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2020/07/28

Mikis Theodorakis: 95th Birthday on 29 July 2020

Mikis Theodorakis’ life has been characterised by his political commitment to the Greek people, personal persecution and banishment. For many years, the composer lived in exile in Paris, but returned repeatedly to his native country. During the 1960s, he was a member of the Greek parliament and held the post of a government minister from 1990 – 1992. In 1993, Theodorakis was appointed as the general music director of the Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Hellenic Radio and Television. He gained an international reputation for his soundtrack to the film “Zorba the Greek” which is also available in a ballet version and as an orchestral suite. Theodorakis also composed cantatas, chamber music, and orchestral works. Many of his operas were based on dramas from Ancient Greek mythology. His oratorios Axion Esti and Canto General were performed worldwide.

Schott Music warmly congratulates Mikis Theodorakis on the occasion of his 95th birthday.

2020/07/06

Nikolai Kapustin 1937–2020

Jazz as a process of maturity

Obituary for the pianist and composer Nikolai Kapustin

The composer and pianist Nikolai Kapustin died on 02 July 2020 in Moscow at the age of 82.

Nikolai Girshevitch Kapustin was born on 22 November 1937 in Nikitovka, a suburb of Horlivka in the Ukraine. His mother introduced him to the piano while he was still a child and he created his first compositions at the age of 13, ultimately producing his first piano sonata. In 1952, Kapustin travelled to Moscow accompanied by Piotr Vinnichenko, his then piano teacher, to take the entrance examination for the Academic Music College. He studied piano in the class of Aurelian Rubach. In 1956, he passed the entrance examination for the Moscow Conservatory where he studied piano with Alexander Goldenweiser and received his diploma in 1961. Kapustin never studied composition as a specific subject, instead preferring to develop his abilities through self-tuition.

Kapustin first experienced jazz during his studies at the Music College and immediately recognised its natural mode of expression. He founded a jazz quintet while still at the Moscow Conservatory and became a member of the big band. After his final examinations, he joined the big band conducted by Oleg Lundstrem, a pupil of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. He composed works for this ensemble including his First Piano Concerto op. 2 in which he was able to place his own instrument at the heart of the composition. In 1972, he left the band to join the orchestra “Blue Screen”. After the dissolution of the ensemble in 1977, he was offered a position in the State Symphonic Film Orchestra under the direction of the conductors Georgy Garanyan, Yuri Serebryakov and Konstantin Krimetz. During this period, he composed his Second Piano Concerto op. 16 whose success offered him the opportunity to become a member of the Union of Soviet Composers.

Deep inside, everything was seething

From the 1980s onwards, Kapustin primarily dedicated himself to composition, but still played the piano, chiefly in performances of his own works for radio and television broadcasts. His music at this time was characterised by elements of jazz linked with classical forms such as the sonata and the suite.  The most striking features of his music were its seething nature, virtuosity and its almost physical attraction. The Suite in the Old Style op. 28 dating from 1977 is typical for his style with its interspersed jazz improvisations within a Baroque structure modelled on Bach partitas. Kapustin explained the apparent paradox of through-composed jazz present in his compositional output in his customary calm and modest outward manner:

I was never a jazz musician. I have never attempted to be a genuine jazz pianist, but have to slip into this role for the benefit of my compositions. I am not interested in improvisation – and what would a jazz musician be without improvisation? Any improvisation on my part has naturally been notated and has improved during the process which has allowed it to mature.

His compositional output includes numerous works for piano including a series of 20 piano sonatas and six piano concertos. This is augmented by concertos for solo instruments such as the cello and saxophone, compositions for big band, string and wind orchestras and chamber music for a broad spectrum of instrumental combinations.

From secret tip to worldwide phenomenon

Prior to the year 2000, Kapustin’s music had remained a secret tip among jazz musicians within the former Soviet Union, but since the beginning of the new millennium, his works have become known throughout the world via internet and become exceedingly popular among younger pianists due to their cross-genre character. The much accoladed CDs issued by Steven Osborne (2000) and Marc-André Hamelin (2004) featuring Kapustin’s works have also contributed to the composer’s international reputation. Today, his compositions find increasing popularity in the recitals of renowned pianists and are steadily achieving the status of classics of the 20th and 21st century.

