Reviews

GMCD 7407/2 – Rütti – Symphony ‘The Visions of Niklaus von Flüe’, Diethelm – The Last Works for String Orchestra

Maria C. Schmid (soprano), Martin Heini (organ), Mario Schubiger (percussion), The State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Novosibirsk, Rainer Held (conductor)

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Luzerner Zeitung November 2014

Lobgesänge für Dvorak und Carl Rüttis Visionen
KLASSIK-CDS Regionale Kräfte mit grosser Ausstrahlung: Das Luzerner Sinfonieorchester, ein Werk von Carl Rütti und das Ensemble Corund setzen je eigene Akzente.
Noch nie erhielten wir derart viele Kritiken bis in die USA wie jetzt für diese Dvorak-CD», freut sich der Medienverantwortliche des Luzerner Sinfonieorchesters, Norman Ziswiler. Und die Kritiker sind erst noch begeistert, wie «warm, subtil und gestochen scharf(«Obeserver») das Orchester unter James Gaffigan klingt und Musiziert. Als Neuentdeckung feiert das «Wall Street Journal» gar, wie Gaffigan Dvoraks Neue-Welt-Anspielungen in der Amerikanischen Suite deutlich und doch zu einem echten Dvorak macht.
In der Tat zeigt die Aufnahme in der sechsten Sinfonie das Orchester von seiner irrsten, repräsentativen Seite. Die Transparenz, die man vom Konzertsaal kennt, steigert sich hier zu einem grossorchestralen Sound. Die Gangart bleibt schwungvoll-federnd, auch wo – wie im. Scherze Furiant – das böhmische Musikantentum mit viel sinfonischem Gewicht betrachtet wird, Anderseits blühen die Lyrismen wunderbar auf. In der Amerikanischen Suite ahnt die immer wieder mystisch verschleierte Klanglichkeit über markiger Musikanten-Motorik hinweg bereits Hollywood vorweg. Auch in dieser Polarität eine charakterstarke Dvorak-CD.
Niklaus von Flües Visionen Ein internationales Gemeinschaftsprojekt war die Uraufführung von Carl Rüttis Sinfonie «Die Visionen des Niklaus von Flüe». Über den Dirigenten Rainer Held fanden dafür der Horwer Organist Martin Heini und das Kammerorchester Nowosibirsk zusammen. Der Zuger Komponist beliess von Flües bildstark-aktuelle Texte im mittelhochdeutschen Original und schrieb passend dazu eine Musik mit archaisierenden Klängen (Perkussion: Mario Schubiger) und entfesselten tänzerischen Momenten.
Auf der Aufnahme mischt sich das ebenso wie in der Kirche, und doch
kommen viele klangliche und rhythmische Details des Orchesters wie der vielfältig eingesetzten Orgel kristalliner zur Geltung. Damit ist die Aufnahme ebenso hinreissend wie die Uraufführung vor einem Jahr, zumal die Sopranistin Maria C. Schmid auch ohne die Flügel, die ihrer Stimme die Kirchenakustik verlieh, die Bögen vom Innigen zu Ekstase mit grosser Leuchtkraft gestaltet.
Stimmig ergänzt werden diese Niklaus-Versionen von meditativen Werken für Streichorchester des Obwaldners Caspar Diethelm (1926-1997).
Bemerkenswerte nationale Kooperationen ermöglichen dem Luzerner Ensemble Corund Engagements durch Schweizer Orchester – wie jetzt in Mendelssohns beschaulicher «Lobgesang»-Sinfonie mit dem Musikkollegium Winterthur unter Douglas Boyd. Dass das im Orchestralen weniger plastisch wirkt als der Luzerner Dvorak, mag auch am stärker kammermusikalischen Ansatz liegen. in diesen fügen sich nicht nur die vorzüglichen Gesangssolisten Lisa Larson, Malin Hartelius und Jörg Dürmüller ein. Auch der schlanke Chorklang besticht in polyphonen Partien durch Präsenz in allen Stimmen und rhythmische Prägnanz. Und verhilft, dicht eingebunden Iris instrumentale Geschehen, dem Werk zu strahlender Pracht.
URS MATTENBERGER

