Asko-Schönberg Ensemble / Reinbert de Leeuw / Netherlands Radio Choir

György Kurtág: Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir

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This fine, triple-CD collection of music by Hungarian composer György Kurtág is titled with uncharacteristic imprecision by ECM: it is a collection not of works for ensemble and choir, but of ensemble, vocal, and choral works. As such, it covers a good many of the milestones of this composer's output, which hovered for many years between western Europe and the East Bloc scene, covering developments from the sparse text-setting of the earlier major song sets to the newer accessibility that were explored by other composers, but maintaining a distinctive voice all the while. The performances were painstakingly rehearsed, sometimes under the supervision of Kurtág himself. The set could easily serve as a basic Kurtág entry in a library of contemporary music, but in places it's much more than that. Get your hands on the best piece of sound equipment you can, and sample one of the pieces on CD 2 bearing the notation that the instruments should be "dispersed in space," perhaps Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, Op. 30b. Beyond the novelty of hearing Beckett in Hungarian, and the usefulness of addressing the importance of the minimalist Irish playwright in Kurtág's own thinking, you get ECM's engineering at its most awesome, as nearly as possible reproducing the sense of space that a physical performance would have had. An ambitious release that lives up to its aims; highly recommended.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Four Capriccios Op. 9 for soprano and ensemble
1 1:36
2 2:34
3 1:48
4 2:39
Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky Op. 11 for baritone or bass and chamber ensemble
5 2:56
6 1:24
7 0:42
8 2:57
9 9:17
Messages of the Late Miss R. Troussova Op. 17 for soprano and chamber ensemble
10 1:46
11 2:32
12 1:44
13 3:17
14 0:41
15 1:15
16 1:36
17 1:18
18 0:55
19 0:49
20 0:54
21 1:35
22 0:33
23 1:03
24 0:22
25 0:43
26 0:40
27 0:57
28 0:33
29 0:43
30 1:16

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Songs of Despair and Sorrow Op.18 for double mixed choir with instruments
1 3:24
2 6:13
3 1:38
4 2:33
5 2:50
6 2:48
Four Poems by Anna Akhmatova Op. 41
7 1:30
8 2:49
9 3:34
10 3:35
11 17:15
Brefs Messages Op. 47 for small ensemble
12 1:11
13 1:11
14 3:31
15 1:44
blue highlight denotes track pick