With the death of Nikolai Kapustin, we have lost a fascinating artist and a genuine individual who achieved unexpected international fame in his mature years. We were only privileged to accompany him as his publisher for a brief period and are thankful for the years of creative and genuinely friendly cooperation.

2020/06/17

Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Dichterliebe

photo: Adobe Stock / Arman Zhenikeyev

These days, there is a renaissance of song recitals. Song cycles offer a welcome opportunity for concert or scenic events with a very limited number of persons involved. Either with piano accompaniment or arranged for ensemble, they gain popularity. A special project is planned to commence on 20 June at Staatstheater Darmstadt: Christian Jost’s Dichterliebe. Eight singers from the theatre will alternate in singing the vocal part of the cycle, the nine instrumentalists from the State Orchestra Darmstadt will play under the baton of Jan Croonenbroeck.  

The form of presentation is the special element of the project: It will be shown in front of a audience and online as a live concert with film, directed by Franziska Angerer, stating:

“Wir machen einen Film — was nicht heißt, dass wir das Theater damit ersetzen wollen. Ganz im Gegenteil: Ich glaube, es ist wichtig, dass wir die Leerstelle Theater auch als solche gelten lassen. Und auch wenn wir uns nun filmisch mit der „Dichterliebe“ auseinandersetzen, verwenden wir trotzdem theatrale Mittel. Gerade für dieses Projekt eignet sich das Medium Film an sich jedoch sehr gut. Der Komponist Christian Jost beschreibt seine Komposition als einen assoziativen Strom, der Schumanns und Heines Lieder wie Inseln in sich trägt und miteinander verwebt. Hierdurch entstehen viele Zwischenräume, die sich mit den Mitteln des Films wunderbar erschaffen lassen; man hat andere Möglichkeiten und Zeitlichkeiten als im Theater, was ganz wunderbar ist.”

Christian Jost – Dichterliebe: das Prinzip des Weiterdenkens

Dichterliebe was commissioned by the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Copenhagen Opera Festival, and received its world premiere at the Berlin Konzerthaus in 2017. The work is inspired by Robert Schumann’s well-known Dichterliebe op. 48 based on poems by Heinrich Heine. Jost’s reinterpretation changes and increases the cycle’s instrumentation, as well as doubling its length, effectively integrating Schumann’s romantic art song with his own modern style. The music is further supplemented by video sequences which provide a visual representation of the songs’ themes.

The 16 songs of Schumann’s cycle tell a sorrowful story of lost love. The singer’s expressions shift through pain, indifference, sorrow and joy, perhaps in a dream or perhaps reality. In Heine’s poems, the river Rhine acts as a symbol for this stream of emotions, and Jost’s songs also flow. The tenor seems to surface time and again out of the dense, wave-like instrumental accompaniment of legato ostinato, and the harmonies and melodies of Schumann’s composition are developed by Jost into a tonal stream. For example, the short motifs from Schumann’s piano accompaniment are expanded by Jost throughout the whole cycle with greater depth.

The four scheduled performances of Dichterliebe take place on 20, 27 and 28 June as well as 11 July. 

photo: Adobe Stock / Arman Zhenikeyev

2020/06/05

World Premiere of Toshio Hosokawa “Texture” at the Digital Concert Hall by Berlin Philharmonic

Toshio Hosokawa’s new piece, Texture for octet will be premiered at the Digital Concert Hall by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on June 6th. The first performer is the Philharmonic Octet Berlin.

Texture was co-commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and the Japan Arts Corporation for the Philharmonic Octet Berlin, and is dedicated to the ensemble. The instrumentation of octet is the same as Octet D803 by Franz Schubert which is the ensemble’s specialty; clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin 2, viola, violoncello and double bass.

The instrumentation is divided into the following 2 groups; a group consisting of a string quartet and another consisting of clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass. Each group plays melodies with a lively calligraphy-like shape, an unforced linear of the Eastern brushstrokes which is one of the characteristics of Hosokawa’s music. In this piece, like the Yin and Yang of the East, just as polar opposite elements, such as man and woman, high and low, strength and weakness, light and dark coexist and complete each other – become tied together without defeating the other, whilst gradually shaping the sound of the universe.

