Certain composers have suffered rather weird fates, from Lully's lethal foot infection--he jabbed it while beating time--to the accidental shooting of Anton Webern (or was it a murder conspiracy?). That fact is just one of the many seeds that have germinated into the fictional case (re)presented in Rosa: The Death of a Composer, the first in the ongoing series of collaborations between leading Dutch avant-garde composer Louis Andriessen and director-librettist Peter Greenaway. The result is a Chinese box-like dramaturgy, many-tiered, self-referential, and frankly too complex to summarize handily but which involves hippophilia, an abusive relationship, geometric obsessions, multiple nudity, old-fashioned Westerns, and art's slippery, illusory nature. Greenaway has in fact created a film from the original 1994 stage production--but even without its stylized bleed of visuals and streaming text, the bizarrely arresting quality of this one-of-a-kind opera comes across on Nonesuch's premiere recording. Andriessen's score is a fascinating melange of nervous minimalism--preempting the style's tendency toward predictability--fierce Stravinskian rhythmic displacements, frosty harmonies that gather like a miasma, and half-jazz, half high-opera vocalism. Most impressive of all is how Andriessen avoids the kind of standard-issue postmodern pastiche that's the usual payoff but instead actually creates a believable sound world for the story's unique mix of parody and menace. Longtime Andriessen interpreters Reinbert de Leeuw and the Schönberg Ensemble give the score a biting, disturbing edge, while Marie Angel surmounts the outrageous demands (not just vocal) made on her without faltering. The anti-romantic Andriessen is a seriously undervalued composer--he lacks the star power of Glass or Reich--but his intensely probing visions of music and its place in culture (as in De Materie) open labyrinths of discovery. --Thomas May
87468NL. Andriessen - Rosa: Death of a Composer (CD)http://oldies.s3.amazonaws.com/i/boxart/w340/95/59/075597955927.jpg36.9822.48USDOutOfStockNonesuchCDClassical-MusicL-Andriessen2009-10-30
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