Reiko Füting (1970- ) is the chair of the music department at the Manhattan School of music. The present album is actually my introduction to this man and his work. It consists of a series of 15 works written between 2000 and 2014.
These works tend to emphasize brevity especially the solo vocal pieces (tracks 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10). These, originally for baritone and piano are here rendered very effectively as solo vocal pieces. They are used as a sort of punctuation in this recording of mostly brief pieces which remind this listener of Webern at times. They are in fact the movements of a collection called, “…gesammeltes Schweigen” (2004/2011, translated as Collected Silence). It is worth the trouble to listen to these in order as a complete set.
The first track here is also the longest piece on the album at 15:43. Kaddish: The Art of Losing (2014) for cello and piano is an elegiac piece inspired by several people and seems to be about both loss and remembrance. The writing in this powerful and affecting piece is of an almost symphonic quality in which both instruments are completely interdependent as they share notes and phrases. The cello is called upon to use a variety of extended techniques and the piano part is so fully integrated as to make this seem like a single instrument rather than solo with accompaniment. It has a nostalgic quality and is a stunning start to this collection of highly original compositions.
tanz, tanz (dance, dance) (2010) is a sort of Bachian exegesis of the Chaconne from the D minor violin partita. This sort of homage is not uncommon especially in the 20th/21st century and this is a fascinating example of this genre. The writing is similar to what was heard in the cello writing in the first track. This piece is challenging and highly demanding of the performer. It is a delicate though complex piece but those complexities do not make for difficult listening.
leaving without/palimpsest (2006) for clarinet and piano begins with a piano introduction after which the clarinet enters in almost pointillistic fashion as it becomes integrated to the structure initiated by the piano. Again the composer is fond of delicate sounds and a very close relationship between the musicians.
names erased (Prelude, 2012) is for solo cello and is, similar to the solo violin piece “tanz, tanz”, a Bach homage. The performer executes the composer’s signature delicate textures which utilize quotes from various sources including the composer himself. And again the complexities and extended techniques challenge the performer far more than the listener in this lovely piece.
Track 9 contains two pieces: “ist-Mensch-geworden” (was-made-man, 2014) for flute and piano and “land-haus-berg” (land-house-mountain, 2008) for piano. Both pieces involve quotation from other music in this composer’s compact and unique style. Here he includes references to Morton Feldman, J.S. Bach, Alban Berg, Gyorgy Ligeti, Schumann, Debussy, Nils Vigeland, Beat Furrer, Jo Kondo and Tristan Murail.
light, asleep (2002/2010) for violin and piano apparently began its life as a piece based on quotation but, as the liner notes say, lost those actual quotes in the process of revision.
finden-suchen (to find-to search, 2003/2011) for alto flute, cello and piano is a lyrical piece with the same interdependent writing that seems to be characteristic of this composer’s style.
…und ich bin Dein Spiegel (…and I am Your Reflection, 2000/2012) is a setting of fragments by a medieval mystic Mechthild von Magdeburg for mezzo soprano and string quartet. This is deeply introspective music.
All of Fùting’s compositions have a very personal quality with deeply embedded references. His aesthetic seems to be derived from his roots in the German Democratic Republic having been born into that unique nation state both separate from the West German state and still deeply connected to it. He is of a generation distant from the historical events that gave birth to that artificially separate German nation but, no doubt, affected by its atmosphere.
The musicians on this recording include David Broome, piano; Miranda Cuckson, violin; Nani Füting (the composer’s wife), mezzo soprano; Luna Cholong Kang, flutes; Eric Lamb, flutes; Joshua Rubin, clarinet; John Popham, cello; Yegor Shevtsov, piano; Jing Yang, piano; and the Mivos Quartet. All are dedicated and thoughtful performances executed effortlessly.
The recording is the composer’s production engineered by Ryan Streber. This is a very original set of compositions which benefit from multiple hearings.