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2021/09/02

Mikis Theodorakis 1925–2021

Ode to freedom: on the death of the composer Mikis Theodorakis

The Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis has died in Athens on 02.09.2021 at the age of 96.

Born in Greece in 1925, Mikis Theodorakis resolutely devoted his life to fighting for freedom and justice, searching for valid and comprehensible forms of musical expression and pursuing the significance of art. This long journey ended in Athens on Thursday morning of 2 September in Athens.

Theodorakis tells of his beginnings as follows: “My career as a composer began in the early 1940s when no suitable environment actually existed for my career choice: no orchestra, no symphonic concerts, no music conservatoires, not even a grand piano. When I saw a film showing a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, I told my teachers at school the next day that I would now concern myself exclusively with music from this point onwards – and that is just what I did.” This astonishing early certainty was to develop into a compositional output that encompassed over a hundred larger-scale works including symphonies, ballet music, chamber music, theatre music and opera. While Theodorakis conducted a large proportion of his works’ premieres himself, prominent conductors such as Thomas Beecham, Charles Dutoit und Zubin Mehta were also great champions of his compositions. Yet the true core of his oeuvre is an amazing series of more than a thousand songs of enduring popularity. In the years to come an entire nation, perhaps the whole world, shall continue to sing his melodies.

Before Theodorakis became established in genre of the contemporary song, he studied the techniques and artistry of classical music with Olivier Messiaen in Paris. Supporters and admirers of the young composer included Dmitri Shostakovich, Hanns Eisler, Benjamin Britten and Darius Milhaud, who predicted a brilliant career for the tall and lively man constantly overflowing with musical ideas. Theodorakis’ impressive output of symphonic and chamber music ceased however upon his return to Athens in 1960, where he would not compose another purely instrumental work for more than 20 years. He instead turned his attention to song cycles, oratorios and film music, through which his political and social beliefs could be voiced. The works Theodorakis produced in this period were not only of uninhibited and innovative artistic merit, but also intended to be rooted in the identity of the people, with a message to communicate. Soon artists such as Agnes Baltsa, the Beatles, Dalida, Maria Farantouri, Mary Hopkin, Maria del Mar Bonet, Marino Marini, Milva, Georges Moustaki, Nana Mouskouri, Edith Piaf, Herman van Veen and many more adopted his songs into their own repertoires, and spread his messages across the world.

Theodorakis first turned to the field of opera later in his career as he approached the age of sixty, yet subsequently produced new works in an established rhythm of every four years. All five of his operas offer new interpretations of classical Greek mythology in which Theodorakis combines European musical tradition with his intrinsic melody-writing and the characteristic Greek idiom.

Theodorakis occupies a unique position in the musical and intellectual history of our time. His worldwide popularity, the great variety of his artistic creativity, and his political career have established him as one of the most significant figures in contemporary history. Throughout his life he selflessly stood up for international human rights, despite being interned in prison camps while Greece was under military dictatorship, and later exiled. He was a humanist out of profound conviction who never retreated into his art, but repeatedly involved himself in politics and always took a stand, above all in the most problematic of times. In 2018, Theodorakis was honoured for his timeless music and dedication to human rights with the award of an honorary doctorate in philosophy from the University of Salzburg.

The lasting legacy of Mikis Theodorakis in Greece and beyond is found not only his struggle for freedom, even in the face of personal torture and exile, it is in his flawless coupling of art with the voice of the people. What could be a more pertinent example than his perhaps most famous composition: the dance melody for Michael Cacoyannis’ legendary film Zorba the Greek, which has become an unofficial Greek national anthem. The significance of this melody for the people of Greece echoes the power of Verdi’s Va pensiero, and the melody that first inspired Theodorakis to become a composer, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

 

2021/08/16

WERGO CD has been awarded

The WERGO CD “Filz” with compositions by Enno Poppe has been awarded the Quarterly German Record Critics’ Award, List of Best Recordings 3/2021, category “Contemporary Classical Music”.

