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Dutch composer Andriessen has already tackled Plato (De Staadt) and Dante (La Commedia) and now turns his attentions to the 17th-century German Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher.

Andriessen has created an explosion of fantasy and invention, remarkable for its wit, erudition and genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Nine scenes and an epilogue follow Kircher through travels and travails, accompanied by a spooky boy of 12, whizzing from the catacombs under St Peter’s to China to Breughel’s Tower of Babel, meeting the weird and wonderful en route.

Andriessen’s arresting and atmospheric music is wide-ranging in its references, from folk to baroque to jazz, but never resorts to pastiche, and is conducted with zest in this live recording by Reinbert de Leeuw. British baritone Leigh Melrose copes with the multitudinous languages of Helmut Krausser’s libretto to great effect as Kircher and Lindsay Kesselman is wonderfully ambiguous as the boy. Do try it: like any good roller-coaster, once off you’ll probably want to go round again.

FRANCIS MUZZU Read the full review on Agora Classica

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