GEORGES LENTZ - composer / sound artist
Caeli enarrant III
Cobar Sound Chapel
-"...I was especially gripped by Georges Lentz’s “Jerusalem (After Blake),” which had its première in Luxembourg, in January. It is a controlled pandemonium that includes a wild, lashing part for electric guitar and a spatially distinct brass ensemble that, in the final bars, is directed to play a tinny recording of itself, via smartphones. I’m longing to hear the piece live, alongside other recent Lentz scores: “Jerusalem” is a component of a multi-part cycle called “Mysterium,” which would require the better part of a day to perform... "
(Alex Ross in The New Yorker)
-"...Judging by what we've heard, Georges Lentz appears without a doubt to be one of the most obsessive composers of the young generation, and one of the most interesting. His music is not just clever, it moves without being romantic or backward-looking...full of icy beauty and contemplative austerity...one of the strangest and strongest personalities among today's younger composers... "
(Le Monde, Paris)
-"...a major contribution. I have never heard anything quite like it, and it has stuck with me for an inordinate amount of time. Anyone interested in the possible transformational potential of new music should give this a listen...I couldn't help but wonder what other mysteries lurk in that mysterious beyond, a region this composer seems to have intimate access to. I was blown away by this astounding release. Just when you think you've heard everything, there's always someone else revealing powerful new insights just around the corner."
(American Record Guide)
-"Brilliant ... religiously motivated, statically meditative, yet by no means monotonous, thanks to a varied technique and outstanding instrumentation."
(Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)
-"(5 tuning forks - highest ranking)
Georges Lentz belongs to that discreet and non-prolific group of composers of whom one realises one day, almost by coincidence, that their work is of the greatest possible interest. Far from having come down in the last shower however, in his adoptive Australia and in his native Luxembourg he is already regarded as a major composer of his generation. Behind titles resembling those of Scelsi but in fact inspired by aboriginal culture hides music whose fascination resides in its mysterious alchemy. One could describe the textures and materials that cross through it as comets (dodecaphonic pointillism, static tonal chords, melismas and arabesques, percussive outbursts, string shivers, quasi subliminal electronic halos), but this wouldn't do justice to the strong cohesion that holds it all together and impresses us. Despite its luxuriance, Guyuhmgan (2001, revised 2007) avoids any patchwork effect. Through a changing landscape whose lighting variations it reflects, the cor anglais draws a sinuous but in no way confusing path. Conductor Emilio Pomarico seems to seek for each musical object an almost material consistence. More even than the remarkable density of individual timbres, the possibilities of fusion which characterise the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg allow him to achive this ideal. Ngangkar (1998-2000), like the other works on this album, belong to the Mysterium cycle, an overarching work project which to this day encompasses all of Lentz's production. The solo part of Monh (2001-2005) is of great sobriety and leaves free rein for Tabea Zimmermann to sculpt details of the greatest finesse. May this successful initiative of the Timpani label lead to less timid programming decisions under our latitudes and let us discover this composer in concert."
