SCHUMANN: Waldszenen. SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin: Excerpts (arr. for solo piano by A. Horn). WIDMANN: Elf Humoresken: Waldszene; Warum?; Lied im Traume; Glocken; Mit Humor und Feinsinn. BOCCUZZI: Im Wald for solo electronics. RIHM: Ländler. LACHENMANN: Fünf Variationen über ein Thema von Schubert / Benedetto Boccuzzi, pno/electronics / Digressione Music DCTT126
“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!” is the first thing that came to my mind while listening to this unusual new album by the young (32-year-old) Italian pianist Benedetto Boccuzzi. Here, he juxtaposes Schumann’s Waldszenen, broken up and sprinkled throughout the CD, and excerpts from Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin with the far more modern music of Jörg Widmann’s Elf Humoresken (also broken up and interspersed), Wolfgang Rihm’s Ländler and Helmut Lachenmann’s 5 Variations on a Theme of Schubert in addition to one piece for electronics written by Boccuzzi himself.
In addition, Boccuzzi plays the Schumann and Schubert pieces in an objectivist style: no Romantic lingering, rubato, and very spare use of the pedal. Interestingly, this gives an entirely different perspective on their music, particularly since Widmann’s 11 Humoresques are not all that terribly radical, though indeed modern-sounding. Somehow or other, Boccuzzi makes Schumann and Widmann sound more or less alike, and I must say that this is as much a tribute to Schumann’s unusual musical progressions as it is to Boccuzzi’s way of playing him. Granted, some of the Widmann pieces are more radical sounding than others—check out No. 6, “Warum,” with its widely-spaced intervals and his having the pianist play the piano strings once in a while—but even here, as soon as he moves into “Verufene stelle” from Schumann’s Waldszenen, he almost establishes a musical kinship with the preceding Widmann piece via his unorthodox phrasing and touch. (The last Widmann piece that he plays, “Mit Humor und Feinsinn,” comes very close to sounding like Schumann.)
More than half the album, in fact, consists of this cat-and-mouse game between Schumann and Widmann; Boccuzzi doesn’t even get to the other composers until he had injected his strange electronics piece at track 15. It would be nice to say that this defies the usual sort of electronics piece; nice, but not true. It is simply extraneous noise that pretends to be a composition, like most such music. After the first minute and a half, I just skipped to the next track, which is “Das Wandern” from Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, also played in a post-modern, non-Romantic manner. After two more pieces from the Schubert song cycle, we get Rihm’s Ländler, which actually starts out kind of Schubert-like (although playing the ländler at a very slow, almost funereal tempo) before shifting towards something much stranger at the 2:25 mark. And here, again, Boccuzzi draws an analogy by following this with one of the slower songs by Schubert, “Der Neugierge.” Even more interestingly, Lachenmann’s piece opens up in a very Schubertian vein before going out on a limb—more connections.
A very interesting album; not for everyone, perhaps, but thought-provoking and excellently played and programmed except for the electronics piece.
—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley
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