This is the most moving new album I’ve heard in some time. The composer states that the music is a tribute to authors and filmmakers who broke down the barriers between dreams and reality. Each of the 15 pieces is meant to evoke the state of dreaming. The album strikes me in a very personal way regarding my progress as a writer. A quarter century ago I was writing poetry, and drew much of my subject matter from the series of four acute psychoses I suffered around that time. I tried to recreate the dreamlike storytelling of the psychotic state in a way that was genuine for my readers, and am happy to say that nearly all that poetry found its way into print. Mia Brentano’s music on this CD departs from the typical classifications of classical music. Rather, River of Memories is a concept album, in the manner of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper. The River is a kind of stream of conscious- ness that leads from one work into another. It displays a dramatic unity despite the vast differences between the pieces in style, genre, and instrumentation. Very personally for the composer, this is a River of Memories because some of the music dates back at least 30 years. The three largest works come from the heyday of experimental music as it had evolved into the 1980s and 1990s. Mia Brentano’s works are assembled here in order to provide an artistic framework that sets off the compositions to their best advantage. The album’s subtitle, A Mystery Trip, seems an homage to The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. Brentano seeks a new way to offer the classical experience, typified by the hilarious takeoff on Brahms’s lullaby in the final piece’s title, “Brahms is Sleeping.”
In reworking old with new materials to create a coherent whole, Brentano follows in the footsteps of Berlioz’s Lélio. There also is a parallel to Robert Schumann’s Carnaval, where each genre piece is fitted like a jewel into the whole setting. I am particularly taken with Brentano’s utilization of the whole world of modern electronic instrumentation and record-
ing technology. There are synthesizers, noises, overdubbings of instruments and voices, and shifts in perspectives in the recorded mix, along with some plain old-fashioned beautifully balanced recorded sound for acoustic instruments. This album begins and ends with works for clarinet and piano, as if to say this is where the composer’s heart is, and also the eternal musical verity where everything starts and finishes. There is narration in three of the works—in five languages—focusing less on the meaning of the texts than on the beauty and rhythm of the spoken voice, as framed by various tonal and atonal musical motifs. Something must be said about the pseudonym “Mia Brentano,” for the actual composer, who is also the liner note writer and sometime performer, is the eminent German musicolo- gist Klaus Martin Kopitz. Is the scholar the male, Klaus, while the composer is the female, Mia? Leonard Bernstein, who juggled multiple careers, said he was half male, half female. Or perhaps gender has nothing to do with River of Memories. Maybe the composer reserves the right to create a persona, just as he has created the music.
Listeners to Mia Brentano’s Hidden Sea, written for two pianos, may be completely blindsided by the variety and experimentation of River of Memories. It is indeed an album of Beethoven-like range, coming from a Beethoven scholar. The scope of Mia Brentano’s achievement and enterprise puts most of our well-known contemporary composers to shame. Liszt and Wagner in their day were said to have created “the music of the future.” Mia Brentano, if other composers would only listen and learn, probably is the future. Want List material. Dave Saemann