Kurt Schwaen (1909-2007, East-German)

Kurt Schwaen (1909-2007) was an East-German composer, a collaborator of Bertold Brecht at the Berliner Ensemsble in the 1950s and an “official” of East-German music: “Schwaen has held numerous honorary positions, e.g. in the Association of Composers and Musicologists and in the Academy of Arts, to which he was named official member in 1961. His compositional output, which spans seven and a half decades, contains more than 600 works in every genre, from song and chanson to choral music, piano works, chamber music and orchestral works, and includes opera and works for the ballet.” There’s a website for Schwaen.

I encountered his music through Megadisc Classics’ recording of his Music for Choir, MDC 7795. I didn’t find it very interesting and it didn’t give me incentive to explore more. Much of it sounds like harmonized folk music, and when it is more elaborate it rarely goes beyond Hindemith or Karl-Amadeus Hartmann or the pegagogical choruses of Carl Orff. Only one piece on the CD goes a little bit futher, “Gagarin” on a poem by Günter Kunert, sounding very “space-Ligeti”, with the mysterious hushness but without the violence, and it is no coincidence that it’s the one piece where Schwaen starts being interesting.

Comments are welcome