Excerpt from the booklet
Wild Children have always occupied the mythic and literary
imagination. They embody the limits of nature and civilization
and offer, so it seems, a glimpse at humanity in its natural
state - if only in single, rare specimens.
Kaspar Hauser is a late bloom and the apex of a long line
of Wild Children in Europe. He appears in Nuremberg on Whitmonday
1828, scarcely able to walk or speak. His arrival soon is
the talk of the town. Held for observation in a local jail
tower, the foundling quickly becomes a tourist attraction.
A proclamation, issued soon after by Mayor Binder, marvels
at Hauser's "highest innocence of nature" and
mentions his incarceration of many years. Because of his
"most marvelous endowments of spirit, of temperament
and heart", a kind of natural nobility, Binder speculates
that the boy might have been deprived of "his riches,
perhaps even of the advantages of noble birth". The
foundling is, in effect, declared a prince. Newspapers everywhere
reprint the story, making it a pan-European sensation.
The legal scholar Anselm von Feuerbach conducts the official
investigation. He concludes that Hauser is the heir to the
Grand Duke of Baden, abducted in order to manipulate the
line of succession. The Berlin police councilor Merker,
on the other hand, declares in 1830 that Hauser is but a
common crook. Since then, historians have assembled surprisingly
extensive circumstantial evidence supporting the theory
that Hauser was indeed a prince of Baden. (...) Kaspar Hauser
spends five and a half years in the sensation-loving public
eye. The high school teacher G. F. Daumer teaches him to
speak, read and write. Drawing, water color and chess lessons
are part of the program as well. In October 1829, an unsuccessful
attempt on Hauser's life is made. The would-be assassin
Hauser spends the final two years of his life until a murderer's
dagger cuts it short in December 1833. With his death, Hauser's
story is thrown wide open to his interpreters in psychology
and jurisprudence, in history and pedagogy, in literature
and the fine arts.
Klaus Janek´s recording is an outstanding contribution
to this artistic Kaspar Hauser tradition.
Klaus Janek, double bass
born 1969 in Bolzano, Italy, occupies himself with both
abstract and groove music and while always relying on improvisation.
He captures moods and tells stories. Klaus Janek studied
double-bass with Mauro Muraro, and has been inspired by
Dave Holland and Peter Kowald. He performs regularly throughout
Europe and USA as soloist as well as in various groups and
has collaborated with many dance- and theatre productions.
Lives in Berlin.
The double-bassist Klaus Janek, born in Bolzano, Italy in
1969 and resident in Berlin, has set himself a mighty task
for his second solo recording: by playing an hour of music
for unaccompanied bass, he finds himself in the redoubtable
company of masters such as William Parker, Barry Guy and
the late and much lamented Peter Kowald, which is a considerable
challenge in itself. Moreover he runs the risk of being
accused of producing ´monotonous´ or even ´boring´
music, along the lines of, An hour of SOLO bass?
You must be joking!
A renowned critic of an equally renowned American jazz periodical
recently uttered the expert opinion that Sixteen bars
of bass goes a long way with me. More than 32, and I begin
to balance my checkbook in my head. (John McDonough,
Downbeat, May 2004, p. 62). Janek´s source of inspiration
is not exactly trivial either: the life and times of the
enigmatic Kaspar Hauser.
On Whit Monday 1828, in the city of Nuremberg, this mysterious
foundling suddenly springs up from nowhere. He walks clumsily
and laboriously and is hardly able to speak. The reactions
of those who meet him range from pure sensationalism regarding
´this circus act´ to sincere attempts to make
this unhappy, wild child comply with the rigid rules of
society. Soon rumour spreads that Hauser is a con man, yet
there are signs that suggest noble birth. One thing, however,
gradually becomes a certainty: this young man had been imprisoned
in total isolation from earliest childhood. Later, revealing
evidence indicates that he seems to have been an unwanted
element in the line of succession. In October 1829 there
is a first attempt on his life, and finally, in December
1833, he is stabbed by an unknown murderer.
