Readers of the blog may have listened to the work of veteran German contemporary composer Ernstalbrecht Stiebler (born in 1934) thanks to the Swiss label HatHut’s subsidiaries, hat Art and hat[now]Art’s releases in the nineties, Three in One and ...Im Klang… (1996, 1998). These albums and other compositions of Stiebler featured his main interests: sonority, rhythm, and duration reduced to minimalist, repetitive lines and suggesting a deep sonic space. His work is often associated with the seminal work of composers as Morton Feldman and Giacinto Scelsi, but with clearer structures and with a stronger focus on tonality.
Bulgarian, Berlin-based violinist-experimental improviser Biliana Voutchkova began to work with the Stiebler in 2007, a year before she relocated to Berlin when she and cellist Agnieszka Dziubak worked on his composition “Duo/4 Parallelen”, dedicated to both of them. Their relationship strengthed and in 2015 Stiebler wrote his first composition for Voutchkova, “Für Biliana”, for violin solo, and a year later he wrote another one, “Glissando”, which offered a different set of ideas. Two years ago Voutchkova discovered an earlier composition of Stiebler, “Extension” (1963) for a string trio and performed it in a concert of Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop, with cellist Michael Rauter and violist Nurit Stark. Then it was clear to her that she must present Stiebler to new audiences and she succeeded to do so in July 2019 when she recorded the four compositions were recorded anew at Studio 1, Bulgarian National Radio, Sofia.
“Für Biliana” demonstrates beautifully Steiebler’s strong individual voice and his own architecture of vibrant sounds, as Voutchkova alternating between articulating an emotional but mysterious, folk song-like and sustained, resonating lines that subvert the innocence of this song-like melody. “Glissando” suggests another patient experiment with another architecture of sounds, as the continuous descents and ascents of Voutchkova’s bow create hypnotic harmonies, allowing these reverberating tones to mirror each other and offer an almost tangible presence.
“Extension” for a string trio of cellist Rauter and violist Stark, offers a more dramatic narrative, still fragile and sparse, but with sudden, percussive outbursts and surprising, brief detours from the overall, quiet, haunting and minimalist atmosphere. The last, “Duo/4 Parallelen”, played by Voutchkova and cellist Rauter, intensifies even further the suggestive qualities of vibrating, sustained tones, creating a fascinating sense of stasis, out-of-time, and out-of-place. This piece, as the previous ones, is delivered with great patience and elegance and it envelops the attentive listener with its profound, meditative spirit.
Voutchkova is a natural interpreter of Stiebler work, having a strong voice of her own, and even a stronger will to keep exploring challenging and unknown territories.