6/2000, Jocelyn Clarke, Music Ireland
Violent, tender and intensely lyrical, "Surrogate Cities", Heiner Goebbels' extraordinary collection of contradictory compositions, explores the "phenomenon of the city from various sides" and tells their stories. "Suite For Sampler And Orchestra" configures samples and fragments - a Twenties recording of a cantor, a snatch of Scarlatti, some spoken text - with simple melodies and urgent percussion to construct a picture of a city, its architecture in the clanging of brass and its memories in the quotations and samples. In "The Horatians: Three Songs", Goebbels frames Heiner Muller's meditation on civic duty and power � "what to do with a Horatian who saves his city but kills his sister, and is both a victor and a murder?" - in the first two songs with a driving martial rhythm, and in the third with pulsing cello and strings. Meanwhile, Jocelyn B Smith's exquisite voice moves effortlessly from operatic declamation to bluesy croon, from the epic confrontation between warriors to the domestic recitation of the story - "words fall into the wheels of the world, irretrievably making things known to us or unknown." "D&C" is an animated and dynamic portrait of a city, in which percussion, strings and wind continually collide with one another, their shimmering textures and staccato rhythms coalescing around variants on the pitches of D and C. The final pieces, "Surrogate", with words by Hugo Hamilton, and "In the Country Of Last Things", with words by Paul Auster, locate the individual within the cityscape, isolated and alienated. The pounding rhythms of piano and percussion form a jazz-inflected pulse which drives David Moss' spoken/sung description of a running woman in "Surrogate", while the nervy noirish swirl of string and lone trumpet punctuates Moss' monologue and Smith's vocal trilling. "Surrogate Cities'" seemingly disparate parts - Muller's adaptation of Livy and Hamilton's urban vignette - form an organic and sustained dramatic musical narrative, and infuse its theatrical and cinematic intensities with a compelling urgency, as much in Muller's exquisite composition as in Junge Deutsche Philharmonie's performance under conductor Peter Rundel's rigorous direction. Intellectually ambitious and emotionally challenging, "Surrogate Cities" is very beautiful and affecting collection of music.
on: Surrogate Cities (CD)