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CD Feature/ Barbara Maria Willi: "Deconstruction"

img  Tobias

It is not exactly common that the liner notes to a new music release open with the confession that its idea is not “shockingly new”. And yet, this is eactly what happens in the first paragraph of the booklet, with Barbara Maria Willi introducing her approach to the album. “deconstruction” however doesn’t just represent yet another compulsory exercise in constipating composers of different creeds under the banner of an excentric concept. Willi offers no revolution, but the results of her quest for amazement may still be a revelation to many. It is an effort to take a look at something abstract through practical examples – and to thereby make the act of listening to the repertoire of this disc exciting again.

As the title already points out, “deconstruction” broaches the issues of form and its absence, of the similarity of tight organisation and wide freedom as well as of construction and disintegration. Willi chooses a broad look, with works ranging from Bach to Ligeti and Andriessen, but she is less interested in the historic perspective than in the plentiful ways of illustrating her thoughts. With Giovanni Picchi and with Ligeti, the polarity between right-hand ostinatos (repetitions) and left-hand ornamentation,.between counterpoint and decomposition sets the tone, while the openness in interpreting Francois Couperin’s “Les barricades mysterieuses” leads to overlapping effects and floating sensations. The piece constantly seems to fall apart, but this inner tension makes it all the more tranquil and comforting. Ligeti’s “Hungarian Rock” is another perfect proof in point, its riff-like bass hammerings being corroded by the advent of increasingly emancipated upper register material, both in terms of harmony and metronomic pulse.
Other studies require repeated listenings, because Willi makes her point over different movements of a Suite or Fugue, as is the case with Bach and Rameau. Here, the album takes its idea to a more abstract level – or, to be more precise, to the level of arrangements: The composers defy the trends and customs of their time and engage in a play of satisfying expectations and going beyond what is accepted. Thus, the notion of structure and excess returns to the fore.
Effectively, this means that one can listen to “deconstruction” on two entirely different layers. On the first, it constitutes a collection of creatively compiled and imaginatively interpreted solo harpsichord works, which demonstrate the validty of the instrument until today and its capacity of encapsulating various meanings. On a second, it is an exciting and eclectic analysis of a concept which has fascinated artists for centuries. The thematic reduction makes one listen all the more closely and makes you realize again that this principle in fact is one of the main forces behind the overall development of music.

A nice side-effect of Willi’s no-limits policy with regards to repertoire means that there is, almost by default, a similar pattern of tension and relaxation running through “deconstruction” as an album– the record virtually follows its own concept. And that, as familiar as the basic idea may be, is something new even by the standards of new music.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Cantate/Musicaphon Records

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