Parallels (Beethoven): Shellac Reworks by Christian Löffler uses early recordings from Yellow Label archives to create 250th-anniversary tribute to Beethoven
Reworks built on performances recorded in the 1920s by Staatskapelle Berlin and Berliner Philharmoniker
Invited to experiment with Deutsche Grammophon’s Shellac Project– a collection of digitised material restored from early 20th-century 78s in a collaborative initiative with Google Arts & Culture – German musician, visual artist and producer Christian Löffler has created his own experimental electronica tribute to Beethoven. Löffler’s digital EP Parallels (Beethoven), featuring “Pastoral”, “Fate”, “Freiyheit” and “Funebre”, will be released on 27 November 2020 on the Yellow Label. As a taster, he presents the e-single “Pastoral” on 4 November.
“When listening to the recordings, I got the idea that Beethoven’s music was actually very human and accessible but became somewhat unearthly with decades of replaying and overthinking it,” Löffler explains. “I wanted to bring it back to the very basic feels.”
The artist was given open access to the Shellac Project by Deutsche Grammophon– he took the complete set of recordings to his log-cabin studio on Germany’s Darss peninsula and started improvising around individual tracks.
“I was jamming on my synths or on the piano to find melodies and sounds that kept the original idea but took it into my universe,” he adds. “My focus was to find little nostalgic moments that could make a good link to my music.”
Gradually the pieces that spoke most directly to him emerged and supplied the raw material for Parallels (Beethoven): Löffler chose ideas from the Sixth Symphony for “Pastoral”, the Fifth for “Fate”, the Overture to Egmont for “Freiyheit” and the “Eroica” Symphony for “Funebre”. The recording on which the latter is based was made in 1929 by the Berliner Philharmoniker, while the first three originals were made in 1930, 1928 and 1927 respectively by the Berlin Staatskapelle. In a further tribute, Löffler has also designed the project’s cover art, based on a photo shoot he set up on location at the Staatsoper in Berlin, home of the Staatskapelle.
Parallels (Beethoven) explores themes that surface often in Löffler’s music and visual art, from melancholia to euphoria. He works in the isolation of his studio on Germany’s Darss peninsula, an area of outstanding natural beauty that sustains and supports his introspective creative process. Although minimalist in many respects, his compositions are rich in tone colours, textural variety and expressive shades.
“We are delighted to embark on this explorative journey with Christian Löffler who brilliantly bridges a century of recording history,” says Deutsche Grammophon president Dr. Clemens Trautmann, “his sensitivity for the original work and for the artefact of a historic shellac recording combined with his boldness in creating new soundscapes make for a very exciting listening experience. He also ties together two threads that are relevant to the identity of our label: the Shellac Project created on Deutsche Grammophon’s 120th birthday and the work of Ludwig van Beethoven in his 250th-anniversary year – our company has recorded a stunning 60,000 minutes of his music over the last twelve decades. Let me also take the opportunity to thank Google Arts & Culture for the excellent collaboration on both celebrations and the great support for this specific project.”
Born in the northern German city of Greifswald in 1985, Christian Löffler taught himself the essentials of making and performing electronic music and forged a distinctly personal style of electronica. In 2006 he enrolled at the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Greifswald, broadening his skills as musician, visual artist and videographer. His debut album A Forest (2012) prompted one reviewer to compare Löffler to Satie and Spiegel Online to describe it as an instant “classic of contemplative house”. Subsequent albums, including 2019’s Graal (Prologue) and its sequel Lys (the Danish word for “light”), released in March this year, have combined ambient sounds, vocals, acoustic instruments and electronic sounds.