Emilio Pomárico / Klangforum Wien

Gerd Kühr: Revue instrumentale et électronique

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Austrian composer Gerd Kühr is a professor of composition at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz; he also works as a conductor and once studied with Sergiu Celibidache. Kühr has also taken composition with Hans Werner Henze, and prior to Revue instrumentale et electronique was primarily renowned for his work in the field of opera, particularly for Stallerhof (1988) and Tod und Teufel (1999). Being pigeonholed as an opera composer isn't exactly fair to Kühr as his work catalog, published mostly by Éditions Durand in Paris, is heavily stocked with instrumental music of various kinds. Kühr's piece Revue instrumentale et electronique may actually help his instrumental music break through; divided into six sections, it is scored for nine spatially divided instrumental groups and electronics. Revue instrumentale et electronique was premiered by Emilio Pomárico and Klangforum Wien at the Hartmut-List-Halle in Graz; this Kairos recording is of the premiere performance.

The transitions between the electronics and live sections is seamless; you are listening and you gradually realize "we are hearing electronic music now" as opposed to the live instruments. Kühr is very effective at devising novel instrumental timbres, such as the palpitating percussion and fleeting winds in the opening "Intro" and in the alien atmosphere of sustained notes in "Trans." Revue Instrumentale et Electronique tends to lose its steam for a bit by the movement marked "Inter," but picks up the pace once again by the "Finale (Virtual Dance)," although this serves largely to summarize what went before. It has some exciting moments; it would have been nice to hear more of the interplay of the various sections, but even though this Kairos release is a hybrid multichannel super audio CD, the sections seem only weakly divided from one another in the mix and the recording doesn't seem to have much in the way of spatial depth. Moreover, the CD consists of only the one work, lasting 32 minutes. Couldn't Kairos have found room for some additional music of Kühr? Several items in his catalog seem intriguing, such as Marsch! Marsch! (1981) described as a "collage on march themes of Franz Shöggl" or the song cycle Walt Whitman for President (1984). In sum, Kairos' Revue Instrumentale et Electronique seems stingy in both its short length and limited sonic response, but Kühr is an interesting composer and one wants to hear more of him.

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