Heiner Goebbels, born 1952, has had six albums on ECM, the last in 1994 . The orchestral and vocal music on Surrogate Cities offers a radical exercise in crossing musical boundaries that demands to be heard. Its assimilation of popular genres to orchestral music is found in Bernd-Alois Zimmermann, a composer with similar breadth of vision. But while Zimmermann looked to jazz, Goebbels takes from art-rock and contemporary dance genres, with sampling and percussion prominent.
Surroagte Cities, says the composer, offers a "realistic, certainly contradictory, but ultimately positive image of the modern city". But much of the project, if it doesn't quite suggest the urban dystopia of Tim Burton´s Batman films, seems too edgy to be overly optimistic. Outstanding is the Suite for Sampler and Orchestra, with movements named after those in a Baroque suite. It begins with eerie samples of Jewish cantonial singing from the 1920s and '30s, worked into tile orchestral score with an inescapable charge and resonance. Industrial textures are blended with quotes from Scarlatti at the end of "Allemande", and a chorale on "Gigue". The result makes William Orbit's Samuel Barber mixes sound tame.
The first song of The Horatian, with its chugging orchestral rhythms is wonderfully exciting, though soul-jazzer Jocelyn Smith's singing is just too overblown for my taste. The idiom here is popular but with unusual orchestral finesse. David Moss sings powerfully in Peter Hammill vein on Surrogate. Goebbels is clearly a composer who loves the big gesture. His expressionism treads a fine line just this side of posturing and bombast, uniquely both accessible and experimental. The versatile Junge Deutsche Philharmonie fully justifies its reputation as one of the leading German ensembles.
CLASSIC CD (oa), 6/2000