Scene Hauer: Zwölftonspiele / Ensemble Avantgarde

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Only those familiar with the marginalia of 20th century music history might recognize the name Josef Hauer--he was an associate of Arnold Schoenberg, enjoying equal success until his career was cut short by the political turmoil of 1930s Germany. After the Third Reich declared Hauer's music to be decadent he retreated from public life and began to keep something of a musical journal consisting of tiny pieces, many of which were completed in a single morning. These Zwölftonspiele, as he called them, outline compositional games he would play with 12-tone rows, using complicated theories to connive his short-but-substantial opuses.

The pieces are single-focused and short--the longest on this disc clocks in at just under six minutes, while the shortest is 58 seconds. Unlike the compact and refined music of Webern, perhaps a model for Hauer's brevity, these are little obsessive miniatures, almost minimalist in their sense of development and drive. This composer does not shy away from blunt, grinding repetition, something that others in the Second Viennese School considered anathema. Compositional method aside, Hauer wrote good tunes and his work has a compelling and organic sense of harmony--if the title didn't say so, it would be difficult to discern this music as 12-tone.

The members of the Ensemble Avantgarde have no small hand in the extraordinary effect of this disc--they find the music in Hauer's games and play in a thoughtful, committed fashion. Especially effective are the five pieces for solo piano, the work for violin and harpsichord, and the string quartet, but this whole disc is worth listening to as a complete experience. It does not need to be swallowed as strong medicine, like much high modernism, but can be enjoyed as a collection of one composer's darker moments. The selections are intelligent and the ordering makes sense (apparently not many Zwölftonspiele have survived, so it is hard to say what sort of options the group had when planning the recording). For those who generally shy away from dodecaphonic music, fear not! This is a collection of varied and musical works by a too-neglected composer, one that can be enjoyed by more than just composers and scholars.
--Daniel Felsenfeld,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: August 01, 2001

  • UPC: 760623106021

  • Catalog Number: 6131060-2

  • Label: Mdg

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Joseph Matthias Hauer

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Ensemble Avantgarde

  • Performer: Andreas Seidel, Ivo Bauer, Josef Christof, Matthias Kreher, Matthias Moosdorf, Ralf Mielke, Steffen Schleiermacher, Tilman Büning