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2019/01/28

Jean Guillou 1930–2019

The Poet of the Organ

On the death of the organist and composer Jean Guillou

For Jean Guillou, it was both a duty and a privilege to dedicate his entire artistic life to the organ. As a performer he revolutionized the art of organ playing, as an improviser he fascinated whole generations of concert-goers, as a composer he opened the repertoire of the ‘king of instruments’ to areas which had been considered to be unimaginable before. Despite major health setbacks, a chronic asthma condition and a life-threatening TB infection, Guillou always pursued his objectives with unwavering relentlessness. Since 1963 he had been official organist at the church of St. Eustache in Paris. For three decades he had been a lecturer at the ‘Zurich Masterclasses’. Several renowned organs were built to his plans. Apart from organ recordings that have become classics, Guillou left an impressive compositional oeuvre of organ works and orchestra and chamber music.

It may have been a stroke of luck that Guillou had to manage without a professional organ teacher in the first years. As a young boy, he taught himself organ playing. At the age of twelve, he was so good that he could do the regular music ministry at Saint-Serge at home in Angers. There the seeds of Guillou’s undogmatic style of playing seemed to be sown, which later was to fascinate the organ world. It was, not least, his absolutely novel interpretation, with regard to phrasing, rhythm and accentuation, of the works by Johann Sebastian Bach, based on his profound knowledge of the works, that fascinated the audience and shocked the dogmatists of a pseudo-historical performance practice. A deep-felt artistic freedom which this outwardly gentle ‘young rebel of the organ’ would not let himself be talked out of even when he studied with the cream of the French music scene: Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé and Olivier Messiaen. ‘In the interpretation, you have to feel the presence and personality of the performer.’

The way how Guillou began his career both as an organist and as a pianist was more than unusual. Among the great achievements of the concert pianist is the rediscovery of the Piano Sonata by Julius Reubke. Even the appointment to professor of organ at the Istituto de Música sacra in Lisbon, when Guillou was only 25 years old, obviously did not hinder his double career. A long stay at a sanatorium brought the young professor to Berlin for several years; there his encounter with the German organs left a lasting impression. In 1963, Guillou was appointed official organist at the church of St. Eustache in Paris for life. Despite this great honour, the prophet was at first without honour in his own country. The international career of Guillou the soloist took place outside France, the scepticism of the traditionalists of the ‘French organ school’ about the free-spirited ‘revolutionist’ of the organ being too great.

Guillou’s amazing art of improvisation consequently resulted in the impulse of recording the music created on the spur of the moment in the form of musical notation – this was the birth of Guillou the composer. When asked for his compositional role models, the French composer always mentioned Bach first, but even the Renaissance masters of polyphony were at the top of his list. In addition, a significant triumvirate – from Romantic to modern composers: Schumann, Debussy, Stravinsky – left their unmistakable marks. No matter whether in the numerous Concertos for Organ and Orchestra, the delicate chamber music works or the works for large-scale symphony orchestra, Guillou was always looking for magic moments. His style was free of any dogmatic theories, he worked with sharp dissonances as well as with a conciliatory tonality. Being a great expert on world literature, he relied on a poetic narrative power which saw the musical motifs as characters of a dramatic action. Alice in Organ Land is the title of one of Guillou’s most poetic works. ‘My works have a positive outlook on life, bearing witness to the great power inherent in life.’

Guillou plays during the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2015

In the annual ‘Zurich Masterclasses’, Guillou taught about 250 students in the years from 1970 to 2005. To many of them, the encounter with the organist was a key moment for their future career. They respectfully called their always polite, yet in fact uncompromising teacher ‘maître’. Despite of his influence on a whole generation of organists, Guillou did not create a ‘school’ in the narrower sense of the word. Artistic vanity was alien to him. His classes were about developing the individuality of each student. Guillou taught a kind of analysis of the work which did not even stop at the smallest details; each student was to draw his or her own conclusions from the analyzed material according to their own horizons.

