Agnus Dei was Gerald and Hilde Krampl; Hilde, a poet, died of cancer in 2002. This album, of piano works by Gerald based on Hilde’s last poems, may in some sense be taken as a tribute. Gerald Krampl was a founder and keyboard player for the symphonic rock bands Kyrie Eleison and Indigo some time back, and has since become involved in meditation, runes, and reiki, interests that Hilde shared.
That said, I really wanted to like this album more than I did. It is perfectly pleasant music, catchy in places, the melodies are fluent and somewhat engaging, the arrangements are accomplished, and one certainly cannot fault Krampl’s musicianship. (One is forced to conclude that this is a one-man show, since no other musicians are credited.) The songs are based on Hilde’s last poems, included with the disc in German and English. They seem vaguely Pagan in nature, but only vaguely – what passes for Pagan in new age circles, with none of the bite and passion of heartfelt religious experience. (Not to denigrate the poet’s feelings – I simply cannot know what she felt, and the poems don’t really bring it home in any real way, which is, after all, one of the purposes of poetry.) (Personal bias note: the poems are printed centered on the page, which in my opinion reduces the impact of the line breaks, as well as undercutting the visual impact, which is a vital consideration to many poets.)
The music likewise suffers from lack of depth. There is a sameness to these songs, not that they could all be one song (a fault in some CDs I have suffered through recently), but perhaps an unfortunate result of the solo piano over severely restricted accompaniments, a matter of flat dynamics and a reductive melodic line – it’s a piano, one is allowed to play more than one note at a time, and one is not required to perform in a uniformly middle level – I would have given the world for a good strong crescendo. There are passages of interest – the accompaniment in “Kinder der Sterne” (“Children of the Stars”) is reminiscent of some of Cusco’s more enchanting songs; there is hope at the beginning of “Vogel aus Holz” (translated as “Bird of Wood” when I would simply have said “Wooden Bird”), which opens with delightful, tinkly arpeggios – which, unfortunately, are soon lost in the standard presentation. The opening of “Der Apfelbaum” (“The Apple Tree”) is a poignant melody with immense possibilities that never are realized. Krampl finally breaks the mold a little in “Die Eiche” (“The Oak Tree”), but only a little, and the songs do begin to open up a little, if sporadically. Unfortunately, by the time you get this far, your ears are numb.
I think it comes as no surprise that I can’t really recommend this one. In fact, I find myself with an overriding desire to plop Cusco’s Apurimac II on the changer in its place.
(Indigo Music, 2004)