Toshio Hosokawa
Texture (2020)
for octet

World Premiere

June 6, 2020, 19:00  Philharmonie Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
June 7, 2020, 13:00  Philharmonie Berlin (Berlin, Germany) Broadcast from Digital Concert Hall by Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Philharmonic Octet Berlin (Wenzel Fuchs [clarinet], Mor Biron [bassoon], Stefan Dohr [horn], Daishin Kashimoto, Romano Tommasini [violin], Amihai Grosz [viola], Christoph Igelbrink [cello], Esko Laine [double bass])

2020/05/24

Happy Birthday: Enjott Schneider 70

Enjott Schneider, born in Weil am Rhein in 1950, is one of the leading German composers of film music with over 600 soundtracks and numerous awards to his name. His music for Schlafes Bruder, Stalingrad, Herbstmilch and many other films will never be forgotten. Schneider’s compositional output also includes full-length operas, oratorios, symphonies and concertos alongside chamber music, sacred works and organ music. As professor of music theory and later as Germany’s first professor of film music, he passed his knowledge to innumerable students at the Munich Musikhochschule. He has also displayed equal enthusiasm in his long-term post as a board member of GEMA [German performing rights association] (chairman from 2012 to 2017) and as president of the Deutscher Komponistenverband [German Association of Composers] to support his fellow composers.

Schott Music offers its heartfelt congratulations to Enjott Schneider on the occasion of his 70th birthday on 25 May 2020 and has recently published a new catalogue of his works.

2020/05/11

Work of the Week – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s penultimate dramatic composition was as ambitious as its exceedingly long title suggests. From 15 May, Dutch National Opera Amsterdam’s production of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya, conducted by Marc Albrecht, will be available to watch on OperaVision. Director Dmitri Tcherniakov, who was also the stage designer for the production, created a visual language that is both realistic yet magical, and which was highly acclaimed by the international press. 

The four-act opera is set in the mythical city of Kitezh and is likely to be inspired by a thirteenth century duchy at the Volga River. Legend has it the city disappeared while under siege by enemy forces. Rimsky-Korsakov combined this Russian version of the Atlantis myth with a retelling of the invasion of the Mongol army  during the thirteenth century.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya – “A Russian Atlantis”

This war is the backdrop for a love story between the virtuous farmer’s daughter Fevroniya and the Duke of Vsevolod. Their marriage is prevented by the assault of the enemies during which Vsevolod is killed. In her grief, Fevroniya prays for help for the people of Kitezh and a golden fog surrounds the city rendering it invisible to the invaders. Ultimately, Fevroniya also dies but the spirit of her fiancé brings her back to the hidden city where the opera culminates in a Wagnerian ascension of the loving couple. 

Prior to the opera’s premiere, Rimsky-Korsakov faced his own personal Kitezh when in 1905, as riots against the Tsar spread throughout Russia, he supported protesting students and was suspended from his professorship. Only when public opinion shifted in his favor and he was reinstated could the first production of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya find its way to the stage. 

Marc Albrecht, conducting the ambitious and beautifully sounding Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, was not only able to form an arc of tension over three long and unshortened acts  of the masterfully crafted score. He also miraculously balanced the epic inner act and the lyric framing acts in a way that the action on the stage and in the pit came to perfect harmony. The production, subsequently to be shown in Paris, Barcelona and Milan is an ambassador for the huge masterwork by Rimsky-Korsakov which hopefully leads to a general revival of his operas. – Uwe Schweikert (review in ‘Opernwelt’)

The production, which is also available on DVD and Blu-ray, will be available to stream on OperaVision until August. The performance material is available from M.P. Belaieff publishers, exclusively distributed by Schott Music. 

photo: Dutch National Opera / Monika Rittershaus

2020/04/13

Work of the Week – Krzysztof Penderecki: The Devils of Loudun

Composer Krzysztof Penderecki passed away recently at his home in Poland, aged 86. As a tribute to the legacy left by one of the world’s foremost composers, Hamburg State Opera have made their original production of Penderecki’s The Devils of Loudun available to stream on demand for free from 13 April. This world premiere production from 1969 is part of a series of videos from the era of the legendary intendant Rolf Liebermann that the theatre is offering during its present shutdown. It was directed by Konrad Swinarski with costume and stage design by Lidia and Jerzy Skarzynski, and conducted by Henryk Czyz.