‘To me, the organ is nothing static.’ With organ adaptations like his arrangements of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition or Tchaikovsky’s Scherzo from Symphony No. 6, Guillou rigorously freed the organ repertoire from the traditional role of ‘sacred’ instrument. The musician was rarely satisfied with what existed. His great love of historical instruments did not stop him from making a decisive contribution to modern organ-building. Famous organs like the organs of Tonhalle Zurich or of the Auditorio de Tenerife go back to his designs.

Jean Guillou was a creator and designer who looked towards the future. ‘The organ has, despite all its changes, this special kind of seductiveness and fascination that will last even in the future, and it is this “future” that we have to favour and keep alive. – This is my desire, this is my endeavour, this is my passion!’ It is also up to us, his publisher, to preserve and foster Guillou’s legacy and take it to new frontiers, even if the guiding force along the way is now lost to us. Jean Guillou died on 26 January 2019 in Paris.

2018/11/26

Work of the Week – Bernd Alois Zimmermann: Des Menschen Unterhaltsprozess gegen Gott

To celebrate Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s centenary year, the Volksbühne Berlin will present his radio oratorio Des Menschen Unterhaltsprozess gegen Gott (The People’s Maintenance Payments case against God) staged for the first time on 26 November in a production by Christian Filips. A number of ensembles from Berlin will come together for the performance to form an immense cast, with Kai-Uwe Jirka conducting.

Living amongst the devastation of World War II in Cologne, Zimmermann composed Des Menschen Unterhaltsprozess gegen Gott based on Hubert Rüttger’s German translation of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s play Los Alimentos del hombre. The oratorio was first broadcast in 1952 in collaboration with the Cologne Westdeutscher Rundfunk, but was subsequently largely forgotten. The work features elements of melodrama, opera and early electronic music, while also drawing upon the music of Germany’s post-war occupiers, such as the jazz of the Americans, the French timbre of Debussy, and musical quotations from the Ballet Russes.

Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Des Menschen Unterhaltsprozess gegen Gott: a radio oratorio

Des Menschen begins with Adam violating God’s command, resulting in his banishment from the Garden of Eden to live on earth working as a farmer. Adam quickly grows tired of his new life, so when he one day meets the Devil, he readily accepts the Devil’s advice to sue God for maintenance, beginning a great metaphysical trial.

“The peculiarity and significance of this dedication to the glorification of the Holy Eucharist, with such intimate combinations of words and music, lends itself perfectly to the form of radio oratorio … I am looking forward to this great and beautiful task, above all because it could rescue an almost completely unknown work by Calderón from undeserved oblivion.” – Bernd Alois Zimmermann

Further performances commemorating Zimmermann’s centenary year include Dialogues, Symphony in One Movement and Monologues by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich on 14 December, and the WDR Symphony Orchestra will present a selection of Zimmermann’s works at the Kölner Philharmonie on 14 & 15 December, including his Violin Concerto.

2018/10/12

Thomas Larcher awarded 2018 Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco Musical Composition Prize

Schott Music is proud to announce that Thomas Larcher has been awarded the 2018 Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco Musical Composition Prize for his work Symphony No.2 ‘Kenotaph’. Continue reading “Thomas Larcher awarded 2018 Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco Musical Composition Prize”

2017/12/15

Rodion Shchedrin: 85th Birthday on 18 December

Schott congratulates the Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin who will be celebrating his 85th birthday on 16 December 2017! After performances of his works LevshaBoyarina MorozovaTwo Tangos by Albéniz and others, the highlight of the birthday year is still ahead of us: On 9 December, his Dialogues with Shostakovich will be performed for the first time in the
UK by the BBC Philharmonic with conductor Juanjo Mena at the Bridgewater Hall in
Manchester. A few days after Shchedrin’s birthday, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra will give two gala concerts (19 and 20 December) in his honour: together with Valery Gergiev and the Munich Philharmonic Choir, they will perform the “opera for the concert stage” The Enchanted Wanderer at the Philharmonie.
Right in time for his birthday, Schott has published the study score (ED 22786) and the vocal
score (ED 22785) of Shchedrin’s A Christmas Tale, premiered with overwhelming success at the
famous Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg in December 2015. UK and US premieres are still available, however, for this charming Christmas tale.