Complex glissando structures, microtonal friction, highly differentiated vibrato: the viola concerto “Filz“ by Enno Poppe, composed in 2013/14 for Tabea Zimmermann and the Hamburg Ensemble Resonanz, places the highest of demands on the performers. In this premiere recording, a web of tonal sensuality is woven. The great soloist, Siemens Music Prize winner 2020, designs a dramaturgically concise sequence. With “Stoff” and “Wald” too, composed for Ensemble Resonanz, Poppe presents himself as a true string expert. Along the way, it becomes clear how much this arrangement enriches musical life. (for the jury: Marco Frei)

Enno Poppe: Filz
Interpreters: Tabea Zimmermann / Ensemble Resonanz
WER 73992

2021/08/11

Work of the Week – Luigi Nono: Intolleranza

A full year after the originally scheduled date, Salzburg Festival is presenting a new production of Intolleranza by Luigi Nono on 15 August. Directed by Jan Lauwers,  Sean Panikkar and Sarah Maria Sun will take the leading roles as ‘the emigrante’ and his fellow. In the pit, Vienna Philharmonic will be conducted by Ingo Metzmacher.

Intolleranza, composed in 1960/1961 is Luigi Nono’s first work for the stage. Its Italian description as Azione scenica underlines its renunciation of a narrative form of music theatre – the libretto has no coherent plot. Nono instead employs poems and documentary texts such as political interrogations and news headlines which are interwoven into the action as periodical highlights. Influences from Brechtian theatre are clearly recognisable, for example the audience becomes actively involved in what is happening on stage and is confronted by a question: under what conditions and against what political opposition is it possible to be consciously humane?

In eleven scenes, Nono describes the journey of the protagonist ‘emigrante’ on the way to his new homeland, making reference to contemporary and past historical events. The emigrante experiences a demonstration for peace, political interrogation and torture. Intolleranza is a politicalethical plea against violence, intolerance, discrimination and racism and has lost none of its relevance 50 years after its composition.

‘You, who shall resurface following the flood / in which we have perished, / remember / also the dark time / that you have escaped.’ (from the libretto)

After the opera was called Intolleranza 1960 at its world premiere, it has become common to add the current year to the work title. Wuppertal Opera is currently presenting a series of streamings, entitled Intolleranza 2021. The upcoming season will also see a number of stage performences with audience at Wuppertal.

 

 

2021/08/04

Karel Husa: 100th Birthday on 7 August 2021

In August, we commemorate the 100th birthday of the Czech-American composer Karel Husa, and we would have loved to personally celebrate this centenary with him. Although he remained active up to a very advanced age, we had to bid him farewell only a few years ago.

Husa’s cooperation with Schott Music was focused on his early compositions, but the close association and collaborative work on the published compositions has continued to the present day.

Husa’s life, which was above all marked by World War II and its aftermath, took him to
numerous locations between Prague and the USA where he continued to work as a conductor and professor at Cornell University and Ithaca College until 1992. Husa received a
number of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for his Third String Quartet and the  Grawemeyer Award for his Cello Concerto. Additionally, Husa was prominently represented on nearly one hundred sound recordings.

2021/07/30

Work of the Week – Carl Orff: Die Bernauerin

In celebration of Carl Orff’s 125th anniversary on 10 July 2020), Die Bernauerin was scheduled to be performed for the first time at the Orff Festival in a reduced version  by Paul Leonard Schäffer. This premiere has been postponed to 4 August 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic. What performance location could have been better suited to this ‘Bavarian piece’ than the Florian-Stadl in the Andechs monastery where Orff was buried in the
pilgrimage church?

‘I am an old Bavarian, born in Munich, and this city, this region and this landscape have given me a great deal and exerted a significant influence on my personality and works.’ (Carl Orff )

Carl Orff created a memorial for his homeland with his work Die Bernauerin which was influenced in equal parts by Friedrich Hebbel’s drama of the same name and by traditional songs. The composition presents the moving story of Agnes Bernauer who was married well above her status to Albrecht III of Bavaria in the 15th century. Orff undertook intensive studies to enable him to write his libretto in the authentic Bavarian language of that period. Text and music play an equally signifi cant role and the vernacular colouring highlights the onomatopoetic and rhythmic material of the dramatic form.

Illustration: Die Bernauerin, Staatsoper Stuttgart 1965 · Figurines by Liselotte Erler

 

2021/05/18

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg: Online Premire of Toshio Hosokawa’s new Violin Concerto

Genesis – creation is the title of Toshio Hosokawa’s new Violin Concerto which he wrote for violinist Veronika Eberle. As part of the International Music Festival Hamburg, the world premiere will take place on 19 May 2021, 8 pm local time (6 pm UTC), after the date had to be postponed multiple times. It will be live streamed on the YouTube channel of the Philharmonic State Orchestra Hamburg, Kent Nagano is conducting.

