Burkhard Stangl

Hommage à moi
Loewenhertz loew 020

Obviously no sufferer from false modesty, Viennese guitarist Burkhard Stangl showcases a cross section of his composition and improvisations from the late 1980s to some of his most recent on this provocatively titled three-CD set. Known for his contributions to flugelhornist Franz Koglmann’s projects, as well as his membership in Polwechsel, efzeg and different New music chamber ensemble, plus for creating the odd film score, Stangl is as versatile as he is prolific. With Stangl’s music ranging across genres, Hommage à moi, presents pieces performed by groups ranging from duos to combos to extended ensembles. Similarly tracks touch on electro-acoustic compositions; notated and improvised music; extended orchestral salutes to English lutenist Robert Dowland (1563-1641) and more contemporary influences and associates; plus miniatures for instruments such as church organ, voice, a recorder trio and vibraphone-guitar and bassoon-flute combinations.

Just as obviously some of the polymath’s creations are more substantial than others. But overall the 25 tracks provide a comprehensive sound-picture of one of the many contemporary musicians who refuse to be shoved into a singular pigeonhole. While there’s much to praise in the almost 3¼-hours of music here, the most affecting tracks seem be those created for diminutive quasi-improvised bands or larger ensembles spurred by soloists such as British saxophonist John Butcher or Austrian trombonist Radu Malfatti,

A solid, linear piece which seems to take its inspiration from the barely there, microtonal vocabulary developed over the years by Malfatti, “Konzert für Posaune und 22 Instrumente”, contrasts flat-line air dynamics and pressurized brass tones with the ensemble’s accelerating and vibrating tutti. Along the way, pyramidal reed trio split tones, heavily strained and vibrated brass tones as well as widely bowed or sul ponticello string settings define the orchestral arrangements. Individual highlights include piano note clusters, near-bottleneck guitar asides and most prominently the featured soloist’s incremental and widely spaced tongue slaps, guffaws, squeaks and hollow-air vibrations, sometimes in orchestral contexts; other time a capella.

Quixotically, “Concert for Saxophone and Quiet Players”, featuring Butcher and a stripped-down ensemble is actually louder than the trombonist’s concerto. On it, extended whorls of sound from the saxophonist, advanced with tongue flutters, reed buzzes and solid drones are contrasted with group work. The “quiet players” contributions include static crackles, dial-twisting quirks and field-recorded bird chirps from the turntablist and electronics manipulators; steady waves of flute flutters; and resonating and fading in-and-out of focus percussion beats. With granular processing and overdubbing, many timbres – including the saxophonist’s – are processed electronically as well as captured live.

Post-modern harmonization of 17th Century vocalization and 21st Century instrumentation, “My Dowland” puts countertenor Jakob Huppmann’s ethereal voice in the midst of romantically harmonized string progressions plus what sounds like sampled textures. Included are aviary chirps which become increasingly agitated as both Huppmann and the string section remain languid and moderato. In contrast metallic, methodical bass and guitar drones intersect with irregular saxophone vibrations, with a final variant extending the vocalized theme with string spiccato and turntable-created friction.

Shoter pieces are equally varied. “Ich weiss nicht, wie man die Liebe macht” for instance, played by trombonist Malfatti, Stangl on guitar and Gunter Schneider on guitar and banjo is a precise balancing act among wavering guffaws, carefully moderated bell-like signal-processed actions and two separate string parts. One plucks repeated and interchangeable patterns while the other stretches the licks ruggedly. Meanwhile “Ronron” with just Stangl and vibraphonist

Berndt Thurner is hyper-jazzy and chromatic. As the mallet man expands the tune lyrically, echoing, amp-distortions are skillfully added from the guitarist. On the other hand Klaus Filip electronic devices and ppooll process wave forms to such an extent on “Noiset No. 1” that when teamed with harsh guitar loops, unaffiliated watery tones turn to outer-space-like buzzes and screeches.