2017/09/11

Victor Ekimovsky: 70th Birthday

‘The creation of something new in every work is my ultimate compositional goal.’ (Victor Ekimovsky)

All Victor Ekimovsky’s compositions are indeed highly individualistic without one resembling another. The composer presents surprise after surprise with his original concepts and instrumental solutions emerging from his exceptional, innermost imagination. Belaieff and Schott Music offer their heartfelt congratulations to the composer of Graffiti, Attalea princeps, 27 Destruktionen and The Scarlet Flower on the occasion of his 70th birthday on 12 September.

Victor Ekimovsky – profile

2017/08/21

Wilhelm Killmayer 1927–2017

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Wilhelm Killmayer, who died on 20 August 2017, only one day before his 90th birthday. With the composer, the music world has lost one of its greatest individualists. By studying the tradition he found his own contemporary unmistakable style. He created orchestral works and chamber music for concert halls and wrote compositions for the music theatre. Into old age, Killmayer gradually increased his comprehensive oeuvre of lied compositions. The fact that wit and parody have again found their way into contemporary art music, is, without doubt, one of his greatest merits.

Alfred Schnittke once said about Killmayer’s music that it was new music with old means. The cantabile character of Robert Schumann’s music was more convincing to him than the theoretical superstructure of the avant-garde following the Second Viennese School. Based on an emphatic fascination for the music of past epochs, Killmayer developed an individual style which was contemporary – not least due to his will to alienation. In Killmayer’s style, the unfamiliar and the familiar united to form something new. Some years later, many of his aesthetic views were grouped under the label of postmodernism, which gained him at least the recognition of critics and fellow composers that was refused to him in his early years.

Ever since the musical farce Yolimba performed in 1964 Killmayer had made a stand against the aesthetic movements of his time. For the libretto written by Tankred Dorst he created an imaginative work full of musical wit and parodic references which had no fear of contact with entertaining and utility music. Killmayer’s music theatre pieces were closer to both the buffooneries of Jacques Offenbach and Eric Satie’s Dadaism than to the theory-driven avant-garde of those years. For Killmayer, the rediscovery of the comical in music became a personal act of liberation which had a lasting influence even on subsequent generations of composers.

In his early works, Killmayer developed the ostinato as defining element of his compositional style. Constant repetitions of motivic phrases or rhythmic figurations carried the tension of the dramatic development. Later, Killmayer added another essential means of compositional technique: radical reduction. Orchestral pieces like Nachtgedanken (1973) or the three chamber music works (The woods so wilde, 1970; Schumann in Endenich, 1972 and Kindertage, 1973) reduce the music to its component parts. The musical flow occasionally comes to an almost complete standstill, with soundless and noiseless bar rests constituting the end of a musical decay. Silence and sound, tension and relaxation are the contrastive pairs of this consistent reduction of the stylistic means to the essential. Although the melody remained as a principle, tonality and harmony lost their traditional function due to the separation of the sounds.

For Killmayer, composing music always was a process connected with the experience of nature: ‘I walk through almost silent late autumn woods and I hear my heart beating, I hear the sounds of the slowly surrendering nature and the echo of a bird’s call in my mind. Deeper and deeper do I go into its heart, where terror and peace are close to each other, where the fear stands still.’ Once the compositional process has begun, it follows its natural laws. The sequence of tones develops out of its own self, does not follow any theoretical pattern. For Killmayer, the tones possess a kind of personality which, through the clashing of their individual characters, could create a dramatic action, even in an instrumental work. It is this childlike wonder about a single note, adopted from Schubert, Schumann and Mahler, that characterizes the melody in Killmayer’s works. “A single note is very precious to me – like a crystal or a flower.” The notes speak without using any language.