“Veronika Eberle gave birth to a baby last November. I composed the piece as a present for
her and her baby. In the concerto, the soloist represents a human being, while the orchestra is imagined as nature and the universe surrounding him. At the beginning, the orchestra repeats wave motions suggestive of amniotic fluid, then the melodic line of the violin solo (= life) is generated from the inside of ‘cradle’, and is developing while imitating melodies inside the orchestra, then becomes independent of it, conflicts with it, however, finally finds a harmony inside the orchestra and dissolves into it.” Toshio Hosokawa

Toshio Hosokawa
Violin Concerto
Genesis · 18’
19 May 2021 | Hamburg (D)
Elbphilharmonie
Veronika Eberle, violin
Philharmonic State Orchestera Hamburg
Kent Nagano, conductor

Commissioned by Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra (SOČR) and Grafenegg Festival

 

2021/04/26

Eötvös: Frontiers of Knowledge Award of the BBVA Foundation

The Frontiers of Knowledge Award of the Spanish BBVA Foundation in the Music and Opera category in its thirteenth edition is going to  the Hungarian composer and conductor Peter Eötvös,  “undoubtedly one of the most important musical voices of our time,” in the words of the citation. “His artistic significance, originality and contribution to the advancement of music since the second half of the 20th century can be recognized in his writing for voice, solo instrument and orchestra in operas such as Three Sisters, Love and Other Demons and Senza Sangue. His instrumental compositions have been played by the most important ensembles and orchestras around the world,” committee chair, Joana Carneiro, Principal Conductor of the Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa, states.

The annual Frontiers of Knowledge Award comprises seven further categories, such as Information Technologies, Ecology and Basic Sciences. With 400.000 €, it is one of the most significant cultural awards of the world. Former awardees include composers such as Pierre Boulez, Sofia Gubaidulina and Arvo Pärt.

photo: © Szilvia Csibi

2021/04/14

Pēteris Vasks: 75th Birthday on 16 April 2021

Pēteris Vasks, like no other composer, is an ambassador for the music of his native country
Latvia and the rich culture of the North. Prior to 1991, he was subject to repression for his beliefs and artistic convictions, but today he has long achieved international acclaim.

Vasks will receive a lifetime achievement award at the 49th Istanbul Music Festival in June, less than two months after his 75th birthday. The award is given annually by the festival: previous laureates include Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky, Zubin Mehta, Arvo Pärt, Krzysztof Penderecki and Murray Perahia. Following the award ceremony, the Modigliani Quartet will give the Turkish premiere of his String Quartet No. 6 for which Vasks received the Latvian Grand Music Award in March.

His instrumental works are performed across the world by renowned musicians and also utilised for ballets, most recently in ‘Solitude’, choreographed by Mario Schröder for Leipzig Ballet. Vasks incorporates archaic and folkloristic elements from his homeland in his compositions, bringing them into an exciting relationship with contemporary musical language. Topics as contrasting as the beauty of nature and the ecological and moral destruction of the world find their way into his music.

On the occasion of his birthday, Schott Music has issued a brochure featuring selected choral works which is available free of charge in printed form or as a download under the order number KAT 3485-99.

You can also discover our Vasks playlist at https://en.schott-music.com/shop/vasks-playlist/

2021/03/14

Wilfried Hiller: 80th Birthday on 15 March

Wilfried Hiller has created his poetic and imaginative music independently of the rules and constraints of the avant garde. His collaboration with the author Michael Ende has played a significant role in his compositional career. Works such as Die zerstreute Brillenschlange
(1979), Vier musikalische Fabeln (1980–1982), Der Goggolori (1982–1983) and Das Traumfresserchen (1989–1990) have become classics in the field of contemporary music theatre for children.

In 2018, Hiller once again selected one of Ende’s texts for his composition Momo, but has additionally created numerous stage works for adult audiences, chamber music compositions, solo concertos, and works for choral and orchestral forces. He received the
Bavarian Maximiliansorden für Wissenschaft und Kunst and is a member of the Bavarian Academy of the Arts. Happy birthday!

2021/03/03

Aribert Reimann: 85th Birthday on 4 March

In his substantial compositional output, Aribert Reimann has created a rich collection of compositions which have unquestionably exerted an influence on contemporary music theatre. His unmistakable personal style is characterised by strict logic and highly complex
tonal structures which are finely chiselled down to the smallest detail. At the same time, his music possesses a powerful innate emotionality which directly captures his listeners. This is borne out by his instrumental works and vocal compositions and to a particular degree, his operas, which are considered the most significant of the entire contemporary period.

Reimann primarily selects his plots from world literature and transforms them into unique forms through his own musical language. Schott offers Aribert Reimann its heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of his 85th birthday.

photo: Bernd Uhlig