A bracing and invigorating journey over the landscape of modern music, Swiss clarinettistEduard Brunner's solo recital is a tour-de-force of extended technique and high musicalityin the service of intensely-demanding composition. Brunner's album is titled after Helmut Lachenmann's Dal niente(out of nothing) whose sounds at the threshold of audibility bleed into and out ofthe resonant silence of the church of St Gerold. This is one reading of "out of nothing",then, pursuing Lachenmann's pursuit of nothing less than a new way of hearing, alert to the way in which sounds are produced in rarefied atmospheres.
A recital that ends with a delineation of Lachenmann's intellectual and artistic agoniesbegins with music of completely different character, Isang Yun's moving assertionof the sovereign inviolability of the human spirit. Piriis an important piece by the late South Korean composer (1917-1995) that has beenpart of Brunner's solo repertoire for many years; the clarinettist has twice previouslyrecorded it (for Col Legno and Camerata) each version bringing forth new subtletiesof meaning. Yun made clear the autobiographical content of the piece in an early programmenote: "The theme of the piece represents a convict confined in a prison and suggeststhat although he is pysically held captive, his spirit and thoughts are free to wander far and wide. The last part consists solely of multiple tones, which signifyhis earnest prayer." Isang Yun spoke from experience: on trumped-up political chargeshe had spent two years in a Seoul cell under sentence of death.
The title Pirialludes to the Korean double-reed bamboo oboe which is a vital lead voice both incourt music and shamanistic folk music. Yun wrote the piece however for the westernoboist Georg Meerwein, with Brunner giving the first performance on clarinet. Thisinitiated a long musical association and friendship with Yun who subsequently wrote theConcerto for Clarinet and Orchestra(1981) for him.
Igor Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Clarinet Solowere developed with and for Brunner's teacher Louis Cahuzac. They remain delightfulminiatures, photographs from another time. To the three short pieces, Brunner addsan even shorter one, and five bars (and less than half a minute) of hitherto-unpublished Stravinsky are recorded here. Dedicated to Picasso and jotted down on the edge oftelegram in Rome, the tiny piece is dated April 1917 - it thus predates the Three Piecesby a couple of years.
The "unfinished" sketchbook character of Boulez's Domaineshas long made it an attractive piece for virtuoso clarinettists both in its originalsolo version and in the revised version for clarinet and ensemble. Written, on andoff, over five years from 1961, the solo version was premiered in 1968. (There is,incidentally, a Swiss connection, Boulez having completed it for his composition classat Basel). The soloist is effectively invited to construct his own domain from the"free succession of formal components" available in the score; in other words, itsbuilding blocks can be adjusted to suit personal taste. Though it explores the extreme capabilitiesof the clarinet - and also the acoustics of the spatial setting - this is one ofthe more accommodating pieces in Boulez's austere canon. The same can be said ofIn Freundschaftby that other great architect of modern music, Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Stockhausen wrote In Freundschaftin 1977 as a birthday present for his companion and musical associate Suzanne Stephens.It was conceived from the outset to be played by different solo instruments. Thefirst public performance was given by a flutist, Lucilles Goeres; there are alsoversions for basset-horn, oboe, bassoon, recorder, saxophone, violin, cello, french hornand trombone. In 1978, Stockhausen expanded the work and Suzanne Stephens gave thepremiere of the version for clarinet at a concert in tribute to Olivier Messiaenin Paris. Stockhausen writes: "Those who listen closely will discover that the high and lowlayers are reflections of each other in time and space." This "answering" qualityhas affinities with bird song, which can also be related back to Messiaen.
From the bright and sunlit world of In FreundschaftBrunner enters the shadowy labyrinths of the music of Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988)on Preghiera per un'ombra. All but comprehensively ignored and unheard until the last years of his life (althoughthe championing of Ligeti, Feldman and Klaus Huber help to keep at least his namein circulation), the Italian mystic-recluse has become the focus of a burgeoningcult since his death and performances are multiplying in proportion to the legends ofhis eccentricities. Brunner keeps his attention on the musical essentials which,as Ligeti once explained it, are concerned with the inner structure of the texture.The private life of the sound, as it were, or its "anima" to use Scelsi's term. Which, in turn,brings us to Lachenmann... Beyond the sounds of breath and the pattering of keys- murmurings from the margins of music - we catch, at the end of the performance,the cheery tintinabulation of cowbells in the Austrian mountainside, and are returned fromthe furthest outpost of the avant-garde to the practicalities of the world outside.
Eduard Brunner was born in Basel in 1939 and studied at the city's conservatory andwith Louis Cahuzac in Paris. In 1963 he became first clarinettist with the SymphonyOrchestra of the Bayerischer Rundfunk. He is recognized as a soloist of the highestcalibre in both classical and contemporary music circles. Brunner has recorded extensivelyfor numerous labels and appeared with orchestras and chamber ensembles at major musicfestivals around the world. His chamber music partners have regularly included Heinz Holliger, Gidon Kremer, Aurèle Nicolet, Kim Kashkashian, and the Amadeus and ClevelandQuartets. Many composers have written music for him, including Isang Yun, HelmutLachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, and Giya Kancheli. Brunner's previous ECM recordings include Kancheli's Midday Prayers(on the recently released album Caris Mere), György Kurtág's Hommage á R.Sch. and Schumann's Märchenbilder, Fantasie-stückeand Märchenerzählungen(with Kim Kashkashian and Robert Levin), as well as Stravinsky's Tango-Valse-Ragtime(with Gidon Kremer and Aloys Kontarsky) and Shostakovich's Two Waltzes for flute, clarinet and piano(with Irena Grafenauer and Oleg Maisenberg).
CD package, in slipcase, includes 18-page three-language booklet with liner notesby Max Nyffeler