The David Geffen Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic, lies within walking distance of Manhattan’s iconic Central Park. Fittingly, on 21 March 2019 the orchestra with conductor Jaap van Zweden will perform Charles Ive’s Central Park in the Dark. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Charles Ives: Central Park in the Dark”
A new production of Hans Werner Henze’s opera, Der Prinz von Homburg, opens on 17 March 2019 at Staatsoper Stuttgart for a series of five performances. The production is directed by Stephan Kimmig and will be conducted by music director, Cornelius Meister. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: Der Prinz von Homburg”
In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2019, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor Valentina Peleggi will perform a programme featuring works by Clara Schumann, Joan Tower, Florence Price, and the first performance in modern times of Augusta Holmès’ Roland Furieux. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Augusta Holmès: Roland Furieux”
John Casken’s Madonna of Silence, a new 24 minute work for trombone and orchestra, will be given its world premiere by the Hallé Orchestra on 28 February 2019 at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. The work was commissioned by the orchestra for their Principal Trombone Katy Jones, and will be conducted by Jamie Phillips. Continue reading “Work of the Week: John Casken – Madonna of Silence”
‘La secret de la vie’, (the secret of life) is the topic of Aribert Reimann’s recent work, Fragments de Rilke, which will receive its world premiere on 23 February 2019 at the Berlin Philharmonie. This song cycle for soprano and orchestra was commissioned by the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin who will give the first performance as part of the Brahms-Perspektiven festival with chief conductor, Robin Ticciati and soprano soloist, Rachel Harnisch. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Aribert Reimann: Fragments de Rilke”
The WERGO-CD “Anna Korsun: Ulenflucht” has been awarded the Quarterly German Record Critics’ Award.
Category Contemporary Music:
Anna Korsun: Ulenflucht
Anna Korsun’s compositions explore unknown ground by repeatedly exploring aesthetic boundaries. Her portrait CD in the series EDITION ZEITGENÖSSISCHE MUSIK, presents five of these musical maps. With a wide variety of instrumentations, ranging from the extraordinary organ in the Kunst-Station Sankt Peter Cologne to a vocal ensemble, she creates sophisticated, sometimes bizarre sound images, always surrounded by a fleeting aura.
Eggert, Moritz, Susteck, Dominik, Virzì, Flavio, Gehlen, Alina, Syrse, Diana, Sladek, Roman, Ullmann, Stefan, Schmauder, Katharina, Brinholi, Gustavo, Hnativ, Nataliya, Khismatov, Sergey, Park, Alessia, Straburzyński, Maciej, van der Heijden, Gijs, Zimmer, Johanna, Fischer, Andreas
On 16 February 2019, Jörg Widmann’s Babylon-Suite will be performed by Orchestre National de France under the direction of Nicholas Collon in the Radio France Auditorium in Paris as part of the Festival Présence. The performance will be accompanied by video-installations created by students of the École Estienne. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Jörg Widmann: Babylon”
On the 9 February 2019, Dutch National Ballet will give world premiere of Gavin Bryars’ Requiem, ten-movement setting of liturgical texts, for orchestra, chorus, and vocal soloists with choreography by David Dawson. The performance will be the first of a seven to be given throughout February in Amsterdam with the final performance taking place on 1 March. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Gavin Bryars: Requiem”
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.
Containing both immense soundscapes and delicate, lyrical melodies, Pēteris Vasks’ Symphony No. 2 for large orchestra is a work that oscillates between extremes. On 1 February 2019, the Winnipeg New Music Festival will perform the symphony’s North American premiere in Canada led by conductor Daniel Raiskin. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Pēteris Vasks: Symphony No. 2”