(Diapason Music Magazine, Paris)
-"...concentrates the dots of the Australian night sky into a shimmering, radiant music of the spheres...highly refined instrumentation...Modernity was here pure emotion - really great... "
-"To hear Georges Lentz's Ingwe we walk into thick fog and mystery. The title translates as 'darkness', apt for this hour-long reverie, or delirium even, an epic coursing through the dark night of the soul for solo electric guitar with the doubt, passion and wit of a metaphysical poet cut adrift from his God. Guitarist Zane Banks appears before us shrouded in mist, armed with guitar, foot pedals and music stands ready to explore the Mysterium (2003-09), a larger work of which Ingwe is part. A series of movements ensues, each oscillating internally, between cool, liquid reflection and starbursts of awe and anger. I'd seen Lentz praised in print for his eschewal of rock guitar cliches. However, this should not obscure the fact that the composer and his virtuoso instrumentalist deploy an array of recognisable electric guitar tropes that lend the work a wider resonance than the category 'contemporary classical' might suggest. Sudden note flurries, feedback, reverberation, heavy chording, thrashing, and rapid ascents and descents are vertiginously juxtaposed with quiet jazz-inflected near-melodies, soft brushing of strings and recurrent, transcendent harmonics, chiming and sparkling against a pervasive darkness. Almost ironic power-driven anthemic phrasings, marches and hymning pulse angrily through Ingwe while delicately fingered passages bring temporary reprieve. But a gentle brushing across the strings can turn abrasive, chugging, fast, destructive. The darkness that is Ingwe is alive and volatile. Banks, a practising rock guitarist, is at one with his instrument, swaying back as he sends notes soaring, leaning deep into the attack when he cracks the cosmos with a quaking roar. Ingwe constantly conjures vast earthly and heavenly spaces with an astonishing depth and breadth of field. Yet, its agonised declamations never made literal, Ingwe is felt as a deeply interior work that makes viscerally palpable the vastness of inner anxieties. Composition and performance are also wonderfully at one, yielding a unique and memorable experience, not one that hums through you like a tune, but jangles, buzzes and thunders like a place, familiar but not, recalled from a dream. "
(RealTime Arts Magazine)
-"...Wild harmony...Far away from any civilization in the Australian Outback, the night skies must tell some amazing stories...'Guyuhmgan' leaves an indelible impression on the whole concert. With pointillistic skill, the composer puts soft dots into his score...pure nature in the concert hall...With little sound, the piece keeps its dense arch of tension even over a 30-second general pause, the threatening silence of space... "
-"...extatic sound language...His aesthetics, mystical/religious in its origin, mirrors cosmological aspects....Lentz' music is fascinating and shows itself to be surprisingly independent from the model Messiaen... "
-"Sounding universe... The Bochumer Symphoniker under steven Sloane gave the enthusiastically received German premiere of 'Monh'. This piece is not about some random depiction, but rather about the poignancy felt in the face of the incomprehensibility of infinity, and which was rendered by the orchestra in strangely magical sounds. The soloist expresses this poignancy not as a radiant romantic hero, but as a fragile, awestruck human being, no more than a "reed, but a thinking one" (Pascal) and which brings to conciousness the mysterium of infinity. This is reflected in the manifold textures of the viola's monologue. However, the partly eerie sounds never become 'effects' in the hands of Tabea Zimmermann, but rather an authentic expression of the most hidden vibrations of the soul, which eventually, after a strangely shimmering, seemingly unreal chorale, loose themselves in inaudibility. "
-"Sloane and Zimmermann gave the first performance of this work in Luxembourg in 2005. From the first sound it was clear that the two had truly penetrated the work. or should one rather say: from the first silence? Because this piece is by no means a traditional solo concerto with the interaction between tutti and solo. It is for large stretches a soft and tender sounding work... the viola sounds like an individual which moves within an aural universe, communicates, marks symbols and, in the final analysis, 'lives its time'. Tabea Zimmermann's playing breathed, lived and allowed and intellectual compositional idea to become a sensual listening experience... A heavenly pleasure! "
(Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung)
