Klaus Janek     double bass solo
Price: 15.10 €
Purchase Order No.: 008
Klaus Janek double bass
First years
Arriving in the box
One day out of 16 years
Last menuet
Total time:  58:33

All music performed by Klaus Janek on a Pöllmann 5-string 3/4-size double bass
No overdubs, no cuts

Composed by Klaus Janek (GEMA)
Published by: Edition Harmonie & Rhythmus / Scoop Music GmbH / BMG Ufa Musikverlage

Recorded, mixed and mastered at db 29 (Berlin) by Mickie D., January 2004
Photos: Mike Auerbach (
Designed by Klaus Untiet (wppt:kommunikation)
Produced by Klaus Janek (
Helma Schleif (
EAN-Code: 4260013680088

Release date: March 02, 2004

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 escapes.
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.
Ulrich Struve

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.

MERZ/Music I
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 has created.
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 did.
The Epilogue comes full circle. There are many motivic references to First Years, subtly modified by Janek. Life has left its traces.
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 here!
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)


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