The natural carrier of the melody is the voice. Killmayer gave expression to this idea in numerous vocal compositions. In the 1980s he composed the cycles of Hölderlin lieder which exist in versions with both piano and orchestral accompaniment. Later, he added Trakl, Eichendorff and Heine cycles. Until the last years of his life, Killmayer dealt with the lied genre in a productive way. The vocal works seismographically reflect Killmayer’s unique musical aesthetics. Here, again, the tension between repetition and reduction is present. Occasionally, the composer cautiously felt his way along the texts. The art of the fragile was created, showing breaks instead of covering them. Even the witty and the ordinary can be found in his lieder.

Wilhelm Killmayer remained tied to his roots in the city of Munich all his life. Here, he attended school, studied with Hermann Wolfgang von Waltershausen, Rudolf von Ficker and Carl Orff. In 1973 he became professor at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik. Except for some stays in Rome, Paris and Frankfurt on the Main, he spent his entire life in the immediate vicinity of the Bavarian capital. As composition teacher, he influenced a whole generation of composers. Due to his mistrust of any authoritarian system, learning was, to him, always a kind of experiencing based on his unrestrained curiosity. His way of teaching was undogmatic, the central thread running through his composition classes was provided by the works of the great composers themselves which were examined in perspective. Tracking down and actively understanding the creative process at the core of the compositions were at the centre of attention. Every student had to take the matter of implementing the experienced for their own process into their own hands: ‘In the course of composing a piece, the tones eventually tell you where they want to go to… there is nothing you can do against it.’

Killmayer’s works live on, in every moment that they are played by a musician and listened to by a listener. ‘My music lives in the past and in the future, and perhaps that is why it is ever-present.’ It is vital to maintain this principle of Killmayer. Schott Music will always remember him and be grateful for many years of fruitful collaboration and friendship.

2017/05/11

Infinite Now: Composer Portrait Chaya Czernowin (Video)

After Chaya Czernowin’s latest opera Infinite Now has been premiered at the Vlaamse Opera in Gent and Antwerp, Nationaltheater Mannheim is presenting the German premiere on 26 May, followed by the French premiere in June. In this film, Czernowin talks about her musical roots, her world of sound and the approach to the new opera.


A film by Gabriele Faust and students of the music communications department of the University of Cologne, 2017

Musical excerpts:
1) Chaya Czernowin: “anea crystal: seed I for string quartet” [© WERGO, a Division of Schott Music & Media]
2) Chaya Czernowin: “Die Kreuzung”, [© mode records]
3) Ko Takasugi-Czernowin: Knowles Pain Hall / Pink Grey Sky [© courtsey of Ko Takasugi-Czernowin]
4) Chaya Czernowin: “Infinite Now”, 3. Akt [© courtsey of Vlaamse Opera Gent]

Cast and Crew:
with Chaya Czernowin and Carlo Lorenzi (IRCAM Paris)
Production: Ideale Audiance SAS, Paris
Camera: Marine Tadié
Sound: Timothée Alazraki
Head of production: Claire Lion
Production co-ordination: Lillana Champenois
Producer: Pierre-Olivier Bardet
Editor: Tim Schmitz, Rheinklangstudio Köln

With generous support of Pro Musica Viva – Maria Strecker-Daelen Stiftung, Mainz

2016/12/16

Karel Husa (1921–2016)

Karel Husa, composer, dies at 95

According to a statement of his family, the Czech-American composer and conductor Karel Husa died at his home in Apex, NC, on 14 December 2016 at the age of 95.

The collaboration of Schott Music and Husa concentrated on his early compositions. Most of his works created before 1960 were published by Schott. But the close ties between Schott and Husa and the joint work on existing works well extended into the present.