-"When, on a string instrument, one draws the bow across the string, not near the bridge, but near the scroll and then fingers with the left hand, one gets pale, unreal sounds. The whole sound world of Georges Lentz' 'Monh' (...) was of this kind. Like stars, more traditional sounds shone through here and there, sometimes just fragments in a mixture of white noise and scratching. There was something spheric about it, and at the same time it created a captivating atmosphere. In the Tonhalle the solo part was played by Tabea Zimmermann, a specialist for such tasks. She treated the most unusual playing techniques as though they were her daily bread and gave listeners the impression that all of this was nothing special. However something special did happen in that, for about half an hour, one could delve deeply into the sound world of Australian-based Luxembourg composer Georges Lentz. The orchestra too felt elated, not just because of Ms Zimmermann's playing, but also because of the musical penetration of the great score by conductor Steven Sloane. Static, shimmering and flickering sounds were added layer upon layer into a musical edifice that seemed not to be of this world. And the final sound even took off into Nirvana. "
(Rheinische Post, Düsseldorf)
-"Moments of sheer magic…Georges Lentz’ masterful “Caeli enarrant…” IV succeeded in confronting his audience with a sweep of musical thought fully equal in weight and intensity to its accompanying Beethoven quartet… Even to approach the impact of Beethoven is a significant achievement, and Lentz’ majestic canvas presents us with a dazzling array of choices along the way. Rich in the symbolism of violently contrasted sonic materials produced by wood and metal, composed silence, unpitched rhythm and sudden unexpected consonance, it also draws on a tapestry of contrasted ritual, Tibetan to Catholic, in an almost Messiaenic view of the galaxies and their creator. Bisected and segmented by the imposition of disparate, monolithic blocks of material, its strain of thought and focus remains steadfast… The effect was almost symphonic as the quartet pushed the margins of a work which, if anything, encompasses almost too much for its medium. "
-" Hard on the heels of the successful Adelaide Festival performance of his String Quartet, Australian-based, Luxembourg-born composer Georges Lentz has possibly an even more impressive achievement on his hands with the Australian Chamber Orchestra's world premiere performances on tour of his Seven Last Words...startling juxtapositions of dissonance and consonance, sound and silence, monody and polyphony...This was potent stuff and there can be little doubt that the combined creative talents of so many of Australia's best writers have been matched by music of superb craftsmanship in what should become a major new alternative to the obligatory Bach and Handel around Easter. -"
(The Advertiser, Adelaide)
-"Cosmic views...The highlight of this double-bill was Australian composer Georges Lentz’s "Caeli enarrant..." IV...an engrossing work and not an easy one to describe in its many shifts of pace, tone and pitch...Passages of hard-edged modernism co-exist with a postmodern penchant for a sublime melody; a loud, starry burst of cymbals...sits beside a silence that can surprise with its fullness, and the cosmos is evoked in all its strangeness...this was a truly memorable performance. -"
-"Ngangkar (and) Guyuhmgan...form elements of a huge cycle of pieces in which the composer has been examining aspects of his twin preoccupations with spiritual matters and the vision of the nature of the universe as revealed through modern scientific discovery. In this sense, the works fall squarely into the realm of 'new spirituality' and New-ageism - and indeed, much of the music is slow and of a restrained and meditative quality. But Lentz' vocabulary is broader than this might suggest - although there is a considerable amount of slow-moving consonant music, there are also microtonal elements, aleatoric gestures and sometimes dense layering of polyphonic textures, and in 'Guyuhmgan', computer-generated sounds are also used. Ultimately, then, we are closer to the æsthetic of Andriessen, or perhaps Takemitsu, than Pärt or Tavener."
-"(Georges Lentz') use of silence is very imaginative and he demonstrates great skill in manipulating how one perceives the passing of time...utterly compelling...It took me several hard listenings to even begin to get the measure of Georges Lentz' wonderfully individual music, but it was certainly worth it."
(Soundscapes Magazine Australia)
-"Important music ... Despite the huge rests, it makes so much sense formally that the interruptions take on the character of breathing."
-"... almost timeless ... a sound-language with a strong message and masterly writing that doesn't just impress, but immediately grabs."
-"... dense, original and personal ... a talent of resolutely international stature ... "
-"...elaborated with an assurance that is beyond discussion. The very 'dotty' writing, interspersed with silences that are as evocative as they are meaningful, engenders an interior tension full of spirituality which is in constant relation to the subtlety of the musical argument ... very beautiful ... suggests things and speaks!"
"...cosmic silences in progression...One had had the happy idea to add (to an all-Xenakis orchestral programme) an important work by Luxembourg composer Georges Lentz. His 'Guyuhmgan', by its silences, its symbolism and its spiritual dimension, presented itself as an absolutely logical complement to Xenakis' elementary, archaic instrumental explosions...an evening full of strong and lasting impressions. It is truly difficult to remain indifferent to the sound messages of both Xenakis and Georges Lentz...visionary nobility..."
