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Fortmann's Tango Catolico, a two-movement, nineteen minute 'dance-chorale', grows in its stature with increasing acquaintance, invariably a compelling yardstick. After preliminary whisperings and pizzicato punctuation, the quartet proceeds to a lovely increasingly powerful string episode [listen -- track 1, 1:29-2:32] and in turn (two minutes and forty three seconds) introduces a heavily accentuated theme central to the work.

The pivotal core of Fortmann's invention (at six minutes and forty three seconds) culminates in a song-like coda, proceeding without break to the pizzicato-arco tango 'El Baile', interrupted middway with stabbing chords. The work melds twelve tone and all-interval elements; and in doing so reveals Fortmann's distinctive compositional 'imprint'.

Received with widespread acclaim in Europe, Requiem for an Unborn Child combines absorbing, discomfiting words, and heterogeneous, distinctive composition; it's an unconventional yet approachable musical language drawing upon German music-theatre tradition found in the work of Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and the Buntes Theater.

Caution -- do not confuse with composer John Boyle (born 1952), a proponent of spiritual themes, living and working in Montana. Boyle's thirty-minute Requiem for the Unborn (1995) in four movements -- 'Death', 'Hell', 'The Void' and 'Redemption' is the principal item on Sacred Music of the 20th Century (Life Art CDs) with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Warsaw National Chorus, conductor Kurt Sprenger.

The Fortmann work is a nine-part secular requiem best approached via the composer's Nietzschean-Dawkinite text. The movements lasting from one minute and fifty eight seconds to five minutes and forty seven seconds are titled 'The Child', 'The Parents', 'The Society', 'The Creation', 'Future 1, 2 & 3,' 'No Title' and 'Courage' [listen -- track 11, 2:15-3:39].

His thesis -- 'You believe your deeds are eternal. Yet they are not, neither are Nature's, nor God's. Change alone is eternal where nothing and all remains in the space of time.' The Requiem is scored for clarinet quartet and soprano (Danielle Jungblut), periodically in 'singspiel' mode. It is highly episodic and seems to lack the more certain impact of Fortmann's two adjacent works.

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Copyright © 24 January 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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