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A clear labour of love, this is a compelling disc. Hans Erich Apostel (1901-73) was a Karlsruhe-born composer who studied in Vienna with Schoenberg, and later with Berg.

All three works here are inspired by artworks by Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin. The elusive nature of Apostel’s Variationen über ein einiges Thema Op 1 is delightful, its title mirroring a sequence of phototypes by Kokoschka. Expressionist and passingly dodecaphonic, the fourth and fifth variations are unbearably beautiful.

The remaining works take their inspiration from Kubin, an Austrian fantastical artist important to both Expressionism and Symbolism. Kubiniana comprises 10 miniatures, which, like Kubin’s art, are quizzical, angular and playful; Malengreau pitches them perfectly. For the Schemen nach Zeigniungen von Alfred Kubin, Apostel uses musical ciphers; the sense of exploration in Malengreau’s performance is palpable. Both Op 1 and Schemen are world premiere recordings; there are a couple of alternatives to Kubiniana, but Malengreau reigns supreme.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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