This tragic and fleeting life has always been the subject
of strong interest which was considerably intensified when
the Austrian writer Peter Handke made Kaspar the subject
of his eponymous theatre play in 1968.
Janek´s intention is to outline certain aspects of
this human existence, yet without resorting to the frequently
naïve illustrations of programme music. Beethoven was
already aware of the pitfalls of that kind of music, pointing
out that in his Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, his reference
was less to musical ´Malerei´ (´depiction´)
than to ´Gefühle´ (´emotions´)
aroused by the countryside. Similarly, Janek is not interested
in merely ´depicting´ situations, but in delicately
limning innermost sensitivities. First Years, almost exclusively
played pizzicato, gives the impression of sketching the
innocence and carefreeness of early childhood which even
Kaspar Hauser may have known for a short while. Arriving
in the Box, the start of his imprisonment, makes us painfully
feel the fear and panic this human being must have experienced
on his arrival in the dungeon that was to confine him for
16 interminable years. The piece is full of hectic runs,
harsh multiple stops, left-hand pizzicati slamming onto
the finger-board, disembodied sounds created by bowing close
to the bridge, all intensified by human howls of anguish.
One Day out of Sixteen Years, dragging along in a leaden
trot, makes shivers run down one´s spine on account
of the painful claustrophobia and the ceaseless torture
of endless repetition which Janek vividly renders through
obsessively reiterated figures and sounds.
In my humble opinion, Free is the most successful piece
of the recital. How will this young man have experienced
this wonderful thing called freedom, considering that he
came out of total isolation and had not been given the chance
to consciously experience freedom? We can only guess. At
any rate, he must have been deeply disconcerted and disoriented
in a world that he was unable to understand, that is difficult
to comprehend for each and every one of us. The over-stimulation
of his senses must have been unbearable. All this admirably
mirrored in Janek´s music. For several minutes it
is well-nigh impossible to find a point of reference in
this mad polyphony. Everything is helter-skelter, breathlessly
falling over itself, Janek´s fingers and bow are all
over the instrument. And then, amidst the confusion, this
young virtuoso miraculously succeeds in drawing lines and
opening windows which make it possible for Kaspar as well
as the listener to gain a foothold, to discover familiar
elements. Consider how satisfying it is when, after long
and intense study, you eventually understand a complex work
of art which, incidentally, is exactly what Janek
When listening to the recital for the first time, you may
well find the Last Menuet the most simply touching piece.
Do a cheerful courtly dance and Kaspar´s gloomy fate
actually go together? They do in Janek´s hands
how moving this ambiguous happy/sad menuet sounds, the last
dance the doomed creature performs on this worldly stage;
how sensitively this clumsy menuet reflects Kaspar´s
awkward body movements and the pity of his life. The dance
breaks off just as abruptly as Kaspar´s tragic life
The Epilogue comes full circle. There are many motivic references
to First Years, subtly modified by Janek. Life has left
Janek may still have a few steps to take on his way to equalling
the awesome mastery of the above-mentioned double-bass virtuosos.
His proficiency, however, is already formidable, all the
more so because it is always at the service of a higher
musical end. It´s almost unbelievable that the recordings,
which boast excellent, natural and full sound, were made
without overdubbing, without cuts no jiggery-pokery
As is my wont, I first listened to the record without any
preliminary information. Yet right from the start, Janek´s
music moved me deeply, I ´felt´ it despite
its complexities. Even so, it will reveal all its beauties
and subtleties only after several hearings. However, I´m
sure that open-minded listeners will feel that this music
strikes a sympathetic chord in their own sensibilities.
Do open your senses to this wonderful music. It´s
not an easy ride, but you will be richly rewarded.
The CD, whose beautiful graphic design is an additional
attraction, is issued by Helma Schleif´s fine, Berlin-based
a/l/l label, a sister label of the legendary FMP (Free Music
Production). How fortunate for artists and listeners alike
that there are still adventurous producers like her who
are willing to take the plunge again and again. If not for
them, our musical lives would be considerably poorer.
© Werner Merz (English version by the author)