at the Musikhochschule Munster ‘Musik unserer Zeit.’ The Nunes work was composed in 1969-71 and is in the form of an open score, whereas the Kelterborn work was produced in 2001-04 and is notated down to the smallest detail. While there is some superficial similarities between these two composers, the main thing binding them together is pianist See Siang Wong, who has established contact with these composers, the Kelterborn work being written specifically for him. See Siang Wong is a specialist at playing hyper-difficult new music and is skilled in performing from an open score; that much is apparent in his handling of the two pieces of Nunes entitled Litanies du feu et de la mer, which requires more creative involvement from the interpreter than is the norm. Wong is equipped with ample ability to perform such scores effectively, and in the Kelterborn his work can be regarded as at least authoritative and possibly definitive. (…) Guild ‘s recording is great — every nuance, no matter how distant or in your face a given nuance might be, is captured in uncanny clarity.”
Uncle Dave Lewis

Piano News, Juli/August, Nr. 4/2008

“Pendants können sich ergänzen. In diesem Sinn hat See Siang Wong zwei zeitgenössische Klavierzyklen konfrontiert. Im grossformatigen Diptychon “Litanies du feu et de la mer” von Emmanuel Nunes bündelt See Siang Wong elementare Kräfte: scheinbar willkürlich stiebende Tonfunken aus schwelenden Hallklängen im Part I, im Part II geregelte, aber manchmal kantige Bewegungen. Imaginationen und Improvisationen von Feuer und Wasser erzeugt er mit exzessiver Spieltechnik durch alle Register. Die sechs “Piano Pieces” von Rudolf Kelterborn haben dagegen zwar eine organische Ordnung, wie schon im “Trifolium” (ein entlehnter Pflanzenname) angedeutet, aber sie wird durch viele Klangfacetten des Klaviers gezogen. Als virtuose Katarakte etwa im “A una voce – a due mani”, in “Kontrapunkte”, dem Finale, sogar direkt an dem Klaviersaiten und dem Innenraum als Resonanzkörper. See Siang Wong gelingt für beide Werke eine je sehr konzentrierte Gestaltung.”
Hans-Dieter Grünefeld

Records International May 2008

The compositional methods of the two composers on this disc could hardly be more strongly contrasted, though as the pianist observes, they are united by a poetic quality; the vividness of their descriptive qualities. The Nunes consists of two parts, of free, improvisatory character – in fact, some aspects of the work are left to the discretion of the performer, with literal improvisation permitted within a framework set out by the composer. The sea and fire of the title is evoked very literally, with representations of sparks and sudden conflagrations appearing in flickering passagework and scintillating outbursts, while the swell of deep waters in the first, or the play of light on waves in the second is equally graphically evoked, in a kind of neo-impressionism which is non-tonal but very clear in its representative intent. The Kelterborn works are precisely notated and highly structured, but they too have evocative titles which the music vividly illustrates. There is more conventional piano virtuosity in these pieces- indeed, quite a high level thereof – and each piece explores a different texture or mood, with suggestions of tonality here and there, and finely wrought interplay of contrapuntal ideas, making each piece a concentrated dramatic miniature.

Listen to this disc and you’ll hear how beautiful new music can be …

MusicWeb Wednesday May 21 2008

Listen to this disc and you’ll hear how beautiful new music can be. Cerebral, yes, but moving and spiritual, too. Emmanuel Nunes is a highly respected cult figure in new music circles. Based primarily in Paris, he’s well known throughout Europe, where his music is known through performance. Since there are relatively few recordings of his work, this disc shouldn’t be missed.

Litanies du feu et de la mer is an early work, but a good starting point. Although the two sections were written a few years apart, they reflect each other, like the parts of a diptych. More duality lies in their imagery: fire and water, opposites that react upon each other. There are moments of great stillness, where single notes hang in the air like droplets of rain, then shatter like a raindrop shatters when it hits a hard surface. Then there are moments when the music is whipped up like a sudden conflagration. This imagery is a perfectly valid point of entry to this music but there’s far more to it.

Nunes was interested in the spatial aspects of sound. With a large orchestra, such ideas can be explored through variations of texture and volume, but this is a piece for solo piano. Yet Nunes coaxes from the piano a dazzling variety of sounds, which heard together really create a sense of space and movement. Flurries of rapid, flickering notes scatter across the keyboard. Single, slowly articulated chords reverberate into silence long after the pianist’s fingers have lifted off. It’s almost as if Nunes wants to hear how long a note can be sustained in space, vibrating in the air. Then there are passages where notes tumble over each other piling up in dense textures at the darkest range of the keyboard, then suddenly break free again, flying back towards higher registers. This is such inventive music, constantly moving and feeling its way. If you like Debussy, and Takemitsu, this is for you.

What’s also interesting is that Nunes wants a performer to experiment, too. He gives a performer opportunities to be spontaneous, to expand the notes and judge the intervals creatively. Obviously, this work needs a pianist who responds intuitively to the pace and to the way repetitions vary and develop. In the Dutch-born pianist, See Siang Wong, he has found just such an interpreter. Wong had been playing the piece for a while, and played it before the composer himself in Zürich in 2000. Hence this recording, by the Swiss label Guild. Wong’s playing is lucid. He understands the way the work evolves, from dominant and upfront to barely audible. The silences when notes fade into stillness are very much part of the composition. Wong also finds in this work great spiritual resonance. He notes that, in Buddhism, “man … contemplates with a calm conscience the time spread out before him … Nunes seems to do this in music”. Just as meditation liberates the spirit, Nunes allows the pianist to improve within the basic framework, making the work deeply personal and individual in performance.

Rudolf Kelterborn wrote Trifolium, the first part of the six Piano Pieces for Wong, later expanding it to the six movement unit it is now. It’s the longest segment in the series, and the others grow from it, like the tendrils of a plant. Trifolium means “three-leaved”. Cascading triplets branch off and reform in intricate patterns. Wong calls the pieces “aphorisms”. Each section has a distinctive atmosphere, for example, the seventh section “Blurred”, where the notes are muted and imprecise, blending into each other. Together they form a cycle, like a song-cycle, but without words. The final section, Kontrapunkte, pulls the various threads together, while keeping their contrasting characters. It adds a lively tension. This is the world première recording, and Wong is its dedicatee.

This might not be a recording you’d seek out without knowing who the composers are, or the performer, but it’s definitely worth listening to, particularly for the Nunes.
Anne Ozorio