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Friedrich Goldmann: Late Works

img  Tobias Fischer

Though not as widely recognized as some his contemporaries (including Luigi Nono and Luciano Berio) the music of German composer Friedrich Goldmann, who would have turned seventy on April 27th, is increasingly relevant to a new generation of orchestral and electronic composers. Moving between frenzied minimalist string layers, Stravinskian orchestral stabs, violent improvisational deconstructions, and floating textural interludes, Goldmann’s work—like that of so many contemporary electronic and post-modern composers—is unhindered by the boundaries of style or conventional structure.

Friedrich Goldmann: Late Works, produced by the electronic music label Macro Recordings and distributed partly through The Wire magazine, commemorates Goldmann’s seventieth anniversary with four compositions from the composer’s late period. The release is an unusual move for both Macro (an electronic music label) and The Wire, which generally distributes compilations as opposed to albums dedicated to a single composer. Given Goldmann’s direct influence on modern electronic music—he taught noted electronic composer/performer Paul Frick and is the father of avant-garde techno producer Stefan Goldmann—the label and magazine sought to reach an audience that might not otherwise seek out contemporary classical music.

The compositions presented on the album were all composed between 1994 and 2008 and offer a compelling cross-section of Goldmann’s work. “Haiku à 6” is marked by a haunting, ambient quality.  Performed by the Modern Art Sextet, the piece alternates uneasy silences with held, shimmering chords of strings, woodwinds, and piano.

The twenty-three minute “Ensemblekonzert 3,” for a 16-piece ensemble of strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, electric guitar, and harp, moves in block form between warbly string drones, impressionistic harp/guitar interludes and schizophrenic horn explosions.  At moments the composition takes on an almost electronic quality: microtonal horn and string inflections move in and out of phase with one another; arpeggiated harp notes punctuate delicately around woodblock hits and rumbling timpani.

Throughout, the music is marked with a cinematic intensity that lends an element of accessibility to this challenging music. In “Sisyphos,” violent string layers spiral around one another, moving from intense start/stop tremolo figures to film-noir cello ostinati. The forceful, epic “Wege Gewirr Ausblick,” has a strong late Romantic quality: the regal horn lines are reminiscent of Holst’s The Planets; the dense cluster chords and upper-register string microtones bring to mind Ligeti’s Atmospheres.

Friedrich Goldmann: Late Works illuminates the brilliance of a wildly innovative but relatively unknown (outside of academia) composer. Goldmann’s compositions seethe with a gritty, psychological instability that balances the headiness of his orchestration and unexpected structural detours. Engaging from beginning to end, Late Works is a fantastic introduction to the composer’s work—one that will surely appeal to progressive listeners both within and outside of the realm of contemporary and academic instrumental music.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Friedrich Goldmann
Homepage: Macro Recordings
Homepage: The Wire

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