04 max andrzejewski mythosMax Andrzejewski – Mythos
Berliner Ensemble; Max Andrzejeskski
Backlash Music (backlashmusic.net)

German drummer and composer Max Andrzejewski’s work takes up stylistic residence somewhere in between the freedom of jazz, energy of experimental rock and historically informed European classical music. His four-movement Mythos bears the earmarks of these multivalent stands of musical DNA, effectively interpreted by the 12-member Berliner Ensemble. 

The liner notes give us insight into the work’s origin story, boldly proclaiming that “the piece is born out of Max’s violent interaction with Richard Wagner’s infamous Ring Cycle […] built on German myth.” The resulting work “deals with the artistic remains of a much heralded prophet of classical music the way it maybe should be dealt with: scrap it and leave it for parts.” 

While few contest the ambition and grandeur of Wagner’s hefty four-opera cycle, or overlook his hateful personal anti-Semitism, how exactly does Andrzejewski repurpose this music? The notes claim he cites some (melodic) leitmotifs from the four overtures as a point of departure in Mythos, though it also imagines that, “even the most devoted Wagner connoisseur would have trouble picking out any trace of the original overtures.” I agree: Andrzejewski returns from his stealth mission having extracted thematic elements from his predecessor’s scores in order to recast them for his ensemble to render anew.

Moreover, with musicians hired from classical and jazz worlds Andrzejewski’s 21st-century group seamlessly integrates scored composition and improvisation using both acoustic and electronics. It inhabits a completely different world from Wagner’s 19th-century orchestral aesthetic. And for listeners today that’s a good thing.

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