HEINZ WINBECK (1946-2019): String Quartets No. 1 “Tempi capricciosi”, No. 2 “Tempi notturni” and No. 3 “Jagdquartett”.

Catalogue Number: 05X067

Label: Genuin

Reference: GEN 22779

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Given the overwhelming power and impact of Winbeck's extraordinary cycle of five symphonies (12W054 and now out of print), which ranks among the most exciting recorded discoveries we have ever offered, it would be strange indeed were his equally personal and individual output for quartet anything less than remarkable. It is just that, comprising three very different works with a marked originality and consistency of idiom, composed over a rather short period. The notes for this release are much better than those that accompanied the symphonies, so we finally get some insight into the character of the man behind this extraordinary music. He seems to have been what some might regard as a "difficult" individual, largely indifferent to what the arbiters of public taste thought of him or his music and with no interest in ingratiating himself with the musical establishment. He wrote what he felt compelled to write, never to commission (aside from succumbing to the entreaties of Dennis Russell Davies who was responsible for a brief late flowering of his writing in 2009 after a silence of more than a decade predicated on his belief that he had said all that he needed to), with a sense of being uncontrollably driven to compose: "I literally notate in music only what would blow me apart if I didn’t.” He was preoccupied with death and its mysteries from an early age, and later with astronomy and cosmology as a means of trying to make sense of these mysteries. He was a pessimist, given to cheery musings like his speculation that art was the last protest “of a species unable to prevent its own extinction after five billion years of evolution, capable only of singing about it.” Rather than adding up to self-absorbed wallowing, he was in fact desperately concerned with the fate of humanity, of our environmental and self- destructiveness, seen through the unflinching eyes of a profoundly philosophical spirit. Thus these quartets, death-haunted like the symphonies. The first was written in 1979, at the boundaries between Winbeck's first creative phase, influenced by the avant garde, and his second, more overtly tonal and related to "new simplicity". All the Winbeck trademarks are here, though; the relentless energy; the obsessive exploration of limited material to hammer home a point, past the stage at which it should work musically (and yet somehow it does) - a characteristic that he shares with Pettersson; the sudden intrusion of gestures from the Romantic past, like anchoring pylons; the extreme and intense contrasts of tempo and texture. The Second Quartet was written in the same year, but is a very different work. The First hurtles along in frantic fusillades of repeated fast notes and gestures, with a slow "movement" of almost unbearable strained intensity and a bizarre distortion of a naïve minuet in its final section; the Second is in a single span and maintains the same sombre mood and elegiac slow pulse throughout. Winbeck's family life was complex; this work is a threnody for his biological father, who committed suicide that year. The score is prefaced by a poem haunted by the imagery of death by Winbeck’s favourite poet, Georg Trakl. Beginning with a gentle pulsation over a pedal point, the music gradually develops into a desolate polyphonic lament, punctuated by protesting outbursts of passion. At the work’s midpoint a faster, trembling pulsation appears, accompanying a keening elegy. Everything ceases, apart from a sudden sobbing scream, and then the work recapitulates the calm opening litany combined with the throbbing pulsation, which finally dominates the music. Winbeck expanded this passage in his 4th symphony, a requiem for his mother. The Third Quartet was written between the first two symphonies, and is a fully mature work of breathtaking boldness and impact. Winbeck takes the traditional "sporting" hunting music and turns the idea on its head, presenting the hunt from the point of view of the pursued, terrified, slaughtered animal. Beginning with a searingly beautiful, unbearably ominous slow section, the hunt commences with nightmarishly obsessive, monotonous galloping rhythm, "with a consistency that borders on brutality,” as the dedicatee, his friend and fellow composer Franz Hummel, said. The perspective shifts to the desperate weaving flight, "presto possibile" of the doomed victim. The drama plays out in the jagged, climactic following section, which begins to sound suspiciously Beethovenian, if distorted, and sure enough resolves into a quotation from the Grosse Fuge - shocking in context - and then evaporates. But the "presto possibile" returns as a coda, signifying the inevitable continuation of the cruel pursuit of the weak by the powerful. Leopold Mozart Quartet. Genuin GEN 22779 (Germany) 05X067 $18.98


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