Mauricio Kagel's compositions are nothing if not wildly inventive, and Duodramen for soprano, baritone and orchestra is a fine example of his unhinged imagination. Each of the six movements features, as the title implies, a dialogue between two characters. The couplings include Indira Gandhi and Casanova, Henry Ford and Cosima Wagner, Alma Mahler Werfel and Genghis Khan, and, finally, Erich von Stroheim and Marie Antoinette. The texts, loosely derived by the composer from Goethe and some particularly dark folk poetry, bear little relation to the characters, but do provide a framework for some interesting and spirited interactions. Kagel is a master at creating drama through his music, and the dialogues are genuinely gripping, particularly the final one, which is wrenchingly poignant. The committed and visceral performances by soprano Margaret Chalker and baritone Roland Hermann give the duodramas a strong sense of urgency.
Liturgien is a setting of a polyglot text of the composer's devising, including religious writings from Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions, with Buddhism suggested by a few Oms. Here again, Kagel's skill as a musical dramatist pulls the disparate elements into a compelling and integrated, if conflicted, whole.