-"…Lentz possesses a unique musical vision which he uses to create works of great originality and beauty. This is music that taps into things far beyond earthly human emotion to make a powerful statement…Lentz is an absolutely superb craftsman -- with a personal musical language which he deploys with tremendous skill and clarity…distant beauty...The music is very strongly recommended. Lentz's sound world is an incredibly varied one. Yet it never lacks cohesion, and his works make substantial and original musical statements. This reviewer looks forward to more works and more recordings by this extremely talented composer."
(mvdaily.com Online Classical Music Magazine)
-"…...Conductor Brett Dean introduces Lentz as a composer who has "enriched the compositional world"... As Dean explains, Lentz was inspired by the sight of the stars which filled his ears with music. This inspiration is heralded in Caeli enarrant…III, not only by haunting violins, but also through the expansive silences which saturate the composition. Punctuated by sporadic pizzicati, Caeli enarrant…III unfurls gradually. As its conclusion draws near, 14 year old boy soprano Marcus Bordignon provides soaring, emancipatory vocals, evocatively canvassing for the audience the mysterious marvels of space."
(The Age, Melbourne)
-"…...Much of Lentz's music is unremittingly serious and frequently of searing intensity."
(West Australian, Perth)
-"…...attractive, chorale-like string writing and bright major chords contrasted with aggressive blocks of dissonance..."
(New York Times)
-"…...infused with his own concerns over astronomy and spirituality...ridden with pregnant single-note crescendi that rise out of potent silences...kept listeners on the edge of their chairs waiting for the sounds to emerge and harkening to the unexpected."
(Post Gazette, Pittsburgh)
-"...rewarding...an atmospheric skyscape produced from flecks of sound, including quarter-tones, but it does not only evoke the cosmos: the dense, dotted canvas also suggests the inspiration of the great Aboriginal artist Emily Kngwarreye."
(The Times, London)
-"...The other recent Australian work came over far more strongly...steady, regular chords, first muted, then percussively loud, before receding. At times these form a kind of chorale melody, at times they are thick clusters of indistinguishable notes; but both, intriguingly, seem to grow from the same starting point...rewarding..."
(The Guardian, London)
-"Fascinating ... demands intense listening."
-"... offered glimpses of altered states ... his string writing is consummate, and the imaginative range from dense dissonance to flashes of serene tonal writing is always finely judged."
-"...as far from busy conventionality as it was possible to be...celebrates timbre, quietness and the ability of small musical events to suggest by a small change of tone and sonority something as vast as the opening of a seam in the universe...some music, like some wine, is meant to be savoured, moment by moment..."
-"...one of the most original compositional voices to have emerged in Australian music in recent years - his music is like no other and seems to come from nowhere. First there is its celestial, gravity-free quality, which wouldn't be out of place in a science fiction film - Kubrick would have been delighted to learn that this was the sort of music which was actually written last year (2001)...The stillness of Lentz's music is palpable and unique...and the most absorbing moments in his pieces often evolve into considerable periods of silence. The other two qualities are themselves something of a contradiction: his music is at once objective and remote..., but also highly aurally attractive for its sensuous translucence, colour and aural purity. Taking all these together, the pieces evoke a sense of reflective calm, and the kind of profound inner contemplation which paradoxically takes one out of oneself...a sense of warmth and, about halfway through, even wonder in a world otherwise peacefully devoid of human frailty and passion...a sound world which is vivid yet ruminative...power and intensity. This is music which invites you into its quiet thoughtfulness, sensuous colour and awe."
-"…an essay in eternity…most fascinating in its sense of constant movement, a steady, inexorable pace of change as the strings cycled through microtonal and microtimbral transformations…a genuinely meditational work, not just an easy, hypnotic wash of sound…a turning, growing cycle of harmonies and textures which demanded and rewarded close listening...the sense of movement was even sustained across the lengthy silences called for in the score."
