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Music Review: Gidon Kremer – Edition Lockenhaus [5CD Box Set]

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Although Gidon Kremer’s five-CD Edition Lockenhaus has been available for a couple of months now, it well worth discussing for fans of classical “new music.” This past year marked the 30th anniversary of the chamber music festival co-founded by violinist Gidon Kremer and Pastor Josef Herowitsch in the Austrian village of Lockenhaus.

The first Lockenhaus festival took place way back in 1981, which Kremer considered “a home with open doors” for the musical community he hoped to build. It was certainly an excellent choice, and has paid off handsomely. The various performances collected on this set include a huge variety of supporting musicians. A full listing here would be a bit much, but a few of the well-known names include Gerard Causse, Thomas Zehetmair, Heinz Holliger, Robert Levin, and Julius Berger, among many others.

The first disc of the set focuses on previously unreleased recordings from 2001 and 2008. These feature Sir Simon Rattle and Roman Kofman conducting Kremerata Baltica in performances of Strauss’s “Metamorphosen” and Messiaen’s “Trois petites Liturgies de la Prescence Divine.” For U.S. fans, don’t let the “foreign” names throw you; this is beautiful music, played with a brilliance one may not normally expect in such a festival setting.

The remaining four discs were previously released on ECM as Edition Lockenhaus Volumes 1/2 and 4/5. These performances were recorded back in the ’80s—1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, and 1986. Those sets have been out of print for years now, so their reissue has been highly anticipated by fans.

One of the more notable aspects of each festival has been a focus on certain composers. Discs two through five are concerned with the music of Cesar Franck, Andre Caplet, Francis Poulenc, Leos Janacek, Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Erwin Schulhoff.

While there is obviously an enormous amount of material to choose from here, I found the fourth disc, which is devoted solely to the music of Shostakovich, especially noteworthy. The 22:22 “String Quartet No. 12 op. 138” features the violins of both Kremer and Thomas Zehetmair, the viola of Nobuko Imai, and the violoncello of Boris Pergamentschikow. It is quite an outstanding piece.

The 60-page booklet included in the set is printed in both German and English, and contains in-depth discussions of each composition. The original liner notes to the Edition Lockenhaus 1/2 and 4/5 are also included. This is a marvelous set of music, and a very impressive package overall. To put it simply, ECM have done it again.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • Igor

    Good review. Thank you. Kremer is one of my favorite violinists, and this CD set looks very appealing.