The Belgian pianist Thérèse Malengreau has a particular interest in the relationship between music and the visual arts. With her first disc on BIS she offers us a rare opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the music of Hans Erich Apostel, banned as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis in 1938, and a rarity in performance ever since. At the same time, her disc allows us insight into the interplay between composers and artists in other disciplines during the first decades of the twentieth century, in the context of movements such as Der Blaue Reiter, the arts magazine Der Sturm or the Vienna Workshop. The three works here were inspired by artwork by Otto Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin, two of them appearing on disc for the first time. In his Op. 1, the Zehn Variationen, Apostel translates 10 drawings by Kokoschka into sounds – but as Malengreau suggests in her own liner notes, what the music describes is the varying degrees of expressivity and intensity of the drawings, rather than the images themselves. The closing work consists of 60 very brief sketches (less than 40 seconds on average), in which Apostel is reacting to Kubin’s drawings (caricatures rather than portraits) of nuns and witches, generals or huntsmen. Apostel completed it in 1948-49, but as early as 1945 it provided material for what is probably his best-known work: the ten pieces that make up the 15-minute long Kubiniana.
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