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December 1 , 2006

“Kafka-Fragmente” wins Japan Record Academy Award 2006

ECM’s recording of György Kurtág’s “Kafka-Fragmente” by soprano Juliane Banse and violinist András Keller (ECM New Series 1965) has won the Modern Music Prize of Japan’s Record Academy Awards. Established in 1963 and presented annually, the Record Academy Awards are the most important prizes given by the Japanese classical music world.

The prize is the latest in a series of well-deserved honours for Kurtág’s “Kafka-Fragmente”. The album recently received the “Coup de Cœur Musique Contemporaine” of France’s Academie Charles Cros, while its composer was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the same institution.

“Kafka-Fragmente” also received the quarterly award of the German Record Critics (Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Bestenliste 2/2006), and was nominated for the Gramophone award.

Juliane Banse and András Keller perform this music with deep insight. During the composition of the “Kafka-Fragmente” Keller, familiar with Kurtág’s work for many years, advised him in questions of instrumental technique. In 1987 the violinist gave the work its premiere at the Witten Festival of Contemporary Chamber Music. Juliane Banse has sung the Fragments in many recitals over the years, allowing her rich experience in lied performance and contemporary music to influence her interpretation. With her exceptional virtuosity and powers of expression, she conveys both the work's highly emotional passages and the intimate simplicity of its lyrical sections.

Press reactions to the disc, recorded by producer Manfred Eicher in Neumarkt last year, have been unanimously positive.

“The hour-long Kafka-Fragments, completed in 1986, is his biggest work to date: it’s a characteristic cycle of 40 tiny movements, scored for soprano voice and violin, that adds up to something far greater than the sum of its parts. The text is a mosaic of quotations from Kafka’s writings, diaries and letters. The cycle is divided into four parts, articulated by the two longest movements; they draw a huge range of expression from soprano Juliane Banse and violinist András Keller. Banse’s nuances of vocal colouring are wonderfully subtle, while Keller can conjure up huge intensity from a single musical gesture. They show Kafka Fragments to be a quiet masterpiece of richness and emotional power.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian

“Superbly performed by Juliane Banse and András Keller, each of whom can find a world of meaning in a single note, the work’s four sections build a musical mosaic as vivid and telling as the work of the great novelist to whom it pays homage.”
Anthony Holden, The Observer