-"...introduced a fresh and arresting dimension to the sound which encapsulated that composer's gift for original gestures...There is no prevarication or pretence, but simply a doggedly honest attempt to strip away and get to the essence...a singular vision."
-"...evokes the infinitude of space to find transcendent calm: the sort of tranquillity God must feel on a quiet day. At the opening, clarinettists, scattered around the orchestra, burble the piece into life and the progress of the work is prosecuted with such minimal movement and noise that the long silences that Lentz inserts seem as musically significant as the other textures - a whispered cello chorale burnished with muted trumpets, or a heavier, lumbering chord sequence complicated by scratched rustling on the violas. At the end Lentz scores a thick chord across the orchestra's full pitch range of the sort that would normally conjure Beethovenian power, except that conductor John Storgards subdued it to breathless quietness, making it diminish on each reiteration like the sound of the universe receding. Lentz's musical vision is original and full of awe....After Lentz's quiet vastness, Holst's solar system seemed rather provincial..."
-"Notes at the edge of the abyss:
(Sydney Morning Herald)
-"For Australian-based Georges Lentz, the source of inspiration for his large cycle of works "Caeli enarrant..." is to be found in the universe...Lentz' cosmic soundscapes are not at all superficially mystical, as one might perhaps expect. Lentz thinks directly in terms of sound, which, with all the modern compositional techniques at his disposal, he skillfully shapes into contradictory, fragmentary structures. These incorporate static fields and micro-tonal fluctuations as well as ostinato rhythms and expressive gestures. Even the built-in silences quite naturally become an eloquent means of expression."
(Fono Forum HiFi Magazine, Germany)
-"For 20 years [Georges Lentz] has been working on a cycle of compositions inspired by Hubble telescope images of outer space and Pythagoras’s theory of the music of the spheres, along with aspects of Aboriginal culture. Called Caeli enarrant (the Heavens are telling) each work is written for various combinations of instruments and takes up to 10 years to complete, so the premiere of one of these extraordinarey pieces is an event in itself.-"
(The Glebe, Sydney, Australia)
-"...God knows he isn't short on imagination, but he is determined to work quietly away on his own ambitious projects ... demonstrates ambition and imagination (as well as technique) ... Lentz is not playing by anyone else's rules...a one-off. I very much hope that the oddness of his music will increasingly be seen as something in his favour, and that we will hear more performances and recordings of this talented composer's work."
-"...concentrated, precise, refined, beautifully structured. Lentz aspires to purity in his music. In today's market-led cultural climate, he may find it hard to court popularity. But he is good."
(24 Hours Magazine Australia)
"This fascinating Naxos CD confronts us with music whose concentrated power, whether in forte or in pianissimo, with violent impact or in silence, touches one as though Scriabin himself had been resurrected. Music which, in the growing darkness of our world, opens for us the cosmos in all its magnificence. Music which makes us forget the everyday with its mundane trivialities and tells us more powerfully than even Messiaen was able to that God is the Omnipotent...The unbelievable concentration of these compositions and their great intensity help us break through the veil we take to be reality. Georges Lentz' music, unlike so many other products in today's music business, is no ersatz mysticism, but mysticism in its purest and most beautiful sense...A journey to the mystical roots of our civilization. "
(Pizzicato Music Magazine)
-"... a gem ... an intense and highly imaginative exploration of the string quartet repertoire ... sizzling colour ... "
-"...crafted with delicacy and a highly innovative approach to orchestration..."
-"...Lentz continues to experiment with sounds that act as dots dappling a night sky. His illustrative prowess is palpable, as one really feels transported to Central Australia, with native wildlife dancing under the vast southern skies...Under conductor Edo de Waart, the orchestra communicated the subtle flavours of the work well...The aural challenges are great...but have their rewards. Lentz is fast becoming an original and creative artist, with an ability to translate the interest and complexity of the Australian landscape into vivid orchestral sounds and colours."
