A symphony for only three performers is an unusual challenge for a composer to set himself. This is, however, exactly what Olli Mustonen has done in his recent work for tenor, cello and piano, Taivanvaalot, which receives its world premiere on 26 September at the Musiekgebouw, Amsterdam performed by Ian Bostridge (tenor), Steven Isserlis (cello) and Olli Mustonen (piano).
The Seven Deadly Sins (Die sieben Todsünden) is one of Kurt Weill’s best-known and most frequently performed works. On 21 September, a new orchestration of the ballet chanté for 15 players will receive its premiere at Beethovenfest Bonn with Ensemble Modern and soloist Sarah Maria Sun conducted by HK Gruber. The new version has been created by Gruber and Christian Muthspiel in collaboration with the Kurt Weill Foundation and Schott Music.
The tragedy of Bizet’s Carmen has gripped audiences and inspired countless productions since its first performance in 1875. Today, the opera is one of the most well-known and frequently performed works in the genre. On 14 September, a new production by Barrie Kosky opens at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, conducted by Alexander Vedernikov. The new production will use material from Verlagsgruppe Hermann’s “Edition Meisterwerke”, which brings together all previously published versions of the work into a single critical edition allowing for direct comparison of the differences between individual publications.
Heinz Holliger will be celebrating his 80th birthday on 21 May. He remains active in concert halls throughout the world as a composer, conductor and oboist. His music theatre composition Lunea, premiered last year at the Zurich Opera House, was selected as the best premiere of 2018 by the critics’ jury of the periodical ‘Opernwelt’. In his profound exploration of his favourite poetry – including authors such as Friedrich Hölderlin and Robert Walser – Holliger has extended the borderlines of traditional instruments. He has experimented with advanced innovative musical technique and forged untrodden paths in his creation of new sounds, frequently reminiscent of electronically produced components. His publisher Schott Music offers heartfelt congratulations with an updated catalogue of works and several new publications!
The devastating effect mankind has on the planet is the subject of Thierry Pécou’s new chamber opera Nahasdzáán in the Glittering World, which will be premiered on 23 April at the Opéra de Rouen in Normandy. The opera explores its themes through texts written by Navajo poet Laura Tohe about the Navajo creation story and its connection to the present. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Nahasdzáán in the Glittering World”
The 1940 Hollywood film The Sea Hawk is filled with wild sea battles, brave privateers, and pomous palaces; rattling sabres and crashing guns. The music for this early epic was written by composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and while the film is seldom shown today, its accompanying score has become a popular concert work. The concert version of The Sea Hawk will receive two performances in April: on the 3rd, the Orchester des Pfalztheaters and conductor Uwe Sandner will perform the piece in Kaiserlautern, and on 7th April at The Assembly Hall Theatre, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra and conductor Roderick Dunk will also perform the work. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Sea Hawk”
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.’
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.
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.
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”
Schott congratulates the Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin who will be celebrating his 85th birthday on 16 December 2017! After performances of his works Levsha, Boyarina Morozova, Two 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.