Composer Jurg Frey's "Landscape with Words" presents 27 compositions, 24 of which are based on individual words in orchestration with piano and violin, understated and minimal yet sumptuously lyrical and evocative, using space and tension to illustrate each segment.
Label: Edition Wandelweiser Records
Released in: Germany
Landscape with words
A conversation between Jurg Frey and Thomas Adank
JF: The 24 words are the titles of the individual pieces, and they are at the same time the entire text. They are also a list that shows how the piece gets from a beginning to an end. It is, in a sense, a cycle not simply a collection of pieces - a cycle which begins, makes a journey and ends at a different place.
TA: If I had to categorize this list of words, it seems to me they are addressed to quite different areas. Herzeleid (Heartbreak) for example, sounds old-fashioned, Einsamkeitsmangel (Lack of Loneliness) almost sounds like a neologism, as do Halbschlafphantasie, (Half-Sleep Fantasy) Sehnsuchtslandschaft (Landscape of Longing), Vergessenheitsvogel (Bird of Oblivion). Others, such as Tod (Death), Schlaf (Sleep), Glück (Happiness), Wind (Wind), are very often used in everyday life. Did you, as you compiled this list, consider these categories? Or did you tell yourself a story that made these words necessary?
JF: I was thinking in categories. At first I really wanted to make an even more rigid sequence. As it now stands, with the long words at the end and the short words in the middle, you can still feel a little of this structure; also at the beginning, which has many words with "e" and "ei". However, now it is not so strict. The words developed lives of their own, and this displaced some of the original structure. Some are everyday words, others are made by combining words, and some words found individual paths into the piece, including some very personal things. L'oiseau d'oubli ("Vergessenheitsvogel",Bird of Oblivion) comes from Edmond Jabès and is a tribute to this author I adore. But I also think that here Jabès has given me the perfect word.
TA: This piece consists of 27 parts, two of them being instrumental. The 24 words were set to music in pieces that are between 30 seconds and four minutes, and the words appear at most twice each in each piece. Again a fairly rigid structure?
"As much as I tend to seriously enjoy the majority of music from those composers associated with the Wandelweiser collective, I often get the feeling that it's Frey's music that resonates the deepest, that his sense of pure musicality has the most affinities with my own. Such an observation is only of real value to myself, of course, but there's such a sense of rightness I get from his work, including his pieces involving field recording (for example, the "weites land, tiefe zeit" set on b-boim); his music, to me, always sounds fantastic. That affinity is enormously well represented on this tremendous release.
Despite the title, there are 27 pieces here, ranging between 0:33 and 4:21, 25 of them with words, performed by Regula Konrad (soprano), Andrew Nathaniel McIntosh (violin) and Dante Boon (piano). The other two pieces are instrumental (piano/violin and solo piano). Some of the words encapsulate emotional states--Heiterkeit (Cheerfulness), Zartheit (Tenderness)--others connote dreamier, more Romantic notions: Einsamkeitsmangel (Lack of Loneliness), Zittergras (Quivering Grass), Ortlosigkeit (Without Place). Only two are repeated, Tod (Death) and Glück (Happiness); one nods in appreciation. The structure of the cycle is explained a bit in the revealing conversation between Frey and Thomas Adank printed on the inner sleeve. The words are, roughly, arranged from long to short to very long, imparting a suspension-bridge kind of aspect to the composition (with intervening mini-crests) and each word is repeated twice in a given "song", usually sung, sometimes spoken. The music, of course, is quiet, spare but with a very strong underlying current of lyricism. On a "typical" piece (there aren't any--there are infinitely subtle variations in each), the piano plays consonant, measured single notes or chords, suspended (you can often hear that lovely, muffled sounds of the sustain pedal being released) while the violin provides a perfect contrast with a grainier, breathier line that edges into microtones. The voice, crucially, remains at a kind of semi-remove, not at all declamatory or sardonic but also never getting within a mile of the sentimental. Instead, Konrad's words are clear, thoughtful and imbued with a perhaps melancholic sense of understanding. As mentioned above, each word is sung twice, almost always with a difference in rendition involving pitch or, in the longer words, number of pitches per syllable. More, Frey places these two enunciations within the piece with exquisite care and variation. And I should say in passing that the two instrumental songs are just gorgeous.
My knowledge of the German song cycle tradition is pretty cursory at best but, especially as Frey cites Schubert and Schumann in the enclosed conversation, it's next to impossible not to think of "24 Wörter" at least partially in that context and, for me, it both fits right in and extends the tradition along a particularly beautiful path. An early favorite of 2015--by all means, give a listen."-Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
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Label: Edition Wandelweiser Records
Catalog ID: EWR 1407
Squidco Product Code: 21829
Packaging: Cardstock 3 page foldover
Recorded at Benedikt Roosil in Aarau, Switzerland on September 16th and 17th, 2013.
Regula Konrad-soprano vocals
Andrew Nathaniel McIntosh-violin
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1. Fremdheit 2:32
2. Herzeleid 1:49
3. Zwei Welten 1:18
4. Seelenweit 0:26
5. [Piano, Violin] 3:21
6. Heiterkeit 2:52
7. Seltsamkeit 0:33
8. Trauer 1:54
9. Tanzer 0:55
10. Traumer 2:37
11. Stein 1:00
12. Einsamkeitsmangel 1:17
13. Zittergras 2:37
14. [Piano Solo] 2:23
15. Tod 1:37
16. Schlaf 1:35
17. Tod 2:13
18. Verlorenheit 1:22
19. Zartheit 2:12
20. Gluck 1:15
21. Wind 0:56
22. Gluck 0:37
23. Ortlosigkeit 2:26
24. Innigkeit 1:45
25. Sehnsuchtslandschaft 1:15
26. Halbschlafphantasie 1:37
27. Vergessenheitsvogel 4:21