Gramophone – February 2015

Niklaus von Flüe (‘Brother Klaus’, 1417-87) is the patron saint of Switzerland whose three recorded visions dominate the content and structure of this hour-long symphony by Carl Rütti (b1949). Cast in seven movements, which subdivide into three Parts (one per vision), The Visions of Niklaus von Flüe (2013) strikes me as a type of national programme symphony, such as one might have expected 150 years ago from Raff or Hans Huber (whose First Symphony, the Tellsinfonie, perhaps fits the bill). However, Rütti’s 21st-century, postmodernist style, ascetic scoring – for soprano, organ, percussion (one player) and strings – and atmosphere of restraint militate against such a status, so it is best heard as an expression of the composer’s own relationship to the national saint and the visions he experienced.
Musically, the work is written in a cosmopolitan style, with the recurring elements of the visions reflected in molto themes (more or less developed) in the fabric of the symphony. The structure of the work is led by the extramusical inspiration of the visions, although Rütti reversed the order of the final two to give a more satisfying musical flow (although against the narrative flow of the visions themselves). The symphony is well executed here, not least by soprano Maria Schmid, who has a long and taxing part, occasionally insecure in the topmost register. Rainer Held directs a nicely balanced and nuanced performance from the Novosibirsk State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and the instrumental soloists who, while they may have found the style unusual, do not sound overly challenged. The Same positives apply to the couplings on the curiously underfilled second disc (just 27′ long), devoted to the final string orchestral works of Caspar Diethelm (1926-97). The three works here – two short memorial items (the Passacaglia and Consolatio) and the set of studies ‘Now the path completes the circle’ for a Swiss youth ensemble – all date from his final year and are pleasing enough, but for the life of me I do not understand why they were included. There is no specific connection between Rütti and Diethelm that I am aware of and the half-filled second disc would, I suggest, have been more useful as a separate issue filled with Diethelm’s music.
Guy Rickards

CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND (CLOFO) September 2015

Back in 2009 we introduced CLOFO readers to a striking contemporary requiem (2007) by Swiss composer Carl Rütti (b. 1949), and this new Guild release gives us another of his moving religious works. Not only that, it also includes three impressive pieces for string orchestra by his compatriot Caspar Diethelm (1926-1997). They’re the only recordings of these works currently available on disc
The Rütti dating from 2013 is a symphony for soprano, organ, percussion, and string orchestra in seven-movements. Four are settings of German texts relating mystical visions Switzerland’s patron saint Niklaus von Flüe (aka Brother Klaus, 1417-1487) had during his last twenty years spent as a hermit in Ranft.
The opening movement marked “Vom Sonnenaufgang” (“Of the Sunrise”) [D-1, T-1] is instrumental with soft strings, chimes and bird song organ figurations. It’s meant to reflect the peaceful, early morning hours in the ravine where Niklaus’ humble hut was located.
“Der Pilger vom Sonnenaufgang” (“The Pilgrim of the Sunrise”) [D-1, T-2] follows where the soprano delivers a lovely passage to a string footstep accompaniment. She sings about a man dressed as a pilgrim who approaches from a distance and stands in front of Brother Klaus. As the two regard each other the music becomes more animated. It builds to a percussion-enhanced, organ-embellished climax with a shriek from the soloist, who tells us about many miracles that have occurred.
These include the collapse of a nearby mountain, which initiates the next movement. This begins with a thrilling instrumental toccata titled “Pilatusberg” (“Mount Pilatus)” (TP) [D-1, T-3] after the peak in question. Then the soloist sings a moving lyrical narrative marked “Die Wahrheit” (“The Truth”) [05:12].
Here we learn about the appearance of universal truth, and the Pilgrim’s leaving Niklaus feeling spiritually fulfilled. There’s an underlying reminder of TP [09:22-10:48], and then this third movement ends in a state of grace.
We’re told the fourth titled “Das Zelt” (“The Tent”) [D-1, T-4] is the symphony’s adagio. This is a laid-back extended song of great beauty accompanied by soft strings, delicate high organ stops and twinkling tuned percussion that includes a tolling bell. See the album notes for the curious oneiric story underlying it
The next “Brunnen Tanz” (“Fountain Dance”) [D-1, T-5] is a short scherzo that’s another instrumental toccata with shimmering strings, sparkling percussion, and a virtuosic dash of organ. One can picture delicate rising and falling sprays of water. But the text tells us the liquid is a mixture of wine, oil and honey, which sounds more like a precursor of French dressing.
This introduces the sixth movement set in two adjoining segments called “Die armen Arbeiter” (“The Poor Workers”) [D1, T-6] and “Der Brunnen” (“The Fountain”). It’s a vocal setting of an oddball story as presented in the album notes, and you’re on your own as far as making any sense out of it!
The music is at first low and slow with the soprano soaring over contemplative organ passages. After that it brightens and the pace quickens with an infectious scampering theme [04:56] having toccata-like organ figurations.
Two thirds of the way through there are reminiscences of the opening measures [10:25], which are developed into a dancelike episode [11:23] that could almost be of American Indian origin. Then the movement ends with some nebulous afterthoughts intoned by the soprano.
The symphony concludes with an Amen marked “Das Gesicht im Goldkreis” (“The Face in the Golden Circle”) [D-1, T-7], which apparently refers to a picture Niklaus used for meditation. We’re told it contains a central golden circle with three rays emanating from it. Apparently he once said he’d seen a radiant face in it that made his heart explode. Accordingly it’s a short percussion-laced fortissimo that ends the work dramatically
Then it’s back to reality with three late works for string orchestra by Caspar Diethelm completed in 1996 just a year before his death. The first Passacaglia with the inscription “Eine weisse Christrose im Schnee auf dem kleinen Grab” (“A White Rose in the Snow on the Small Grave”) [D-2, T-1] honors the memory of his young daughter who died in 1922.
Consequently it’s a grief-stricken piece that begins with a twelve-tone row ostinato. The later imparts a sense of life’s limited span and the inevitability of death, making the accompanying lament played by the other strings all the more moving.
The Consolatio fur Streichorchester (“Consolation for String Orchestra”) that follows [D-2, T-2] is a more sunny creation with an element of nostalgia. It sets the stage for the closing Nun rundet sich der Weg zum Kreis (Now the Path Completes the Circle).
Once again a circle is associated with this last piece somewhat like the final movement of Rütti’s symphony (see above). This time it represents the eternal cycle of life with each of the work’s twelve segments, as the composer calls them, presumably corresponding to one of its phases. The first [D-2, T-3] might be interpreted as characterizing prenatal bliss, the second [D-2, T-4] stretching emergence into the world, and the third [D-2, T-5] the innocence of infancy.
The next three would seem oriented towards childhood. They’re respectively mischievous [D-2, T-6], cuddly [D-2, T-7], and worshipfully affectionate [D-2, T-8]. And moving right along we get a plucky unsettled seventh adolescent phase [D-2, T-9] followed by what would seem to be early, middle, mature and late adulthood. The latter are sequentially amorous [D-2, T-10], thoughtful [D-2, T-11], fun-filled [D-2, T-12], and searching [D-2, T-13].
Then Diethelm’s life cycle ends in a twelfth phase angular epilogue [D-2, T-14] with a devil may care final flourish. All in all this delightful work provides a welcome respite from Rütti’s recondite symphony.
Soprano Maria C. Schmid, organist Martin Heini and percussionist Mario Schubiger join the strings of the Novosibirsk State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra (NSPCO) under Rainer Held for these performances. Their readings are very expressive and finely etched. Both composers couldn’t have better advocates.
Done at the St. Katharina Parish Church in Horw, Switzerland, the recordings are impressive for the scoring alone. They present a broad deep soundstage in a considerably reverberant surroundings. Those liking wetter sonics will find them appealing, but audiophiles preferring a more focused image may not.
The soloists are all well placed and balanced against the members of the NSPCO. The instrumental timbre is characterized by brittle highs, a pleasing midrange and clean bass. The latter goes down to rock bottom, and some of those low organ notes will rattle your closet doors.
Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150924)

 


