Friday, May 25, 2007

Enno Poppe

Who, or what? You might ask if you are not from Germany, or even if you are....

Enno Poppe (a very interesting choice of first name, given the surname) is quite a
famous young German composer. As it happens I know a great deal more
about young Lithuanian composers than about young German composers, but
this one I know because his dad was our music teacher at school, and
young Enno was born while we were his pupils, quite a while after his
older sisters.

Dad Rudolf is an inspired music and maths teacher (retired), and did
his best to run the school choir and orchestra (never together). The
latter was a sad affair, very sad indeed. It included my friend Ulla
and her older twin brothers Christian and Tillmann (all on violin), my
friend Renate on cello and me on violin. Sometimes a bunch of recorder
players would join us - would we fiddlers look down on them? You have
no idea! We were all terrible; I mean, really bad - nothing like the
British school orchestras that I remember. At the time there was little
instrumental instruction in our part of Germany, and certainly not in
mainstream schools. I can't remember who taught Ulla and her brothers
the fiddle. But despite all that, Renate and Ulla studied music, and
I'm studying it now. Rudolf Poppe was big into contemporary music
which we hated, and perhaps for the sake of intonation and togetherness
a more traditional programming would have done. Every now and again we
were wheeled out to play at events. Not quite sure what exactly brought
the tears to the audience's eyes....

Young Enno has won several major prizes, and he now teaches at the
Hanns Eisler Hochschule in Berlin (former DDR Hochschule, and very very
highly regarded; David Geringas and Tabea Zimmermann teach there,
amongst others).

The CD I'm listening to is Interzone, a piece of based on a text by
Marcel Beyer. 'Interzone' relates to William Burrough's book of the
same name about Tanger, the Moroccan city, which has been overwhelmed,
raped and pillaged by a number of invaders; for a while the town was
regarded as an International Zone. 'Interzone' can also be seen as the
spaces between things, eg words, buildings, events.....

Here we have a text, which reminds a bit of Walton's Facade, though
it's not as droll, linked by different pieces of music. You wouldn't go
away whistling a tune; it's more atmospheric. The text is written in
English, with odd (very odd) German words thrown into it
('Herrenunterwaesche', 'Bienenlehre', 'Redekrankheit') - they sound
funny spoken by a Brit, especially as they are those piggingly long
German words ('Stoffwechselfragen'). The piece starts with so much
talking that you think you are listening to a radio play. Naturally
the music is very complex and requires all the skills (and then some!)
of the Neue Vokalsolisten and the ensemble Mosaik, consisting of
woodwinds, accordeon, percussion and piano (though I dare say they can
regroup themselves as they wish and take other folk on board). The
music potters on in a a fairly sober, slightly clinical, German kind of
way, whereas the English text is spoken very dramatically. The singing
skills are awesome!

In a concert hall you would probably be at the edge of your seat,
wondering where the piece is going to take you, and especially
considering that there can be a huge video display as well, showing the
speaker in close-up. Must be a bit disconcerting for the speaker...

It's an amazing piece of music - I would love to see it performed somewhere sometime, and some of his other pieces.

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