Astonishingly luminous Cantata
Ingrid Heyn | Melbourne, Australia | 02/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am giving this recording 5 stars because, in spite of the Novae de infinito laudes (the second work on this recording) not being of the same quality in composition as the first piece, that first piece is simply astonishingly beautiful.
Luminous is indeed a word that describes it perfectly. The scoring is for orchestra, female chorus and solo coloratura soprano. There seems little doubt that it was this particular performance (the recording is taken live from the 1975 performance at the Salzburg Festival) that launched Henze into his career as a composer, in the sense that finally more people were prepared to hear his works.
The reason for this is self-evident: Henze had the amazing good fortune to obtain Edita Gruberova for this performance, and there is no other singer in the world who could have performed this piece in so utterly perfect a way. The writing for her voice is celestial: disconcerting leaps that are smoothly executed without losing a firm although unfamiliar sense of melody; long spinning lines that gave Gruberova full scope for her remarkable voice; a continual sense of something very fine and delicate being woven above a light and shimmering texture. It's very, very beautiful, and very, very haunting. I was not surprised in the least to hear the crowd going wild at the Cantata's conclusion.
The second work - written for four solo voices and orchestra - is not as good. Henze has in that work moved further away from melody and is firmly entrenched in 12-tone composition. The sense one gains is that of emotional tension, not because that's the meaning the composer intended to convey, but because without a tonal centre, the harmonic and melodic uncertainty DO create tension. The instrumentation is much denser in this piece - very brass-heavy. There's a great deal of clashing and, while the singing is fabulous, the singers don't have lines of such quality as were given to Gruberova in the first piece.
The four singers include Eda Moser and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. What a line-up! Even though this second work didn't appeal to me as much as the first, it's still a pleasure to hear the excellent singing of such marvellous singers in a 20th century work.
I believe the solo cantata on this recording will appeal to almost everyone, and certainly the fresh purity and almost eerie loveliness of Gruberova's voice are unmistakable. I don't think the second work will appeal to everyone, but the singing is superb at least.