-"...Lentz's luminous gems glisten like the pearly beads of a rosary, touching only momentarily hints of some higher unspoken design...Especially fascinating was a kind of musical trompe-l'oeil: Where is that sound coming from? What does it lead to?... a kind of shorthand notebook of music-yet-to-come, part of his continuing monumental cycle, Mysterium. "
-"... As a composer, Lentz is preoccupied with the universe and our place in it. His musical response is profound, contemplative and deeply considered. Lentz is not content to simply repeat himself musically. In two significant ways, the new piece is quite different from previous Mysterium works such as Birrung, Ngangkar and Guyuhmgan. First, and most obvious, is his use of solo viola to connect otherwise disparate blocks of orchestral sound. Violist Tabea Zimmermann executed the demanding solo line with technical brilliance and interpretative intensity, weaving delicate sul ponticello and sul tasto effects with passages of rich tonal colours and sinuous legato phrasing. Second, tempos are more varied and the rhythmic range is wider. Lentz undercuts his trademark serenely sighing string lines with abrasive sonorities - rasping woodwinds, snarling muted brass - to create a slightly disturbing sound world. "
"...an enthralling contemplation...inspired...spun an eerie spell that brought a deathly quiet to the hall...spine-tingling music..."
(Courier Mail, Brisbane)
-"...tender...had an inner fire...in violent tone-clusters as in pianissimo chords pulled out of thin air."
(Kansas City Star)
Premieres of the Year:
"At a time when too much new music has become facile and watery in its attempt to make an immediate appeal to as large a constituency as possible, I am always relieved to hear young composers take the opposite track, challenging audiences to think rather than bathing them in an emulsion of new age dross, soft or loud, fast or slow...stood out...uncompromisingly refined, exquisitely imagined... the Lentz has my vote."
(Classical Music Magazine, UK)
-"...a real find...a remarkable tour de force...Lentz' music takes the listener on a fascinating journey...this is wonderful music...an unexpected masterpiece from the far from dying classical music business."
"...Georges Lentz's complete current published output is now available in commercial recordings. I hasten to say that there is nothing wrong with this, for Lentz's music is well worth having and repays repeated listenings. ...No saintliness here, but a contemporary man’s meditation and questioning of life and death, the present world and (maybe) the hereafter. There is nothing narrowly parochial in Lentz’s music either...ecstatic beauty. Lentz's quantatively small but qualitatively high output is the expression of an honest and sincere creativity reflecting deeply personal experience. Lentz's voice is definitely distinctive - one to be reckoned with...Warmly recommended."
"...a dreamy, mysterious evocation of a starry sky...suggests the extraordinary images caught by telescopes such as the Hubble telescope...beautifully atmospheric, superbly scored pieces in which Lentz’s orchestral mastery is evident throughout."
-"... impresses not only by the composer's ability to write, but above all by his ability to speak. It is a long time since I heard music that fascinated me this much by its restrained intensity."
"...'Monh' is a viola concerto that penetrates into new dimensions and leaves behind the typical concerto form. Even though it is an introverted work, it is not boring for one moment. Lentz achieves the feat of taking the listener by the hand and guiding him through his cosmic world...conjures up visionary images...the most extraordinary sounds..."
-"...deeply elegiac,...sonorous, meditative,...a pianissimo prayer, all profoundly moving."
(North Shore Times, Sydney)
-"... impressive ... contains a whole world view, which he develops out of his fascination with astronomy and the Buddhist music of Tibet, yet the sounds also speak for themselves ... defines a new sound space, dense and communicative ... at once human and unearthly ... "
-"... strong applause for 'Caeli enarrant ... ' III ... "
(Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin)
-"...a real surprise...'Mysterium' surprises by its utmost introspection."
(Dagblad Trouw, Amsterdam)
-"...magical...an unblinking contemplation of the soul...demands a great deal from the players (and the audience)...notwithstanding, the result was wonderful...The deeply reflective but often glistening stillness inexorably draws the sensitive listener into its mystical world: whether of the mysterious infinity of the firmament or the deepest kernel of the person (are they akin?), this piece probes the quiddity of existence. It was a profound and wondrous beginning to our concert year..."
(Sun Herald, Sydney)