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Straight into the Sky

img  Tobias

Marie-Luise Hinrichs is relaxing on a comfortable chair in her garden. Right now, she's on a holiday after strenous touring and promotional activities and slowly, the stress of the past few months is fading away into the summer heat. In June, she released a new album of Sonatas by Spanish composer Padre Antonio Soler and even though the medial echo may not have been as loud and ferocious compared to when she published her first set of interpretations, it was still greeted with honest enthusiasm. In any case, Hinrichs has developed a mindset of immense calm and patience with regards to other people's expectations and the usual timelines of the business. When I ask her why it took nine years to come up with a follow-up, she just shrugs her shoulders: „Life's not always as straightforward as you expect.“

Closest to her heart
Hher career has indeed been anything but straight and linear. Even though she still describes her two-CD-stint at EMI as a success, it did not result in a long-lasting relationship. Her ongoing efforts of popularising the music of semi-mythical Soler have dominated public perception of her work, even though her own transcriptions of Hildegard von Bingen and Gurdieff material or her fragile renditions of Chopin would deserve an equal share of attention. On the other hand, there is ample reason to be confident, as her career has hit a new high over the last two years, with more recording projects and exotic concert opportunities than ever before.

For the moment, however, Soler remains closest to her heart. Hinrichs is determined to record all of his 200 Sonatas over the course of her life and has just added ten more to the count on her release with respected German specialist label CPO. These pieces are diverse and colourful, deep and pure, dreamy and pensive, joyous and almost danceable. Their harmonic language occasionally precedes romanticism and minimalism and composers like Satie and Glass, while their melodic fluency is no less impressive than Bach's. Soler's style is a sonambulant symbiosis between visionary futurism and Baroque ornamentation, a music which floats weightlessly between heaven and earth before flapping its wings and flying far, far away.

Shrouded in Obscurity

While the music of the Spanish priest is slowly gaining attention, his personal background is still largly shrouded in obscurity. In the linernotes to the CD, Norbert Ely provides listeners with a sparse summary: Born in Northern Catalunia in 1729, Soler joined the school of the Monastery Madre de Deu de Montserrat at the age of six. After following an intense education, he took on several positions as an Organist before entering clerical service in 1752. His work is prolific and yet, facts on his life remain scarse. Did he study with Scarlatti? Did he meet colleagues like Jose de Nebra? Noone knows.

To Marie-Luise Hinrichs, the lack of information, however, poses no insurmountable problems. Instead, it offers new opportunities and challenges. „The fact that there is still no biography of Soler available doesn´t make it easier, but I like to use my fantasy and my imagination“, she says, „And in a way it feels like I'm part of the effort of creating a complete puzzle each time I record and perform his pieces. There are still some misprints in the scores and lots of the sonatas are seldomly or even never played.“ Organisors are also slowly warming up to the idea of presenting a program of „spanish ,mystical and even naive music“ with an often „stern personality“.

Contacting different cultures
Without a single doubt, their interest is grounded in Hinrich's presentation on CD. She makes these pieces sound fresh and lively and eschews the trapfalls of over-ethereal suggestions. Her touch is airy, crystaline and pearly, yet filled with earthly pleasures even when pieces like the ten-minute long Sonata No. 20 in C sharp minor could make you go all weak and shed hot tears of emotion.

This positive kind of realism may be the result of Hinrichs continually establishing contact with different cultures. In 2007, for example, she toured the Middle East, a period she remembers both with immense happiness and unsettling discomfort: „It was a great experience and I wouldn´t have wanted to miss it. People were very friendly in Syria especially. However the year before, in Lybia, there was a bombing at the time and everybody walked round with fear.“

As intense as these experiences may have been, they will have to wait before manifesting themselves on albums – the new disc with Soler music was already recorded in 2006. For the moment, therefore, this collection of spirited renditions lends itself perfectly to relaxing in your garden instead of catering to Autumnal melancholia. And there's a lot more to come: An album with Piano arrangements of pieces by Hildegard von Bingen ("I'm especially proud of this one!" Hinrichs says) is scheduled on Cologne-based record company Raumklang and CPO has announced the release of two more CDs: One featuring Scarlatti and the other highlighting the talents of Anton Eberls (1765-1807). Renowned arts journalist  Breandáin O´Shea is furthermore about to visit her with his production team to shoot a TV documentary - yet another sign that medial interest is picking up pace. Marie-Luise Hinrichs is certainly taking an optimistic view on her Pianistic career: „I´m happy about being more busy and active than ever and also entering a new and exciting phase of my career.“ Life hasn't always been straightforward for her, but right now its curve is pointing straight into the sky.

By Tobias Fischer

Picture by Thomas Rabsch

Homepage: Marie-Luise Hinrichs
Homepage: CPO Records

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