Poems by Anna Maria Bacher
Puneigä, for soprano, flute, clarinet, french horn, cello and percussion
Induuchlen, poems by Albert Streich
Induuchlen, for countertenor and natural horn
Ma'mounia, for percussion and five instruments
Sylvia Nopper (soprano), Kai Wessel (countertenor), Anna Maria Bacher,
Albert Streich (recitation), Olivier Darbellay (horn), Matthias Würsch (percussion),
Swiss Chamber Soloists / Heinz Holliger.
ECM New Series 476 3977
ECM continues its championing of Heinz Holliger with this disc of vocal and chamber works. Most significant is Puneigä (2002), a song-cycle for soprano and six players to poems by Anna Maria Bacher. Written in Walser German, a language spoken only in the Pomater valley on the Swiss/Italian border, its inscrutability goes with a lilting quality that invites musical treatment: 10 brief yet evocative poems separated by four interludes that range from the visceral to the rarefied; the songs charting a gradual progression from violence and fragmentation to exquisite poise. Soprano Sylvia Nopper is readily enticing, and Holliger draws a fastidious response from his ensemble.
Inhabiting an even more interiorized world, Induuchlen (2004) comprises four settings by the Swiss dialect writer Albert Streich for natural horn and a countertenor, whose full resources are called upon in an ethereal interplay that employs a wide range of timbre and intonation. As often with Holliger, complexity of syntax is balanced by a spatial quality that gives these songs an elemental vastness belying their sparseness of gesture. Countertenor Kai Wessel and hornist Olivier Darbellay are dedicated exponents of music that discreetly rewrites the rules for fusing voice and instruments.
As to the instrumental works, Toronto-Exercises (2005) is four contrasted pieces for a diverse quintet which ranges from luminous immobility to canonic writing of dizzying speed and velocity; Ma’mounia (2002) is an eventful workout for percussion and five instruments whose conspicuous virtuosity is the only concession to its origin as a competition piece. Percussionist Matthias Würsch compels attention in a work that rounds off another absorbing collection from a composer whose inventiveness knows few bounds.
Michael Kunkel’s booklet note has been readably translated, but only German versions of the poems are offered: perhaps they are otherwise resistant to translation, or perhaps Bacher’s and Streich’s readings of their own poems provide all of the cognitive information one needs.