Classical Music Review: New Releases

Wilhelm Kaiser-Lindemann - Hommage à Nelson M.  Hommage à Nelson M., Op. 27.  Maria Kliegel, cello; Stephan Froleyks, percussion. Naxos CD 8.554485 (40'11).

The image of Nelson Mandela walking in the open air after 28 years of imprisonment was one of the most heartening of the past century.  His subsequent deportment as President of South Africa has been even more remarkable, if perhaps less spectacular.  Inspired by Mandela's autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom, cellist Maria Kliegel commissioned this work from the German composer Wilhelm Kaiser-Lindemann.

The piece is an interesting hybrid of Western classical and African elements, a mix that has been explored most productively of late by Kevin Volans.  Kaiser-Lindemann adds elements from American jazz to this combination of styles, giving the piece an improvisatory feel at times, more akin to Ray Lema's The Dream of the Gazelle but without Lema's brighter harmonic palette.  This is due, in part to the instrumentation and also to Kaiser-Lindemann's subject matter.  Much of the material in Hommage deals with Mandela's time in prison and the stark sound of the solo cello against spare percussion reinforces the sense of solitude.  The third and most hopeful movement, "Metamorphosis",  is still quite restrained and by no means purely celebratory.

There is much to enjoy here.  Kaiser-Lindemann generates a great variety of sounds from his limited instrumental resources.  At times the cello is bowed in the traditional manner, other times it is plucked like a string bass.  Sometimes the percussion carries the melody through tuned instruments, sometimes the cello soliloquizes alone.  The work begins and ends with a vocalise.  As is often the case with music that has an external program, the music does not quite hold together as an abstract piece.  The development lacks logic and inevitability.

This is an interesting project which makes me want to hear more of Mr. Kaiser-Lindemann's music.  I'm curious how this singular work fits in with his style.  The performances of Maria Kliegel and Stephen Froleyks are intense and passionate.

Tony Gualtieri

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