Crocks Newsletter – September 2015

Back in 2009 we introduced CLOFO readers to a striking contemporary requiem (2007) by Swiss composer Carl Rütti (b. 1949), and this new Guild release gives us another of his moving religious works. Not only that, it also includes three impressive pieces for string orchestra by his compatriot Caspar Diethelm (1926-1997). They’re the only recordings of these works currently available on disc
The Rütti dating from 2013 is a symphony for soprano, organ, percussion, and string orchestra in seven-movements. Four are settings of German texts relating mystical visions Switzerland’s patron saint Niklaus von Flüe (aka Brother Klaus, 1417-1487) had during his last twenty years spent as a hermit in Ranft.
The opening movement marked “Vom Sonnenaufgang” (“Of the Sunrise”) [D-1, T-1] is instrumental with soft strings, chimes and bird song organ figurations. It’s meant to reflect the peaceful, early morning hours in the ravine where Niklaus’ humble hut was located.
“Der Pilger vom Sonnenaufgang” (“The Pilgrim of the Sunrise”) [D-1, T-2] follows where the soprano delivers a lovely passage to a string footstep accompaniment. She sings about a man dressed as a pilgrim who approaches from a distance and stands in front of Brother Klaus. As the two regard each other the music becomes more animated. It builds to a percussion-enhanced, organ-embellished climax with a shriek from the soloist, who tells us about many miracles that have occurred.
These include the collapse of a nearby mountain, which initiates the next movement. This begins with a thrilling instrumental toccata titled “Pilatusberg” (“Mount Pilatus)” (TP) [D-1, T-3] after the peak in question. Then the soloist sings a moving lyrical narrative marked “Die Wahrheit” (“The Truth”) [05:12].
Here we learn about the appearance of universal truth, and the Pilgrim’s leaving Niklaus feeling spiritually fulfilled. There’s an underlying reminder of TP [09:22-10:48], and then this third movement ends in a state of grace.
We’re told the fourth titled “Das Zelt” (“The Tent”) [D-1, T-4] is the symphony’s adagio. This is a laid-back extended song of great beauty accompanied by soft strings, delicate high organ stops and twinkling tuned percussion that includes a tolling bell. See the album notes for the curious oneiric story underlying it
The next “Brunnen Tanz” (“Fountain Dance”) [D-1, T-5] is a short scherzo that’s another instrumental toccata with shimmering strings, sparkling percussion, and a virtuosic dash of organ. One can picture delicate rising and falling sprays of water. But the text tells us the liquid is a mixture of wine, oil and honey, which sounds more like a precursor of French dressing.
This introduces the sixth movement set in two adjoining segments called “Die armen Arbeiter” (“The Poor Workers”) [D1, T-6] and “Der Brunnen” (“The Fountain”). It’s a vocal setting of an oddball story as presented in the album notes, and you’re on your own as far as making any sense out of it!
The music is at first low and slow with the soprano soaring over contemplative organ passages. After that it brightens and the pace quickens with an infectious scampering theme [04:56] having toccata-like organ figurations.
Two thirds of the way through there are reminiscences of the opening measures [10:25], which are developed into a dancelike episode [11:23] that could almost be of American Indian origin. Then the movement ends with some nebulous afterthoughts intoned by the soprano.
The symphony concludes with an Amen marked “Das Gesicht im Goldkreis” (“The Face in the Golden Circle”) [D-1, T-7], which apparently refers to a picture Niklaus used for meditation. We’re told it contains a central golden circle with three rays emanating from it. Apparently he once said he’d seen a radiant face in it that made his heart explode. Accordingly it’s a short percussion-laced fortissimo that ends the work dramatically
Then it’s back to reality with three late works for string orchestra by Caspar Diethelm completed in 1996 just a year before his death. The first Passacaglia with the inscription “Eine weisse Christrose im Schnee auf dem kleinen Grab” (“A White Rose in the Snow on the Small Grave”) [D-2, T-1] honors the memory of his young daughter who died in 1922.
Consequently it’s a grief-stricken piece that begins with a twelve-tone row ostinato. The later imparts a sense of life’s limited span and the inevitability of death, making the accompanying lament played by the other strings all the more moving.
The Consolatio fur Streichorchester (“Consolation for String Orchestra”) that follows [D-2, T-2] is a more sunny creation with an element of nostalgia. It sets the stage for the closing Nun rundet sich der Weg zum Kreis (Now the Path Completes the Circle).
Once again a circle is associated with this last piece somewhat like the final movement of Rütti’s symphony (see above). This time it represents the eternal cycle of life with each of the work’s twelve segments, as the composer calls them, presumably corresponding to one of its phases. The first [D-2, T-3] might be interpreted as characterizing prenatal bliss, the second [D-2, T-4] stretching emergence into the world, and the third [D-2, T-5] the innocence of infancy.
The next three would seem oriented towards childhood. They’re respectively mischievous [D-2, T-6], cuddly [D-2, T-7], and worshipfully affectionate [D-2, T-8]. And moving right along we get a plucky unsettled seventh adolescent phase [D-2, T-9] followed by what would seem to be early, middle, mature and late adulthood. The latter are sequentially amorous [D-2, T-10], thoughtful [D-2, T-11], fun-filled [D-2, T-12], and searching [D-2, T-13].
Then Diethelm’s life cycle ends in a twelfth phase angular epilogue [D-2, T-14] with a devil may care final flourish. All in all this delightful work provides a welcome respite from Rütti’s recondite symphony.
Soprano Maria C. Schmid, organist Martin Heini and percussionist Mario Schubiger join the strings of the Novosibirsk State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra (NSPCO) under Rainer Held for these performances. Their readings are very expressive and finely etched. Both composers couldn’t have better advocates.
Done at the St. Katharina Parish Church in Horw, Switzerland, the recordings are impressive for the scoring alone. They present a broad deep soundstage in a considerably reverberant surroundings. Those liking wetter sonics will find them appealing, but audiophiles preferring a more focused image may not.
The soloists are all well placed and balanced against the members of the NSPCO. The instrumental timbre is characterized by brittle highs, a pleasing midrange and clean bass. The latter goes down to rock bottom, and some of those low organ notes will rattle your closet doors.
Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150924)

