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Composed: 2008-2009
Length: c. 17 minutes
Orchestration: 3 flutes (1st = piccolo, 2nd & 3rd = alto flute), oboe, English horn, 3 clarinets (2nd = E-flat clarinet, 3rd = bass clarinet), soprano saxophone (= tenor saxophone), alto saxophone (= baritone saxophone), 2 bassoons (2nd = contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (almglocken, bass drum, bongos, drum set, gongs, marimba, plate bells, sleigh bells, suspended cymbals, tam-tams, temple blocks, tom-toms, triangle, tubular bells, vibraphone), harp, piano (= celesta), and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (U.S. premiere)

Most of Enno Poppe’s music has been written for specialist new music ensembles, including Berlin’s ensemble mosaik, which he has led for 15 years. “Work with them is comparable to work in a laboratory: one can try out a huge variety of things,” Poppe says. “Working directly with musicians takes me a bit further personally; I often have my best ideas through direct interaction with the musicians.” In the last few years, however, he has been writing orchestral music, moving his ideas from the lab into production, as it were.

Or to the public market, in this particular case. In many ways, Poppe’s orchestral pieces are chamber music for a multitude. The strings in Markt, for example, are rigorously subdivided, almost to the point of one player per part. The result, though, is that of a sectional hyper-instrument rather than fragmentation; quiet, shivering cells of staggered, microtonally inflected gestures. “Perhaps one could describe my chords as distorted spectral chords, or dented nature,” Poppe says. These string constellations (in 27 parts, some of them divided further) dominate the short first movement, punctuated by winds and percussion. They coalesce into rhythmically activated chords, abruptly broken off after a huge crescendo.

A brief return to the opening string shimmering leads directly into the second movement, which is carried forward by swirling winds, again quiet at first, and starting in low registers. Pitched percussion, including piano and celesta, gradually takes over, contesting the unstable ground with the winds and strings.

Percussion makes the quiet connection to the next movement this time, with brittle sounds and textures goosed by the drum set and pizzicato strings. Longer than the other two movements combined (the ratio is 15:55:100), it is both summation and organic development. It obsesses over a bluesy fragment, introduced by alto saxophone, which, with the underlying drum set ostinato, puts a jazzy sheen on Poppe’s ruffled textures. After seriously extroverted climaxes for almost every instrument, individually and collectively, the music again lands softly, going out with the soft, wayward ticking of the drum set.

Poppe describes his work in Markt as a “complex system [based on] numerous individual characters; dynamic, sometimes unpredictable, always too much of everything.” The market here seems to be a stock exchange for musical ideas, a motivic free trade emporium. It was premiered in Cologne in 2009 by Susanna Mälkki and the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie.

— John Henken