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Hermann Keller

1. Piano and violin music

Schumann Metamorposen and piano sonatas

Neos 11941

2. Piano Concerto No. 2 & Chamber Music

Konzert fur Klavier und 13 Instrumentalisten (Piano Concerto No. 2)
Sonate fur Streichtrio und Klavier
Szene fur Solo-Posaune (Teil 2);
Szenen fur 1 Geigerin und 1 Pianistin

Hermann Keller (piano) ensemble chronophonie, Manuel Nawri; Antje Messerschmidt (violin), Martin Flade (viola), Ralph-Raimund Krause (cello); Matthias Jann (trombone)

Neos 11040

Neos tends to launch obscure contemporary music by generally little known composers, and with commentaries that opaque for "ordinary" collectors, if there be any such.

Hermann Keller (b. 1945) was involved in jazz with the Berlin Improvisation Group and is a contemporary musician who bridges genres - an improviser/composer who "can go completely berserk on his instrument" but also produces notated scores of extreme fastidiousness.

This first disc was put on the player without any clear expectation, but it proved to be original and compelling listening. The problem is that I find it hard to say quite why, and I have found little help elsewhere.

Schumann is a fleeting presence, near-quotations heavily disguised; "major-minor clashes & Schumannesque cross-rhythms the rhythmic bedrock" [Stefan Amzoli].

The Schumann Metamorphoses, with violin, have "carefully calibrated nine parts", but regrettably no track-times are given to help listeners follow where they are...

The piano sonatas are contrasted, the second in four distinct movements, the 3rd continuous but in 5-parts, for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. It is all intriguing at the least, and I have found the disc even more engaging on re-hearing. Try it !

The second disc is even more challenging and equally rewarding.
I have listened to both of them several times through, and you gradually enter Keller's very personal new world.

Composer and piano preparer Hans Rempel sees "a direct line Henry Cowell, John Cage and Hermann Keller", even though Keller claims never to have laid eyes on a Cagean prepared piano !! The piano concerto is quite amazing, with long passages for elaborately prepared piano; he is described by his publisher as as "very „old fashioned", having no computer, e/mail or DVD-player“; you'd never guess that ! (I'd mentioned that I thought he'd enjoy the Margaret Leng Tan's Cage DVD Mode Vol 34.)

The concerto is in 7 continuous sectionsof very varying durations (Amzoli thinks 6...) which the publishers Edition Juliane Klein kindly supplied for me*, together with two of the simpler scores; timings should regularly be included within liner-notes commentaries on difficult contemporary music.

The scores are beautiful productions, with the music printed with immense precision, which gives a completely different listening orientation to an improviser/composer who "can go completely berserk", whilst at other times he is acutely sensitive to the piano's internal resonances.

This is a composer who merits investigation in UK, and supplementary reviews of these discs by a contemporary musicologist would be appreciated. If you're nervous, try to sample first the "piano quartet" - "not only is the piano prepared, so is the violin and viola, using preparation sticks wedged between the strings and the fingerboard" - delicious !

Recommended strongly.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* the sections in the „Konzert für Klavier und 13 Instrumentalisten“
start at:
1. [0:00] Vorspiel im Garten Eden
2. [ca.2:58] Scherzo I
3. [9:14] Und die Erde voller kaltem Wind
4. [10:37] Unterbrochene Elegie
5. [17:33] Amok
6. [20:29[ Scherzo II
7. [24:04] Abgesang