Hans Werner Henze – Labyrinth (1951)

The London Sinfonietta
Hans Werner Henze

In 1951, when I was artistic director of a small ballet company attached to the National Theatre of Wiesbaden, I wrote this psycho-chamber-jazz ballet for it. It was never staged because the company dissolved before we could put it on. I conducted the score in a concert on the Darmstadt-Frankfurt a.M. Music Festival on May 29th, 1952.

The ballet tells the story of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, in a condensed, anagogical and anagrammatical fashion. It is, as a subject, quite similar to Gozzi’s “The King Stag” which I composed as an opera three years later. –Hans Werner Henze

I. Permanent Menace: Adolescents of Knossos under the threat to be fed to the Minotaur.
II. Cantus choralis: Plea to Theseus to kill the monster.
lll. Conflict: Ariadne tries to prevent Theseus from facing the dangers involved by going into the Labyrinth and challenging the Minotaur. But Theseus is adamant.
IV. Variation: She invents the device of the thread stuck to Theseus, made to pull him back out of the Labyrinth in case he would get lost in it.
V. Minotaurus Blues: Theseus in the Labyrinth fights the Minotaur and kills him.
VI. Fantasy in Rose: Theseus and Ariadne happily reunited among the people of Crete who are grateful to be liberated from their nightmare.

Art by Jeffrey Smart

Béla Bartók – Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1945)



The Viola Concerto, Sz. 120, BB 128 (also known as Concerto for Viola and Orchestra) was one of the last pieces written by Béla Bartók. He began composing the work while living in Saranac Lake, New York, in July 1945. The piece was commissioned by William Primrose, a respected violist who knew that Bartók could provide a challenging piece for him to perform. He said that Bartók should not “feel in any way proscribed by the apparent technical limitations of the instrument”; Bartók, though, was suffering from the terminal stages of leukemia when he began writing the viola concerto and left only sketches at the time of his death.

Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Viola Concerto
I Moderato
II Adagio religioso
III Allegro vivace

Tabea Zimmermann, Viola
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Conductor: David Shallon

Jacob Gotlib — The Ruined Edifice (2010)


The Ruined Edifice
for ensemble

In the summer of 2009 I moved to Buffalo, New York, a city whose iconic postindustrial ruins are an integral part of its geographical and psychological landscape. Buffalo’s broken structures are distorted and distended, buried and rotting under layers of dirt, rust, and other scars. Although the romanticism of urban decay is to some a particularly tired cliché, it, like de Kooning’s women, calls conventions of beauty into question. The frightening beauty of a ruined edifice, as opposed to the clean, fresh sensuality of a newly built structure, is the kind that has lived, changed, and reacted to its world and to time, a momenti mori for us the inhabitants.

I was not concerned with any of these things when I began to write this piece; its true beginnings were in more abstract musical issues. However, as I was writing and listening to the sound material, I couldn’t help but imagine myself inside one of the crumbling houses or churches that I pass every day. The sounds of the piece took on an architectural quality, becoming the beams, bricks, plaster, and stone, and I felt as if I were witnessing a time-lapse image of the building’s collapse while inside of it.

Like much of my recent music, The Ruined Edifice is in two complementary halves. The first half, whose only descriptive marking is “monolithic and unstable,” uses sounds that add noise, distortion, and dirt to cover and bury the original instrumental tone. The second half, whose descriptive marking is “dustlike,” subtracts the original instrumental tone to reveal the dust and artifacts that it had buried.

Performers on this recording:
Ensemble SurPlus: Martina Roth (flute), Christian Kemper (oboe), Erich Wagner (clarinet), Stefan Häussler (violin), Thomas Avery (viola), Beverly Ellis (cello), Johannes Nied (contrabass), Sven Thomas Kiebler (conductor).

Josef Anton Riedl – Nr. 4/I (1968-69)

Josef Anton Riedl’s works are mostly remnants of functional music: when he has to write film or theater music he composes it in such a way that the music can stand independently. The normal procedure of diluting an autonomous composition to fit a film or play is directly
reversed: here one begins with the music and ends with an artificial independent work of art. The accidental motive which determined the choice of material is inherent to this work. In 1966/67 Riedl produced the film “Elektronische Musik” for the NDR in collaboration with Stefan Meuschel. For the documentary part, which dealt with the origin of this newest kind of music, Riedl made a variety of recordings of mechanical musical instruments. For instance he recorded the Wehe-Mignon-piano in the Deutsche Museum in Munich, which had retained many historical interpretations including some from Debussy, but which at the same time produced puffing noises; also the similar pneumatic action Hupfeld-Violine, a glockenspiel roll with Weber’s Jungfernkranz music, and a machine which produced sounds by means of rods upon metal discs – and played La Paloma. The laughter and humming of the museum attendants also came into the
recording of these singularly unusual instruments. Riedl amalgamated this and other material – chance discoveries and remains of film-work – into an electronic combination of square-wave tones, filtered and frequency-modulated sounds and other material, and
added suitable concrete sounds which happened to be at hand (barking dogs, aeroplane noise, mumbling and hissing sounds etc.).

Riedl was previously engaged in purely electronic music, in which every single passage must be prefixed and worked out in detail (as in his ‘Studien’). Already here dynamic passages occurred which possessed the character of a process to a high degree, and then he worked in recordings of concrete sounds whose unprofiled contours unravelled the strict lay-out of the course – as in the ‘Kompositionen 3 and 4/1’. –Dieter Schnebel

Art by Carol Bove

Krzysztof Penderecki – Psalmus (1961)

Psalmus, which was realised in collaboration with the sound engineer Eugeniusz Rudnick, is to date the only electroacoustic work by Penderecki. His basic material stems solely from a recording of two voices (soprano and baritone) so treated that they provide long holding-notes developing in pitch, dynamics, and colour, alternating with short impulses which display to advantage the great variety of inflection proper to the Polish language.

Art by Domenico Zampieri

Daria Semegen – Arc: Music for Dancers, for electronics (1977)


The piece consists of five parts whose themes, tempos, and “orchestrations” are arranged in the shape of an arc (A B C B A). Each section is itself divided into a smaller arc (a b a). After a brief introduction of phrases in groups of three beats each, the first part begins with two motivic elements arranged in a simple question-answer idea: lower range sounds on the beat, and contrasting high echoed flourishes in alternation. Section B introduces both a new tempo and “orchestration” or sound texture, as well as a new motive featuring a tremolo effect on harsh sounds alternated in various patterns from one channel to the other. A six note ostinato appears toward the middle of this section and is gradually integrated into a polyphonic pasage. Section C’s theme resembles an orchestral “tutti” and is followed by a variation of the tremolo idea and echo figurations heard previously. Although the music is essentially tonal and establishes various temporary tonal centers throughout, microtones and the characteristically rich textures of electronic sound sources provide dissonant impressions counterbalancing the tonal aspects.

The work was composed using a Buchla series 200 synthesizer and classic studio techniques. The music tape was synchronized at Bell Telephone Labs with the program of the Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre’s portable computer-controlled lighting system by Mimi Ganard and James Seawright in preparation for Arc’s first presentation in May of 1977. –Daria Semegen

Art by R. H. Quaytman