As a composer, Jörg Widmann has a special relationship with both the violin and the violin concerto. He has said, “The violin concerto as a genre is ‘holy’ to me, to which the most personal is entrusted. This is especially true for my concerto, as it is dedicated to my sister. The lyrical tone of the violin acts as a mouthpiece for the most diverse of human emotions.” Continue reading “Jörg Widmann’s Violin Concerto No.2: The voice of the violin”
There must be no victors, not even in the arts… This was the credo Dieter Schnebel shared with artists like John Cage and remained faithful to his whole life. The arts and the world, music and everyday life – these were no contrasts to the composer, church minister, musicologist and teacher who had been born in Lahr in Baden. With compositions like Ki-No, visible music and anschläge – ausschläge he created a new open concept of work which left boundaries in space and time behind and saw the composer as creative trigger, not as completer of the work. As Schnebel understood the performance situation as a truly democratic event, he brought street noise into the concert hall. Even in key works like the vocal work Ekstasis or the opera Majakowskis Tod – Totentanz he consequently denied aesthetic dogmatism any influence. Dieter Schnebel died in Berlin at the age of 88.
In the 1960s, the first performances of his early works, which could only be vaguely described by the notions of concept art and fluxus, were surrounded by scandal. The more Schnebel understood music as almost unconditioned action in experimental and archetypal situations, the more the performer emancipated him- or herself from the composition. No longer did the performer function as servant of an oeuvre completed in itself, but rather the moment when the music was produced became the true content of the work. ‘Not the tones or other acoustic elements make up the musical material but rather the processes of their production,’ Schnebel once outlined his approach.
Schnebel also broke with traditional listening expectations in other respects. In his works, the human voice often became an unleashed organ. All possibilities to produce sounds were allowed – singing, speaking, croaking, but also absolute silence. Concept titles like Körper – Sprachen [Body – Languages] or Laut – Gesten – Laute [Sound – Gestures – Noises] testify to that dissolution of boundaries of the musical material. In addition, the gestures of the performers played an ever-growing role in Schnebel’s art: The frontal concert situation was eliminated. Musicians began to move through the room, while the beginning and end of the concert were no longer discernible as such. ‘The music that once let in its environment in time and space, the sounds and noises of everyday life, … takes to the street and ends who-knows-where.’
In the 1970s the composer began to tour with the ensemble ‘Maulwerker’. As part of his work as teacher of music and religion, he organized concerts of pupils and amateurs, elementary educational approaches which Schnebel refined as professor of experimental music, a chair specially created for him at the Berlin Hochschule der Künste. With his radical open concept of work, however, the composer came up against limiting factors: In 1978 the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Cologne deliberately provoked the failure of a performance of the Orchestra project.
Schnebel’s artistic openness also included openness to tonality. He did not reject tradition at all, but rather interpreted it as a living process ‘…which includes the contemplation of the past, a look at the hidden sources and their lively continuous flow, as well as the openness to what could become of it, a look ahead to the future.’ With his cycle Re-Visionen (Beethoven-Symphonie, Schubert-Phantasie and Wagner-Idyll) he approached the tradition in a creative and ironic way. Schnebel understood musicology as part of a collective memory the relevance of which to today would always have to be verified anew. Schnebel also moved between philosophy and playful humour in the musical chamber theatre work Utopien which, despite all its ironic ease, is characterized by an almost confessional tone. Many things in this work can be explained with the life of a person who always lived transversely to their time, both as a member of the 1968 generation and at the same time as a committed Christian. In the work itself, he understood such utopias as musical abstractions which he did not depict as an artist; however, Schnebel himself never ceased to hold onto utopias which always meant hope to him.
The methods once developed – aleatorics, the experiment as principle, the use of spatial sound – survived until well into the late works. Major works like Ekstasis based on a multi-lingual text collage or the monumental Sinfonie X are the late essence of his oeuvre. Church music was of special concern to the trained theologian throughout his life. Musical art – to Schnebel, this always was an ethic concept, a possible connection between inner and outer world, individual and society – ultimately a universal idea of the possibilities of human existence, too. Most recently, he was in the process of writing a new orchestral work for the hr-Sinfonieorchester, and for the upcoming months several new works were scheduled to be premiered. In a phase of rich and blossoming creativity, Schnebel passed away after short illness on Sunday of Pentecost 2018.
photo: Astrid Kargεr
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.
‘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.
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.
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
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
A new biography of Sir Michael Tippett by writer and broadcaster Oliver Soden has been announced. Due to be published in 2019 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, the book will provide context for Tippett’s evolving and varied music, situating him within the wider musical, social and political narrative of the 21st century.
Soden’s authorised biography will also tell the full “dramatic” story of Tippett’s life, from his often turbulent childhood through to his old age, in which he developed a keen interest in popular culture while managing ill health. It covers his political activism, his experiences during two world wars, his relationships with men and women and his work’s open portrayal of homosexuality at a time when it remained illegal.
The Tippett Estate, the Tippett Foundation, and Tippett’s partner (Meirion Bowen) have given their full support to the book, and will open a number of private archives for the first time, allowing use of letters, manuscript scores, and private audiotapes as well as a number of never-before-seen photographs, an unpublished memoir by Tippett and his brother, and newly discovered correspondence and music manuscripts.
Believing a full-length biography to be well overdue, Soden comments: “Michael Tippett has been a passion since my schooldays and I am thrilled, honoured and not a little daunted to have become his biographer.”
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 2016 Elise L. Stoeger Prize has been awarded to Schott composer Huw Watkins. The Stoeger Prize is given every two years in recognition of significant contributions to the field of chamber music composition. Chamber Music Society Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han commented on the announcement:
“Our jury members were universal in their admiration of his work, praising it as fresh and emotionally gripping, beautifully crafted and endlessly lyrical. He won their full endorsement and we agree that Watkins, as a composer of immense talent, is well suited to join the illustrious ranks of his predecessors.”
Amongst Watkins’ upcoming projects are a Symphony to be premiered by the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder on 20 April, a new song cycle for soprano Ruby Hughes to premiere at Carnegie Hall this autumn, a new piano quintet commissioned by the Chamber Music Society to premiere in the 2018/19 season.
Future commissions include a new orchestral work for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with whom Watkins is Composer-in-Association.
Andrew Norman’s Play for orchestra has been added to the opening concert of this year’s Musica Nova Helsinki festival on 1 February. The performance, given by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and André de Ridder, will be the European premiere of the complete version of the work.
Play was recently named the winner of the prestigious 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Premiered by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in 2013 and recorded on the orchestra’s own label, the piece has also been 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, having previously toured the work’s first section Play Level 1 internationally.
André de Ridder, this year’s artistic director of the Musica Nova festival, writes: “Andrew Norman already belongs to the most prolific composers working today, and his style is best described as breathtakingly exuberant and maverick. I’m proud to present the European premiere of Play at Musica nova.”
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.