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Kurtag: Kafka Fragments, Part

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

Price: CDN$ 40.09
Only 1 left in stock - order soon.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Oct. 15 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ondine
  • ASIN: B00000378W
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #365,766 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 1. The Good March in Step
2. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 2. Like a Pathway in Autumn
3. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 3. Hiding Places
4. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 4. Restless
5. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 5. Berceuse I
6. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 6. Nevermore (Excommunicado)
7. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 7. 'But He Just Won't Stop Asking Me'
8. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 8. Someone Tugged At My Clothes
9. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 9. The Seamstresses
10. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 10. Scene at the Station
11. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 11. Sunday, 19th July 1910 (Berceuse II) (Hommage a Jeney)
12. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 12. My Ear...
13. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 13. Once I Broke My Leg (Chassidic dance)
14. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 14. Enarmoured
15. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 15. Two Walking-Sticks (Authentic-plagal)
16. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 16. No Going Back
17. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 17. Pride
18. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 18. The Flower Hung Dreamily (Hommage a Schumann)
19. Kafka Fragments: Part I: 19. Nothing of the Kind
20. Kafka Fragments: Part II: The True Path (Hommage-message a Pierre Boulez)
See all 40 tracks on this disc

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Format: Audio CD
What the Grammaphone guy fails to just say straight out: this is one of the most gut-renching, riveting song-cycles of the century (the performance, which sounds great to me, is certainly good enough for the music to come through). Kurtag is always at his best with texts rather than in purely instrumental works. In Kafka's diary entries and aphorisms from his letters he seems to have found the perfect match in sensibility. Many of the songs are less than a minute, but in that time the violin and voice suggest a whole universe of visceral experience. Kurtag belongs in the same company as Carter and Lutoslawski (i.e., in the very highest level).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9aaacfa8) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ab0060c) out of 5 stars Kurtág's masterpiece, so far... Nov. 17 2009
By Music Fan - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Kurtág's specialty is the human voice accompanied by small mixed instrumental ensembles. Kafka Fragments reduces this formula to the elemental, but original, combination of the soprano voice with a single violin. But the violin writing is far from simple, filled with multiple stops, pizzicati, and microtonal swervings, and the voice whispers, speaks, and screams as well as sings.

On the basis of this description alone, this music may scare listeners off and that would be a terrible pity. To an open mind (and an open ear), this music is engaging, startling, moving, and occasionally - believe it or not - quite funny. Kurtág's selection of texts accounts for a good deal of the music's appeal. Kafka's notebooks are filled with aphorisms and observations that virtually cry out to be set to modern music. One piece reads (in German) in its entirety: "From a certain point, there is no going back. That is the point to reach." Another: "In the struggle between yourself and the world, side with the world." Others describe characters, activities, or brief scenes. The music that accompanies it sometimes illustrates the text, other times mocks it. Sometimes it is frankly beautiful, sometimes piercing. The recurrence of a motto theme often transformed and in musically or emotionally unfamiliar contexts helps to unify the piece and guide the listener. Making an attempt to follow the texts, presented in the original German with translation, while listening makes a huge difference.

Yes, this is modern music. Some even might consider it avant-garde. But unlike many other modern or contemporary composers, Kurtág hasn't given up on traditional musical devices that work, like melody, repetition, dance rhythms, and so forth. His Bartókian lineage, particularly the interest in folk music, is often audible, but he always sounds like his own man. Some might hear in this music the continuation of the expressionist tradition of Webern, Berg and Schoenberg. Or perhaps the grating vanguardism of a Boulez or Carter. But to my ear, this is music that doesn't require a degree in musicology, or a black turtleneck sweater, to enjoy. This is music that will last.
10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d7e8300) out of 5 stars 40 miniatures, an absurd fragmented slice of life June 1 2005
By Autonomeus - Published on
Format: Audio CD
KAFKA FRAGMENTS is 40 very short pieces for soprano and violin, a cycle of a little less than an hour -- here performed by the young Finnish couple Anu Komsi, soproano, and Sakari Oramo on violin. Kurtag is well-known for saying his music is made out of almost nothing. KAFKA FRAGMENTS is certainly a case in point -- just a voice and a violin above the abyss, a few essential things, conveying much with little. An incredible creation -- powerful existentialism. The liner notes are quite informative and include all the lyrics. Kafka was Jewish, like Kurtag. He lived in Prague. Kafka's concerns were spiritual, theological, and quotidian -- he had more doubts than certainty, but was a seeker.

Musically, the closest parallel clearly seems to be PIERROT LUNAIRE, though Kurtag's single biggest musical influence is Webern. I find it strangely compelling. In fact I would say it is a masterpiece of the late 20th century. While there is some variation, overall the mood is full of angst and hints of tragedy. The atonal music does not convey the depth and range of emotion attributed to the work by some writers.

Here are some sample lyrics (it's sung in German, but the booklet provides English translations):

"Slept, woke, slept, woke, miserable life"

"The true path goes by way of a rope that is suspended not high up, but rather just above the ground. Its purpose seems to be more to make one stumble than to be walked on."

"There is a destination, but no path to it; what we call a path is hesitation."

"The moonlit night dazzled us. Birds shrieked in the trees. There was a rush of wind in the fields. We crawled through the dust, a pair of snakes."

"On the stock of Balzac's walking-stick: 'I surmount all obstacles.' On mine: 'All obstacles surmount me.' They have that 'all' in common."

This was the second of what are now four recordings of KAFKA-FRAGMENTE, which was written in 1985-6. The first, recorded for the Hungaroton label, featured Adrienne Csengery and Andras Keller on violin. This Ondine performance, the only one of the four not supervised by the composer, was recorded in August, 1995. The third recording, by ECM, took place ten years later in September 2005, and was released to celebrate the composer's 80th birthday. It is still available, and features the German soprano Juliane Banse and Andras Keller. Most recently the cycle has been recorded as a CD/DVD combination for Bridge records. The Bridge recording features Tony Arnold's soprano and Movses Pogossian on violin, and the DVD includes a performance as well as a clip of Kurtag coaching the performers. I was sure a Dawn Upshaw recording was in the works at one point, as she sang the KAFKA-FRAGMENTE in January of 2005 in NYC with Geoff Nuttall on violin in a dramatic performance, doing housework, with black-and-white photo projections. But that has not materialized.

The ECM recording is probably the most accessible at this point, and it is a fine performance and recording. But I still have great fondness for this Finnish recording. Komsi's soprano is more pure and thin than Banse, and the Ondine production is brighter, with the musicians foregrounded, and without the deep resonance that characterizes Eicher's ECM productions. I won't say this Ondine recording is better, but I wouldn't want to be without it.
3 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d7e8540) out of 5 stars avant-garbage March 19 2007
By frothy - Published on
Format: Audio CD
If you like listening to a soprano yelp like a dog while some guy saws on a violin then this is for you. Otherwise pass.