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 the ongoing restrictions ofCOVID-19.
Born in Hiroshima following World War II, Hosokawa has composed a number of works (including Memory of the Sea and Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima) that express a deeply personal connection to those who have found themselves victims to disasters – both present and historical. Remarking that the Tohoku Earthquake on 11 March 2011 gave him pause to contemplate more deeply what it is ‘to live’, Hosokawa draws listeners’ attention to the strength of people in the face of the unimaginable.
In recent works, Meditation to the victims of Tsunami (3.11), a mourning for the victims of Tsunami, Klage, in which a mother could heal her deep sorrow by singing, and Nach dem Sturm depicting a flower that experienced storm gradually regaining the world of light, Hosokawa expressed fear of primitive power and the terror of nature, and the anger against irrationality that we are threatened by nuclear power we ourselves created. His work coexists with each of these, finding space between them to illuminate the resilience of humanity.
My musical idea is to find harmony between nature and humans. Therefore, the tsunami of 2011 was a great shock to me. Nature just isn’t only nice and beautiful, it can also be cruel sometimes. We Japanese seem to have lost our respect for nature. – Toshio Hosokawa
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 hisKammerkonzert (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 Kammerkonzertfor 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 changesbetween 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 Ligeti’s 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.
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
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 19thcentury composer who had to know everything, even conducting.’
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.
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.
With almost every opera house and concert hall around the world closed, we focus this week on a recent production of Hans Werner Henze´s opera The Bassarids, currently available for free on the online platform OperaVision. Reviews of Barrie Kosky´s staging and Vladimir Jurowski´s musical direction were splendid so this is a fantastic opportunity to explore the depths of this opera, considered a pinnacle of not only Henze´s dramatic output but of the entire mid-century classicism in opera.
The libretto for The Bassarids, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based on Euripides’ Bacchae; it tells the story of Pentheus, the new ruler of Thebes, banning the cult of Dionysus before being unwittingly drawn into the revelry by Dionysus himself, disguised as a stranger. Pentheus is eventually killed by his own mother, who has mistaken him for a wild animal, before Dionysus reveals his true identity and demands adoration from the Thebans for his revenge against the tyrant. The one-act opera’s large instrumentation and sophisticated libretto make The Bassarids an ambitious project. With Dionysus and Pentheus embodying two extremes of human existence, there is great potential for reference to the present day.
Today I consider The Bassarids, which I now understand to a far greater degree and hold much dearer than when I was composing the work, to be my most important music theatre work. It is […] still relevant for us, but specifically addresses questions associated with the years around 1968: what is freedom and what is bondage? What is repression, what is revolt and what is revolution? This is all in fact demonstrated, insinuated and suggested by Euripides. The multiplicity and richness of relationships, the tangible sensual relationships between the ancient civilisation of this Archaic period and our time are captured in Auden’s text; Euripides is transposed into our time in a manner which could not have been better achieved with the best possible stage production of the original Greek play, as we are constantly reminded of our distance from a different, long-gone civilisation. – Hans Werner Henze
The video will be available to stream on demand until 13 April and a final performance of the Komische Oper Berlin production is scheduled for 26 June.
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You can reach all at Schott using the usual phone lines and email addresses. We urge you to take care of yourselves and send our best wishes at this difficult time. Through a collective we will navigate this unprecedented challenge together. We all share a love and passion for music – it will guide and help us.
On 21 March, the world premiere of Thierry Pécou’s most recent opera Until the Lions would have been given in Strasbourg at the Opéra National du Rhin. Even though the rehearsals have now been stopped and the premiere been postponed until one of the following seasons due to the COVID-19 crisis, we would nevertheless like to introduce the piece: Marie Jacquot conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse in a production directed and choreographed by Shobana Jeyasingh.
On 8 March, Cologne Opera will perform Johannes Hanke’s children’s opera, The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs. Written between 2011 and 2012 on commission from Staatsoper Hannover, Hanke’s opera has since been performed in Dresden Basel and Munich. This most recent production will be conducted by Rainer Mühlbach.
On 28 February, Pierre Jalbert’s Ephemeral Objects for cello and piano will receive its world premiere at Middlebury College, Vermont. The new work, which was commissioned by Middlebury Performing Arts Series in celebration of its 100th Anniversary, will be performed by cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Pierre Jalbert: Ephemeral Objects”