oaksmus CD catalogue

strand III:


Entre deux guerres
Concerto for solo piano and fourteen instrumentalists.


Dietrich Eichmann 1996-98.
Christoph Grund - solo piano
Soloists of the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg
David R. Coleman - conductor

total duration: 48:20
Historic recording of the world première on October 30, 1999, at ZKM Karlsruhe (Center for Art and Media). Recorded by Südwestrundfunk, Stuttgart, Germany.

item no.: omH03
retail price: € 13,90

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from the booklet: The music in Entre Deux Guerres claims to be political. How can Eichmann's composition fulfill this claim, when there is no words to be sung or spoken? The days when you could play marches or have the roar of canon fire on stage are over. Mere sound illustration is too banal and imitating a siren will at best evoke wild derision.
Radical concentration is the basic tool in Eichmann's musical language. There is no hint of reconciliation, no compromise, no repetition, quotation, nothing to appeal to cliché, pathos, or sentimentality, nothing that is not always new (unlike Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, where war rears up like a huge bulky cylindrical drum forever rotating around its own axis). Furthermore, Entre Deux Guerres refuses to even hint at entertainment, or seemingly concede to any listeners' sensibilities. It leaves no room for mercy. (...) Eichmann's music is cruel in order to make you aware of your own ready acquiescence to the state of permanent warfare; it reveals our own moral failure, it is the sound of the cynicism which makes war still acceptable, two hundred years after the Enlightenment, still unaccomplished as it is, and the articulation of the natural human rights, and to the accompaniment of concepts of an 'eternal' peace somewhere else.


The German pianist Dietrich Eichmann works both as a free-improvising musician and as a composer. This CD is a recording of the 1999 world premiere of Eichmann’s Entre Deux Guerres, a “concerto for solo piano and fourteen instrumentalists.” The score contains no elements of improvisation or indeterminacy, and the scrupulously atonal musical language is drawn from the vocabulary of contemporary composition; this is thus a disc that falls more or less outside of Cadence’s remit. Yet the impact of the players like Cecil Taylor or Eichmann’s piano teacher Alex von Schlippenbach on the piece’s piano part (expertly played by Christoph Grund) is unmistakable, and Eichmann’s unusual choice of instrumentation (electric guitar and two percussionists sit alongside a string quartet, an accordion and various woodwinds) is clearly influenced by his interest in jazz and rock.
This is a piece – as the title announces – preoccupied with the wars of the 20th century. If I have a bone to pick it is primarily with its rather narrow manner of dealing with that subject-matter: the score carefully avoids lament or satire, opting instead for a continuous dissonance which rarely rises to all-out sonic violence but scrupulously avoids any sense of musical resolution. If this is a “concerto for piano” it is nonetheless a piece informed by the post-Schoenbergian questioning of traditional hierarchies of foreground and background, soloist and accompaniment; in the absence of such musical hierarchies the pianist stands out from the other instruments primarily through the greater rhythmic freedom and complexity of his part. Entre Deux Guerres is divided into four parts that run continuously; it’s not easy (given the composer’s careful avoidance of obvious structural logic or repetition) to intuit the design of the piece as a whole, but certain landmarks are clear. The centre of the piece finds the ensemble splitting apart: part IIb finds the pianist dropping out for a prolonged period, while part III is a seven-minute piano solo full of ghostly ruminations. The lengthy final section starts almost schematically with two extremes: an abrupt descent into silence, and an equally abrupt blast of noise. But the movement thereafter, for all its busyness of texture, enacts a gradual withdrawal rather than a climax or summing-up, very gradually sputtering out into silence.
An interesting disc, within its chosen aesthetic territory.

         Nate Dorward, Cadence Magazine, December 2002

Dietrich Eichmann is both a composer and a free improviser. One facet of his activities informs the other, giving him a different grasp of indeterminacy in music. There is no chance or improvisation involved in "Entre Deux Guerres," the 46-minute work featured on this CD. Everything is written down, but some sections were obtained through free improvisation that was later notated. It gives the music an unusual momentum, free-flowing yet rigid, like a showroom dummy placed in a pose that suggests freedom. If it sounds like Eichmann has failed, it is not the case. Ambiguity, tension, and forced movements of this sort are at the heart of this work. The title "Entre Deux Guerres" is a French expression that designates the historic period between the first and second World Wars (1918-1939) — literally the "between two wars." Presented as a "concerto for solo piano and 14 instrumentalists," it would be better described as being scored for 15 soloists. Except in part three where it is featured in a cadenza, the piano rarely takes center stage and the distinction between soloist and ensemble gets as thin as possible — soldiers working toward a same goal but surprisingly refusing any form of authority except for the battle plan. It sounds like highly controlled chaos, reminiscent of Edgard Varèse's most dynamic pieces. Christoph Grund had the difficult task of negotiating scored improvised gestures. Members of the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg perform on strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, electric guitar, and accordion. This work is not entertaining, neither is it pleasant. Eichmann's views on war are forcefully negative and he made no attempt to tone them down. The music leaps at the listener, aggressive, challenging, uncompromising, punishing. The demonstration is at times cold but makes for a rewarding listen and it will surely stand as a landmark in Eichmann's oeuvre.

         François Couture / All Music Guide

Composer and improviser Eichmann has kindly sent me a copious bunch of his recent and past releases, and I’m happy to report about them pretty regularly, since the man fathers music that is difficult, stimulating and provocative, often all of the above in a single outing. Such is the case of this “concerto for solo piano and fourteen instrumentalists”, where everything was carefully notated but I’ll be damned if these scores don’t sound like a complex collective improvisation, except for selected moments (for example pianist Christoph Grund’s soloist spots, which reveal him as a brilliant interpreter, very much in line with Eichmann’s score and intentions). The concert, of which the CD contains the première, was recorded in Karlsruhe on October 1999 and executed by the soloists of the SWR Symphony Orchestra conducted by David R.Coleman. Its concept is essentially based on the “beastly” characteristics of war, although detailing this without quoting large chunks of Harald Borges’ explicative notes would be too complicated for the scope of a review. Let’s just say that there is neither a “hook” or “refrain”, nor anything that could be memorized or instantly sung back. The aspects of Eichmann’s architecture range from bitter to violent: many bursts and explosions, scarcity of smooth sections (in any case scarred by acrid dissonances). A potentially unifying instrumental element may be Teodoro Anzellotti’s accordion, maybe the only fairly “static” presence in an otherwise perennially boiling cauldron, yet even that is soon swallowed by the general sense of barely repressed rage that the music seems to exalt. It’s an intriguing record that nevertheless won’t emerge as “appealing” after twenty tries. Certainly not for everyone, significant just the same.

– Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes


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