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Heinz Holliger - oboist & composer
Toronto-Exercises (2005) for flute, clarinet, violin, harp and marimba
Puneigä (2000/02) for soprano, flute, clarinet, horn, viola, cello & percussion (with cimbalom)
Induuchlen (2004) for countertenor (with baritone) and natural horns
Ma’mounia (2002) for solo percussion and instrumental quintet
and poems recited by the authors

ECM 4763977

ECM is focusing this year on the versatile talents of Heinz Holliger (b.May 1939), with five CD releases planned.

Two have been received and he remains to us a disconcerting figure (q.v. a recent event at London's Kings Place at which he presented his own music alongside the Berg double concerto).

First known as virtuoso oboist, Holliger's skills in his '70s are undiminished and well shown in a programme of Bach concertos and sinfonias (plus one of Marcello/Bach); unquestionably enjoyable to listen to [ECM 476 4386].

But whereas Camerata Bern play for him with baroque bows and gut strings, Holliger stays with his modern oboe. Is there a baroque oboist to compare with what, for example, Jane Booth has done for the baroque clarinet, and others with the resurgence of baroque flutes and recorders, which have revolutionised our perceptions and listening in this still short century?

That issue was taken up in The Guardian last year: Period-instrument purists might find the performing style of Heinz Holliger with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in Bach and Telemann and with I Musici in Marcello, Sammartini and Albinoni, rather old-fashioned, but Holliger is so technically impeccable and musically intelligent that such niceties fade into insignificance.
See also Telemann in modern dress from Music Web.

Holliger the composer poses other problems. I have listened dutifully to a lot of his music in which, says he, "I always try to go to the limits", but generally find it less engaging than hoped, and the current collection is no exception. The latest disc has material in Waiser-German, translated into normal German but not into English. The English notes by Michael Kunkel tr. Caroline Lake are printed in pale grey on white; another daunting aspect of a disc into which a great deal of work has been put, but one strictly for committed Holliger-the-composer devotees.

More enjoyable was a student concert in which Heinz Holliger's Pneuma "pushed a large wind orchestra into the strangest of extended effects and vocalisations from 'the hiss of breath to a full scream' - - the young players negotiating alternate traditional and graphic scoring, with a huge balloon anticipating the inevitable final bang".

Peter Grahame Woolf