Henryk Gorecki (1933-2010) became best known for his Third Symphony, the ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ that became a hit in the 1990s, tapping into a new hunger in the listening public for serious new music that was nonetheless melodically inspired and spiritual in sensibility. These qualities can be readily discerned in much of the rest of his small and fastidious output. The Kleines Requiem für eine Polka (1993) is itself at once a profoundly serious work and a curiously elusive one, a blend of warm expressive directness with almost Brechtian alienation. It is scored for a chamber ensemble: like Henze’s late masterpiece, it is an instrumental Requiem, in which words are felt to be otiose to the direct expression of grief and consolation.
Following his compendious sets of music by the outstanding figures of Minimalism such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Michael Nyman, Jeroen van Veen returns to Brilliant Classics with new recordings of the grandfather, inspiring figure of the genre, Erik Satie. Not that Satie himself would have recognised the term, coined by Nyman in the early 70s, but in saying new things in a quiet voice, swimming against the tide of Romanticism, he influenced not only Debussy, Ravel, Les Six and countless artists of any medium…
This box collects several recordings of Satie's piano music by Dutch pianist Reinbert de Leeuw, going back as far as 1977, with an English-language DVD (not reviewed, but the idea is attractive) including a fictionalized presentation of Satie's relationship with artist Suzanne Valadon (after they broke up, he hung in his window cataloging her faults, but the film apparently doesn't get to the fun stuff). The provenance of the music on the third CD, consisting mostly of songs and featuring soprano Marjanne Kweksilber, is unclear from the booklet, and it's a poor choice for the non-Francophone – no song texts are provided at all. The piano music from de Leeuw is another matter, however. It is immediately distinctive in its slow tempos and dreamy, rather lugubrious tone.
Whether singing, conducting, dancing or acting, the Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan is a constant source of fascination. Alpha Classics is proud to enter her world and her very first album as singer and conductor in 2017: with the Amsterdam based orchestra Ensemble Ludwig, of which she is associate artist.
The protean and prolific Jeroen van Veen turns his attention to Erik Satie’s complete piano works for a 9-CD boxed set that ties in with the composer’s 150th birthday year. In a way, the collection is completer than complete. It includes all of Satie’s published and unpublished works for solo piano and piano duo, piano arrangements of theater scores as Le fils des étoiles, Darius Milhaud’s transcription of Cinéma.