The opera is set in the small French town of Loudun, a showplace for sensational occurrences in 1633-34 that were extensively documented and gained renown around Europe, regarded with a mix of fervent repulsion and voyeurism. Urbain Grandier, the village priest of Loudun, was accused in 1633 of having bewitched the nuns, above all Prioress Jeanne of the newly founded Ursuline-Cloister. Under torture he admitted to regretting his lapsed lifestyle and having had relationships with two women – one of whom expected a child from him – but refused steadfastly to confess to his “Devil’s Work” despite “proofs” of the same. In the summer of 1634 he was burned at the stake. For years afterwards the obsessions of the nuns occupied doctors and exorcists, the events ending only as Cardinal Richelieu withdrew his financial support of the cloister.

Krzysztof Penderecki: The Devils of Loudun – an opera about tolerance

The trial against Urban Grandier was included in François de Pitaval’s collection of famous criminal cases. This source, along with the autobiographical recollections of Prioress Jeanne from 1644, and two reports of the trial from 1634 and 1693, were used by Aldous Huxley in 1952 as the basis for his non-fiction novel, The Devils of Loudun. Eight years later John Whiting dramatised Huxley’s writings, and this was the starting point for Penderecki’s libretto (translated into German by Erich Fried). 

For Penderecki, The Devils of Loudun is a work about tolerance and intolerance. Grandier was the victim of political intrigue, where even Jeanne was not really his enemy, but a victim of religious-political fanatics; her erotic neuroses exaggerated by Richelieu’s handiwork into a necessary possession by the Devil. – Wolfram Schwinger 

This world premiere production will be available on Hamburg State Opera’s streaming service until 27 April.

2020/04/06

Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Meditation to the victims of Tsunami (3.11)

+++ After the following story was published, we learned that the concert and live-streaming had to be cancelled as well. +++

On 11 April, the NHK Symphony Orchestra will perform Toshio Hosokawa’s Meditation to the victims of Tsunami (3.11) as part of a livestream concert conducted by Masaru Kumakura. The concert has been organised to replace the orchestra’s scheduled public performance in response to ongoing restrictions of COVID-19.  Continue reading “Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Meditation to the victims of Tsunami (3.11)”

2020/03/30

Work of the Week – György Ligeti: Kammerkonzert

Through the myriad compositional styles György Ligeti explored between the 1940s and the 2000s, the composer’s strict focus on form and instrumentation always remained at the forefront of his work. Among the best examples of this is undoubtedly his Kammerkonzert (Chamber Concerto) from the middle period of his output. Exactly 50 years ago, on 5 April 1970, Friedrich Cerha and his ensemble ‘die reihe’ premiered the first two movements of this work in Baltimore. The third movement followed shortly after, premiering that May in Vienna, and the concerto’s final movement was first performed the following October in Berlin. 

The scoring of Kammerkonzert for thirteen players sits at the midpoint between chamber music and a more symphonic texture. The work is highly varied, encompassing passages of extreme density and contrasting sections where individual instruments emerge from the ensemble with exposed melodic lines reminiscent of Schoenberg and Berg’s expressive twelve-note writing, or of virtuosic cadenzas.

György Ligeti – Kammerkonzert: from failure to standard repertoire

The four-movement work is a concerto in the sense that all 13 players are equal and have virtuoso solo tasks. Rather than frequent changes between soli and tutti, there is constant concerto-like cooperation. The parts always flow simultaneously but use different rhythmic configurations and tempi. […] The world premiere of the completed Chamber Concerto in 1970 was a complete failure. Critics wrote that this work massively fell behind my second string quartet, its predecessor. However, as time went by, more and more ensembles performed it multiple times. Nowadays, it is a standard repertoire work because its instrumentation is very fitting for groups like the Asko ensemble. All these things are impossible to anticipate for a composer. – György Ligeti

In advance of Ligetis centenary on 28 May 2023, we invite you to explore his music further. We’ve created an extensive playlist with detailed insights exploring Ligeti’s work follow the link below to find out more.

