Delicate pianissimo passages, gripping rhythms, grand melodic developments, decibel-force noise registers: Steffen Schleiermacher’s works fully exploit the extremes of musical sound. Inspired by masterpieces from the visual arts, this composing internationalist commands an extremely sensuous and varied range of expression without equals in contemporary music. Along with the Ensemble Avantgarde, the Sonic.Art Saxophone Quartet, and Wolfgang Heisig on the player piano, Schleiermacher creates a musical self-portrait offering a rewarding listening experience for fans of new music – and others too!
Schleiermacher’s compositions involve much more than the mere settings of his pictorial sources. Whether Hans Hartung’s wild brushstrokes in “Taches,” Emil Nolde’s softly and subtly blurred colors in “Aquarell,” or Max Beckmann’s unheard-of expressivity in “Portrait mit Saxophon,” which seems to transgress the instrument’s entire known limits – the special aspects are always the ones that inspire the sound artist.
The “Klangketten” referring to Alexander Calder’s fragile kinetic sculptures and mobiles have a special appeal. The soundscape consisting of flute, vibraphone, and piano suggests random change; a breeze gently blows the motion in another direction, and yet the entire structure maintains a shifting balance. This balance is acutely endangered in Paul Klee and steadied only with great difficulty by the saxophone quartet in “Schwankendes Gleichgewicht.” Eruptive balancing actions are repeatedly required before the tremendous culmination successfully negotiates the final grounding.
Schleiermacher’s incredible “Treppentänzer” based on Oskar Schlemmer for the player piano is heard here in a rendering by Wolfgang Heisig on the Phonola. Handel’s famous Passacaglia in G minor is heard as an encore in a grotesquely wild version on the Phonola – a fine bridge between Schlemmer, who used this piece for his Triadic Ballet, and Schleiermacher, who like Handel is from Halle and with this fine work show earns his place in the master’s genuine and venerable musical line.