Karel Husa was born in Prague on 7 August 1921. From 1941 to 1945 he studied composition and conducting at the Conservatoire of Prague and later at the Music Academy of Prague. From that period dates his first work Sona­tina which was published by Schott in 1943. In 1946 the French government awarded him a five-year scholarship which enabled him to continue his studies with Arthur Honegger and Nadia Bou­lan­ger in Paris.
In 1949, the new Communist regime in Prague declared his passport to be invalid. Upon invitation, he was able to leave for the USA in 1954 where he taught composition both at the Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity in New York and at the Ithaca Col­lege New York until 1992. It was particularly his work with student orchestras that demonstrated his major talent to compose profound music which can not only be performed by top ensembles.

For his compositional oeuvre Husa received worldwide recognition and numerous awards and prizes. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his String Quartet No. 3 and the Grawemeyer Award for his Cello Concerto. His Music for Pra­gue 1968 has become a standard work in the contemporary repertoire. In 1995 Husa was awarded the highest Order of Merit of the Czech Republic and in 1998 the Order of the City of Prague.

2016/12/02

Grand Prix SACEM 2016 for Thierry Pécou

Thierry Pecou - photo: Cyrille Guir

We are proud to announce that our composer Thierry Pécou is winner of the GRAND PRIX SACEM 2016. He is awarded the ‘Grand prix de la musique symphonique’ for his present oeuvre. The presentation of the prize will take place in Paris on 5 December. The Grand Prix of the French collecting society SACEM is given to outstanding authors of various musical genres and fields of activity in 17 categories.

Schott has been publishing the works of the composer-cum-pianist Pécou since 2012. Only a few weeks ago, the label WERGO released a new CD with his orchestral works Orquoy, Changó and Marcha de la Humanidad recorded with the Orchestre National de France under the direction of Jonathan Stockhammer. For Pécou who grew up in the suburbs of Paris, the culture of his Caribbean ancestors has receded into the distance, almost beyond reach. In the dreamlike soundscapes of the three symphonic compositions, he expresses the search for the ruins of a lost civilization. Using ritual structures of repetition, mysterious depth effects and strong, physically felt sounds, Pécou rekindles the past.

 

2016/11/29

Andrew Norman Wins the 2017 Grawemeyer Award

Schott Music is thrilled to announce that Andrew Norman has been named the winner of the prestigious 2017 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his large-scale orchestral work Play by University of Louisville, KY.

In three movements, Play explores the relationship of choice and chance, free will and control. It investigates the ways musicians in an orchestra can play with, against, or apart from one another; and maps concepts from the world of video gaming onto traditional symphonic structures to tell a fractured narrative of power, manipulation, deceit and, ultimately, cooperation.

Grawemeyer Award Director Marc Satterwhite remarks:

Play combines brilliant orchestration, which is at once wildly inventive and idiomatic, with a terrific and convincing musical shape based on a relatively small amount of musical source material. It ranges effortlessly from brash to intimate and holds the listener’s interest for all of its 47 minutes—no small feat in these days of shortened attention spans.”

2017 Grawemeyer Award for a composer “whose voice will resonate long into the future”

Schott Music is deeply proud of our own Andrew Norman, whose music we have published exclusively worldwide since 2007. Norman Ryan, Vice President of Composers & Repertoire, comments:

“Andrew’s unique voice is a quintessential marriage of the contemporary times we live in with the structure of classical forms handed down through the ages. From his earliest pieces such as Sacred Geometry and Gran Turismo through to Play, his most ambitious work to date, Andrew’s voice is one we have always believed will resonate long into the future and we are thrilled that Play has been recognized with this well deserved honor.”


Play
was commissioned by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, with funding from Music Alive, a national residency program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project performed the piece’s premiere in 2013, and released a recording on its own label.  Since then, the piece has garnered considerable attention and critical acclaim. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and critic and musicologist William Robin said it “might be the best orchestral work that the twenty-first century has seen thus far. In October, the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave the premiere performance of Play in its revised form.