MusicWeb International – September 2015

I’ve heard and admired quite a bit of Carl Rütti’s choral and organ music though much of what I’ve heard to date has consisted of fairly short pieces. The most substantial of his scores that has so far come my way has been his Requiem, composed in 2007 (review). So I approached this recent score with no little interest.
Rütti’s Symphony is scored for soprano, organ, percussion (one player) and string orchestra. It includes settings of texts by the Swiss mystic and hermit, Niklaus von Flüe (1417-1487). In a booklet note the composer tells us about von Flüe, also known as Brother Klaus. He lived a full life as a successful farmer and politician and was married with ten children. However, he came increasingly to feel called to the life of a recluse. Accordingly, with the agreement of his wife he left the family home at the age of fifty and spent the last twenty years of his life in solitude. During this time of solitude he had visions, which his grandson wrote down and these visions form the text that Rütti has chosen to set. I have to say straightaway that I found the texts very difficult to follow. The texts and an English translation are provided. However, the original text, which is quite substantial, appears in the booklet on pages that are separate from the English translation – though the modern German translation is printed side-by-side with the original. As there’s a lot of text to follow it’s not easy to know where you are if you’re a non-German speaker. Furthermore, the texts are printed in a very small font so I found trying to follow the words for an extended period of time quite a trial. That’s important because the solo soprano role is extremely important: I’d estimate that the singer is involved for about 90% of the symphony’s duration.
The score is divided into seven sections. However, these sections are grouped so that, for instance, the first three, which cover the First Vision, effectively form the symphony’s first movement. The fourth section, the Second Vision stands alone as the symphony’s slow movement. Then two more sections, the Third Vision, constitute the scherzo and trio. There’s a surprisingly brief final movement, entitled ‘Amen’.
The symphony starts very atmospherically with a short and mainly quiet instrumental introduction entitled ‘Of the Sunrise’. Here Rütti’s imaginative, delicate textures beguile the ear; the listener is left wanting more. The soprano then relates Brother Klaus’s encounter with ‘The Pilgrim of the Sunrise’ Immediately Maria C. Schmid makes a strong impression. Her voice is pure and clear-toned. Her intonation seems infallible and she negotiates the frequent high-lying portions of the vocal part with agility and great assurance. Her singing is on this level of accomplishment throughout the performance and since she is required to sing so much one can only admire her stamina and consistency.
The third section begins with a driving, indeed frenzied instrumental toccata. There’s some exciting writing for the organ and the predominant percussion sound is that of tom-toms. At about 5:14 the tempo slows for a while and the singer returns to relate the last portion of the First Vision, ‘The Truth’. Here the pilgrim is revealed to have the visage of Christ.
The Second Vision, ‘The Tent’, is related in an extended stand-alone slow movement. This describes a night-time visit that Brother Klaus makes to a family who live nearby, dwelling in a tent. The music unfolds slowly and for much of the time the atmosphere is very tranquil. The movement is mysterious and beautiful and Rütti beguiles the listener with gently luminous harmonies. There’s a hypnotic quality to this movement and Miss Schmid and the instrumentalists deliver it with great sensitivity. The first time I listened to the recording I wrote in my notes that this movement was the highlight of the symphony and nothing I heard in the rest of the score or in further listening changed that view.
