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Editorial Reviews

To mark Gyorgy Kurtag's 80th birthday ECM releases its fifth full album of music by the celebrated Hungarian composer. One of his most personal, and longest, works to date - an austerely beautiful cycle for soprano and violin. Lasting an hour, Kafka-Fragmente, Op 24, a vocal cycle written within a comparatively short time in 1985/86, is Kurtag's most extensive score to date. Characteristically for this master of aphoristic concentration, it comprises 40 short movements, some of them less than half a minute long. As a whole they form a mosaic of existential quality. Kurtag selected the short texts from Kafka's private writings, diaries and letters, without attempting to form a coherent narrative. He seems to have been attracted especially by very personal, seemingly enigmatic fragments. Nevertheless, there is a prevailing metaphor, a search for the "true path". Kurtag and Kafka are connected by a natural affinity: they are both rooted in the central European Jewish tradition sharing a sense of economy and reduction in their work and an attitude of radical self-criticism and humility towards art. Kurtag started composing the pieces for soprano and violin, initially planning to enlarge the instrumentation. Only later did he realise that the two parts in the same high register, mirroring and commenting each other, offer an austere beauty and concentration completely in tune with Kafka's distressing messages. The music makes extreme technical and expressive demands on both players. Recorded 2005 Personnel: Juliane Banse - (soprano), Andras Keller - (violin)


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