Collegium Novum Zürich / Enno Poppe

Georg Friedrich Haas: Works for Ensemble

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Although Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas has been active since about 1980, he didn't garner attention for his work until after the turn of the 21st century. On the surface, Haas is a composer who utilizes microtones extensively, but he dislikes such characterization, as he has stated, "I am not really comfortable with being pigeonholed as a ‘microtonal composer’. Primarily, I am a composer, free to use the means needed for my music." Neos' Georg Friedrich Haas: Works for Ensemble includes three pieces, starting with Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich… (Who, If I Cried Out, Would Hear Me…, 1993), which functions like a percussion concerto, and …aus freier Lust…verbunden… (…from free desire…connected…, 1994-1996), which consists of a few parts (bass flute, bass clarinet, and two percussionists) extracted from a larger score entitled Concord of free beings. The disc is closed out by a 2008 work entitled …und… (…and…) for chamber orchestra combined with some electronic tracks. Haas' music is performed by Collegium Novum Zürich under the direction of Enno Poppe, with Martin Lorenz as solo percussionist.

Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich… starts off strong, building continuously throughout the first half with upward gliding movement through the ensemble. However, after it reaches the self-appointed climax at its center -- you can read a detailed description of how this piece progresses in the booklet -- it drops to a near silent level, with little more than mere flurries of activity perceptible here and there until the piece plays out its 24-minute lifespan. The redistribution of individual parts to subgroups of musicians taken from a larger set is a method of working associated with John Cage, and no matter how minimal the material, Cage seems to make it work. With …aus freier Lust…verbunden…, you listen to the faint little clicks and burbling in the hopes that something might connect to your attention, but by the time that is reanimated you're already into the next piece, …und…. This work is more in the vein of the opening half of Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich… although it is punctuated at points by foreign elements such as pounding piano and loud bursts of electronic sound. The object here is to evoke various kinds of glassy/metallic wheezy/expanding sounds through the use of harmonic overtones. Overall it's effective; the best piece on the disc if you can hang on that long, though some might think it will sound like a hypnogogic hallucination about a busted radiator. One way or another, Neos' Georg Friedrich Haas: Works for Ensemble is a 63-minute disc that has about 39 interesting minutes to it, and that simply may not be enough for some listeners. Neos' recording is very clear, distinct, and three-dimensional.

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