What is, in effect, the third movement of the symphony opens with an instrumental scherzo entitled ‘Fountain Dance’. This is quite brief and for the most part the textures are light. There follows the Third Vision in which Brother Klaus encounters ‘The Poor Workers’. This may be taken as the trio – the tempo slows for a few minutes – and then the Fountain Dance is reprised, this time as an accompaniment to the soprano’s continuation of the narrative.
The short Finale, ‘The Face in the Golden Circle’, begins quietly and gradually expands to the loudest music in the whole work. I may be wrong but here I think the soprano part is wordless; it’s certainly ecstatic.
This symphony is a most interesting work. As far as I can judge, not having heard the music before, the present performance is superb, radiating both assurance and conviction. The recording was made in a Swiss Roman Catholic church and it seems to me that not only have the engineers judged the balances most effectively but also they’ve used the very pleasing resonance of the church’s acoustic to excellent effect. Incidentally, a full specification of the organ is provided but for some reason it’s tucked away on the inside of the tray in which the discs are housed: I didn’t spot it until I came to take out the second CD for the first time.
This second disc, which has a much shorter playing time, is given over to three works for string orchestra by a composer whose name and music were completely new to me. The Swiss composer, Caspar Diethelm was a native of Lucerne. Among his composition teachers were Hindemith and Honegger. He taught at the Lucerne Conservatoire between 1963 and 1993. Besides a busy musical life he was heavily involved in politics and in conservation. As can be deduced from the opus numbers of the three works recorded here, he was a prolific composer. The three compositions in question were written in the last year of his life – the 12 Segments for string orchestra were completed only weeks before he died.
The Passacaglia bears the title ‘A white Christmas rose on the small grave’. The note in the booklet is by Esther Diethelm and she tells us that the grave to which the title refers is that of Caspar’s daughter, Jutta, who died in 1992. The piece may be short in length but it’s powerful and intense; clearly – and unsurprisingly – strong emotions were at play here. Sharing the same opus number is Consolatio and as the title implies the tone of the music is, perhaps, more accepting. However, the work is no less serious of purpose than its companion piece.
Twelve Segments for string orchestra consists of short movements – most are less than two minutes in duration – and it’s helpful that each is separately tracked on the CD. Most of the individual component pieces are in moderate or slow tempo – only five of them are marked to be taken quickly. However, there’s a good deal of variety in the music and despite the preponderance of slow-moving music I think that Esther Diethelm is right to say that the work “has almost divertimento characteristics”. The composer was evidently highly experienced in writing for strings and he wove into his score a good number of solo opportunities for the principal players of the orchestra; here these are all taken very well indeed. It’s attractive, well-crafted music and the performance appears to be expert. As with the Rütti symphony, Diethelm’s music has been accorded very good recorded sound.
There’s some interesting music on this pair of discs and opportunities to hear these pieces are unlikely to be frequent. The programme spills over onto two CDs but I believe that Guild offer the set at an advantageous price, making this a competitive proposition for collectors who are keen to explore less familiar repertoire in expert performances.
John Quinn