2020/03/29

Krzysztof Penderecki (1933–2020) – Obituary

With the death of Krzysztof Penderecki, the music world has lost an outstanding representative of the generation of composers who received their original impulses from 20th century avant-garde. As early as the late 1950s, Penderecki looked for and found new possibilities of compositional expression in the tension-filled area between noise and music. Thus, he unsettled the conservative concert audience, yet at the same time opened new artistic horizons and reached the forefront of the European avant-garde. After turning away from his early sound experiments, Penderecki was said to have taken a neo-Romantic turn. Unlike any other composer of his generation, he drew both criticism and admiration for his development as a composer. In the mid-1980s, he found himself in an exposed position right in the middle of the postmodernism discussion. However, Penderecki never followed a purely Orthodox movement. For him, the equation of avant-garde and tradition was no contradiction. He rather believed in the aesthetics of synthesis: ‘I have spent decades looking for and finding new sounds. At the same time I have studied forms, styles and harmonies of the past. I have continued to adhere to both principles …’. It was works like his Symphony No. 7 Seven Gates of Jerusalem, the opera The Devils of Loudun, the Polish Requiem and the monumental St. Luke’s Passion that made him one of the most internationally admired and frequently performed contemporary composers

“I work like a 19th century composer who had to know everything, even conducting.” (photo: Ludwig van Beethoven Association, Bartosz Koziak)

One of the last representatives of the large-scale form

Anyone who listens to the St. Luke Passion from 1966 today, with a distance of time, will not only discover experimental ways of composing but also find traditional elements in this work. It is not least the distinctive a cappella settings that revealed Penderecki’s close ties to historical composition techniques. Over the decades, the dense clusters of early works thinned into tonal structures, with complex sound surfaces taking second place to a rhythmically and melodically accessible score. Reminiscences to the late Romantic tradition of Bruckner, Mahler, Shostakovich or Strauss were chosen deliberately. ‘I am one of the last representatives of the large-scale form who writes everything: symphonies, operas, oratorios, concertos and chamber music. I work like a 19th century composer who had to know everything, even conducting.’

Pope John Paul II welcomes his friend Penderecki in Rome, 1983 (photo: Mari)

In numerous compositions, Penderecki embedded extra-musical content in; his sacred compositions often testify to his strong Catholic faith. With his music, he also set political accents time and again. The instrumental work Threnos was dedicated to the victims of the catastrophe of Hiroshima, the piano concerto Resurrection to the events on 11 September 2001. In the Polish Requiem Penderecki established connections to his native country in different ways. Lacrimosa was commissioned by the Polish trade union ‘Solidarnosc’ in 1980, other parts were written by the composer in memory of the victims of Auschwitz and the Warsaw Uprising. When the composer received the news of the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, he added Ciaccona in memoria Giovanni Paolo II. Penderecki never minced matters, not even when he was accused of embracing the aesthetics of Socialist realism in a Polish press campaign after the world premiere of Resurrection.

Faith and fugaciousness

For decades, Penderecki worked in close friendship with outstanding soloists. The composer’s catalogue of works contains numerous solo works for artists such as Anne-Sophie Mutter (2nd violin concerto Metamorphosen, among others), Boris Pergamenshikov (Concerto grosso) and Mstislav Rostropovich (Concerto per violoncello ed orchestra no. 2). He effectively learned instrumental tone colours and performance techniques by listening, and gave the performers as much space for development as possible. As Penderecki also wanted to share his love of music with the following generations of composers, he built the European Krzysztof Penderecki Music Centre not far from his country estate in Lusławice which has become a meeting place for musicians from all over the world.

Penderecki cultivated an extensive arboretum (photo: Krzysztof Wójcik)

In his eighth symphony Lieder der Vergänglichkeit, in which Penderecki set texts of famous poets on all aspects of the subjects ‘forest’ and ‘tree’ to music, he managed to combine his two great passions: music and his private arboretum where he collected more than 1,700 different kinds of trees. Just as the list of his commissioners, dedicatees and countless awards and distinctions provide information on his recognition in the international music world, so the trees collected by the internationally acclaimed conductor on his concert tours tell of his great love of and his close affinity with nature. After his seventh and eighth contributions to the symphony genre, Penderecki finished his 6th Symphony with the subtitle “Chinese Songs” for the world premiere in Guangzhou in 2017. Films like “The Shining”, “Shutter Island” or “Katyń” brought his music to the silver screen and home televisions worldwide.

Krzysztof Penderecki died on March 29 in Kraków, Poland.

 

photo: Schott Music / Bruno Fidrych