Let me begin with the clarification that this music is exciting, enjoyable, downright hilarious at times. This said, the following investigation of the content won’t scare anyone off. In the end it is the listening experience that is important, but the implications of the contents of this CD are so far-reaching that I am forced to dwell on them for a while.
As I listen causally to this CD, without thinking so much, and without studying the German – and only German (it ought to have been printed in English too, because it is very interesting!) – introductory text of the booklet, I connect the impression faintly to earlier German talk-singing ventures by, for example, Berthold Brecht, Hanns Eisler etcetera. We have the ensemble – and not just any ensemble, for it’s the Ensemble Modern, and two giants on pianos; Steffen Schleiermacher and Philipp Vandre! – and we have the voice – not Lotte Lenya, but Maria de Alvear, and the way in which she talk-sings, recites, reflects back on older traditions of the cabaret songs of earlier DDR heroes and beyond. However, as the work unwinds, the vocals are extended well beyond the DDR cabaret song idiom, far into a ritual, shamanistic realm of expression, where the physical vibrations of the vocal cords transform into piercing spiritual timbres of the natural bardo of this life.
The way de Alvear changes language along the line is tempting, adding an extra flavor to the atmosphere, and further strengthens this feeling of soaring through a spiritual realm where language is just a happenstance quality of thoughts and impulses that rise and fall along their unexplainable trajectories through the timelessness.
What she really gets at seems – at the outset – to be some kind of femininity, some kind of womanhood out of girlhood, and the natural magic of that process, but it develops well beyond that concept.
The feeling of an all-encompassing mystical tour-de-force through layer after layer of soaring experiences, wherein body and mind, matter and spirit, take hold of each other in a dance of the gods inside our elementary particles, in a dance which have change guises life after life, seeing existence out of all those numerous positions in time and space and spirit, and we are life itself looking at itself.
De Alvear comes across very serious at times, and extremely humorous at other times. She sometimes sounds like a witch, sometimes like a wise old woman and sometimes like a nagging bitch, all to the translucent accompaniment of Ensemble Modern! It’s great to follow!
Maria de Alvear – Vagina; Ceremony for Voice & Ensemble
Maria de Alvear [voice] – Ensemble Modern, Diego Masson [cond.]
Ensemble Modern on this recording:v
Dietmar Wiesner [flute] – Catherine Milliken [oboe & English horn] – Roland Diry [clarinet] – Wolfgang Stryi [clarinet & saxophone] – Noriko Shimada [bassoon] – Frank Ollu & Thomas Baumgärtel [horn] – Michael Faldner & Till Weser [trumpet] – Tim Beck, Simone Candotto & Kurt Förster [trombone] – Rumi Ogawa-Helferich & Rainer Römer [percussion] – Ueli Wiget [celesta] – Steffen Schleiermacher & Philipp Vandre [piano] – Hermann Kretzschmer [organ] – Karin Schmeer [harp] – Jagdish Mistry, Thomas Hofer, Verena Sommer & Barbara Kummer [violin] – Lila Brown & Sophie Renshaw [viola] – Helmut Menzler & Eva Bocker [cello] – Thomas Fichter & Johannes Nied [double bass]