Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Latest From Eva-Maria Houben On Edition Wandelweiser

John Eyles By

Sign in to view read count
The last 2017 batch of releases from the Edition Wandelweiser label consisted of six albums including one by the Swiss duo of Cyril Bondi and d'incise, a double album of piano pieces by the late Hermann Meier played by Dominik Blum, and a chilling but intriguing Michael Winter album featuring readings from The Limits of Mathematics by Gregory Chaitin, accompanied by sound samples from an impressive cast. However, the remaining three albums of the batch were all by pianist-organist-composer Eva-Maria Houben, a long-standing Wandelweiser member whose music has mainly been issued on Edition Wandelweiser or, in recent years, her own Diafani label. Showcasing different aspects of her work, the three latest albums combine to create an impressive picture of Houben. Thankfully, this influx of music provides a perfect reason to focus on her....

Eva-Maria Houben
Voice with Piano
Edition Wandelweiser

Recorded in March 2016, Voice with Piano is true to its title. It features Houben as performer and composer, performing three of her compositions, playing piano alongside soprano Irene Kurka. The disc opens with the three-part "Adagio" with text by the Belgian Felix Timmermans (1886-1947), sung in the original Flemish. So, non-Flemish speakers will not get the literal meaning of the words but, thanks to Kurka's expressive singing, their drama and emotion is all too clear. The piano and vocals perform separately, allowing their individual melodies to be clearly heard. By contrast, on "Lyrik," with text in German by Hilde Domin, Houben opted for the piano to accompany the voice, the two combining well, with the piano effectively framing and supporting the voice.

The album is dominated by the five-part "Songs for the Island" ("Lieder für die Insel"), with Houben's own text, which runs for over twenty minutes, the lion's share of the album. The piece is unmistakably from the Wandelweiser stable, its single notes surrounded by silences being one tell-tale sign. Although the parts are distinctly different, a recurring motif of a single note struck repeatedly ties the five together into a unified, satisfying whole, a mark of Houben's skills as a composer.

Eva-Maria Houben, Rebecca Lane, Samuel Dunscombe
Observing Objects
Edition Wandelweiser

Observing Objects is in stark contrast to Voice with Piano in several ways and it helps expand the picture of Houben and her music. Once again, she is featured both as performer and composer, this time playing in the company of Samuel Dunscombe on bass clarinet and Rebecca Lane on bass flute, on recordings dating from May 2017. Ingeniously, the album consists of two versions of the title piece, the first with Houben on organ, the second on piano, each one lasting about twenty-nine minutes. The 2017 co-composition with Dunscombe and Lane contrasts dramatically with the older, more classical pieces on Voice with Piano, at times sounding as if could have been improvised rather than through-composed.

On the first version, all three instruments play prolonged notes that overlap and, because of their similar sounds, blend to create a richly-detailed but ever-shifting soundscape that would have satisfied many a listener if it had filled the entire CD. On the second version, the piano is higher than the wind instruments, but they play higher to accommodate it, the three instruments being more distinguishable than on the preceding version. As versions of the same piece, the two work well side by side, complementing each other and highlighting the composition's strengths. This CD is a good starting place to hear Houben.

Eva-Maria Houben
Voice with Harp
Edition Wandelweiser

Although credited to Houben, as all of its compositions are hers, she does not play on Voice with Harp which is performed by the duo of harpist Christine Kazarian and soprano Tatiana Kuzina. Recorded in April and August 2017, the album opens with the 2009 solo harp piece "Aeolian Harp" on which Kazarian gives a fine performance that highlights its sheer beauty.

In an inspired piece of programming, the album features both "Adagio" and "Songs for the Island" from Voice with Piano, allowing for comparisons of the pieces with the different instruments. Unsurprisingly, despite subtle differences between the versions, both pieces work just as well with harp as with piano. It would be senseless to say that one version is "better" than the other, because to appreciate them as compositions both versions should be heard at length.

Another intriguing choice is the inclusion of "Two Songs with Piano" here. The pieces may have been composed with piano in mind, but the versions here show them to be ideal for harp and voice. The remaining track, "Hatid," again displays the simple, uncluttered beauty that typifies so many Houben compositions.

Taken together, these three releases make a varied and fascinating introduction to Houben. With every track being of a high standard, they make a strong case for her being better known and appreciated. Highly recommended.

Tracks and Personnel

Voice with Piano

Tracks: Adagio: 1; 2; 3; Lyrik; Lieder für die Insel (Songs for the Island): 1; 2; 3; 4; 5.

Personnel: Irene Kurka: soprano; Eva-Maria Houben: piano.

Observing Objects

Tracks: Observing objects (bass flute, bass clarinet, organ); Observing objects (bass flute, bass clarinet, piano).

Personnel: Samuel Ekkehardt Dunscombe: bass clarinet; Rebecca Lane: bass flute; Eva-Maria Houben: organ, piano.

Voice with Harp

Tracks: Aeolian Harp; Adagio: 1; 2; 3; Hatid; Two Songs with Piano: 1; 2; Songs for the Island: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5.

Personnel: Tatiana Kuzina: soprano; Christine Kazarian: harp.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read 3x3: Piano Trios, vol. III Multiple Reviews
3x3: Piano Trios, vol. III
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 10, 2018
Read New releases from Jürg Frey, Clara de Asis and Stefan Thut Multiple Reviews
New releases from Jürg Frey, Clara de Asis and Stefan...
by John Eyles
Published: December 7, 2018
Read Classic vinyl remasterings from Storyville Multiple Reviews
Classic vinyl remasterings from Storyville
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 5, 2018
Read Thumbscrew: Ours & Theirs Multiple Reviews
Thumbscrew: Ours & Theirs
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 25, 2018
Read 3x3: Piano Trios, vol. II Multiple Reviews
3x3: Piano Trios, vol. II
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 19, 2018
Read Lee Michaels: Dinosaurs Still Rule! Multiple Reviews
Lee Michaels: Dinosaurs Still Rule!
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read "Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money" Multiple Reviews Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money
by Doug Collette
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy" Multiple Reviews Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy
by Doug Collette
Published: November 3, 2018
Read "Kasper Staub: Slow Music for Fast Times" Multiple Reviews Kasper Staub: Slow Music for Fast Times
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 13, 2018
Read "The Song Poetry of William Parker" Multiple Reviews The Song Poetry of William Parker
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 19, 2018
Read "A Six-String Travelogue" Multiple Reviews A Six-String Travelogue
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 18, 2018