Overall, Hommage à moi makes the case that a composer/instrumentalist who is confident enough to create beguiling studies for three recorders or three a capella voices with the same skill that he brings to create the concentrated tension available from found sounds, electronics and conventional instruments pushed to their limits deserves to be celebrated. Once you hear these CDs, it may be more than the creator celebrating his talents.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD 1: 1. Kompositionen für Ensembles Compositions for Ensembles: 1. Concert for Saxophone and Quiet Players (2007) 2. WOLKEN.HEIM breathing/clouds 3. My Dowland 4. Los vestidos blancos de Mérida CD 2: 1. Angels touch 2. Ronron 3. For a Young Trumpet Player /Three Pieces for Organ: 4. Flickering Reticence 5. Madrigal (Gesualdo) 6. Inundation / Nine Miniatures 7. For Ginger 8. Concept piece no.40 9. O.T. 10. There’s a picture 11. Noiset No. 1 12. Schneeflocke 13. Good things come to those who wait 14. En passant 15. Come Heavy Sleep CD 3: 1. Konzert für Posaune und 22 Instrumente /Drei Lieder 2. Das Leben ist schoen 3. Ich weiss nicht, wie man die Liebe macht 4. Niemand hoert auf zu leben 5. Trio Nr. 1 6. Uratru – Neue Musik aus einer versunkenen Welt

Personnel: CD 1: 1. Extended Heritage Ensemble: John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxophones); Angélica Castelló (block flute); dieb13 (turntables, computer and live processing); Eva Reiter (block flute, viola da gamba, small drum); Billy Roisz (electronics, small drum); Burkhard Stangl (guitar, vibes, small drum electronics and field recordings) 2. Angélica Castelló, Eva Reiter, Maja Osojnik (recorders, voices and audio feeds) 3. Add Jakob Huppmann (countertenor) 4. Add Yukari Hagino (C-flutes); Bernadette Zeilinger (alto flute); Gunter Schneider (guitar); Bernd Klug, Olga Schertsova (keyboard); Jakob Schneidewind (bass); Lea Bäumler, Reinhard Glätzle, Bernhard Rehn, Michael Scheed; Silvester Triebnig (percussion); Berndt Thurner: (electric percussion) and Julia Pallanch, Iris Nitzl (voices) CD 2: 1. Electro-acoustic composition 2. Berndt Thurner (vibraphone) 3. Gabriël Scheib-Dumalin (trumpet) 4. Burkhard Stangl (church organ and electronics) 5. Christoph Herndler, Josef Novotny, Burkhard Stangl (church organs played simultaneously) 6. Same as #4 7. Billy Roisz (electronics) 8. Vienna Radio Symphonie Orchestra [from CD] 9. Sound Art 10. Sound Art remix by TV POW 11. Klaus Filip (electronic devices and ppooll) and Stangl (electric guitar) 12. Christof Kurzmann (ppooll) and Stangl (Spanish guitar) 13. Kazu Uchihashi (guitar and electronics) and Stangl (electric guitar) 14. Josef Novotny (zither) and Stangl (piano) 15. Jakob Huppmann (countertenor) CD 3: 1. Ensemble Maxixe: Radu Malfatti (trombone); Rafael Grosch (oboe and English horn); Max Nagl (alto saxophone); Alain Wosniak (clarinet); Angelika Riedl (bassoon); Oskar Aichinger (piano); Gunter Schneider (guitar and banjo); Burkhard Stangl (stringed instruments); Joanna Lewis (violin); Sabrina Briscik (viola); Michael Moser (cello); Werner Dafeldecker (bass) and Charlie Fischer (percussion) 2. 3.4. Sainko Namchylak, Renate Burtscher, Eva Hosemann (voices) and Ensemble Maxixe 5. Radu Malfatti (trombone); Gunter Schneider (guitar and banjo) and Stangl (guitar) 6. Maura St. Mary (flute) and Judith Farmer (bassoon)