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2021/11/29

Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Deine Freunde aus der Ferne

Talking cats, moving teddy bears and flying fish – completely normal! At least it appears in Toshio Hosokawa’s new piece for children, Deine Freunde aus der Ferne. The world premiere of the 40-minute work for speaking voice and ensemble will take place on 4 December 2021 at the Philharmonie in Luxembourg as part of the “Rainy Days” festival. Protagonist Salome Kammer will perform with the United Instruments of Lucilin ensemble under the direction of Nelly Danker, with design by Robert Pflanz. Deine Freunde aus der Ferne is Hosokawa’s first work for children and was written for young people between the ages of 5 – 9. The text was written in German by Yoko Tawada.  Continue reading “Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Deine Freunde aus der Ferne”

2021/11/22

Work of the Week – Peter Eötvös: Sleepless

“When it’s out of necessity, anything is permissible.” This bold statement appears in the opera Sleepless by composer Peter Eötvös and his wife Mari Mezei, the librettist. Jon Fosse’s novel Trilogy provides the basis for the story. Eötvös himself will conduct the world premiere of the work in Berlin at Staatsoper Unter den Linden on 28 November 2021. The work will be staged by Kornél Mundruczó, with set design and costumes by Monika Pomale. The performance will take place in English with German and English surtitles. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Peter Eötvös: Sleepless”

2021/11/15

Work of the Week – Hannah Lash: The Peril of Dreams

We have had enough of our dreary everyday life so we have let Hannah Lash take us on a journey to the realm of dreams – would you like to join? In her new piece for two harps and orchestra, she explores the theme of dreaming and the potential dangers. The Peril of Dreams will be premiered at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, Benaroya Hall, in Seattle on 18 November 2021. Hannah Lash is not only a composer, but an esteemed harpist. The world premiere will be performed by Seattle Symphony with soloists Hannah Lash and Valerie Muzzolini (principal) under Thomas Dausgaard. Continue reading “Work of the Week – Hannah Lash: The Peril of Dreams”

2021/11/08

Work of the Week – Chaya Czernowin: Atara

The Corona pandemic has presented great challenges to humankind and created a sense of powerlessness. Chaya Czernowin expressed her impressions of this in her new work Atara, a lament for orchestra and two amplified voices. The ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra will perform the world premiere on 9 November 2021 at the Wien Modern Festival with Christian Karlsen and soloists Sofia Jernebrg, soprano and Holger Falk, baritone. 

Poet Zohar Eitan as inspiration for Atara by Chaya Czernowin

When Czernowin began working on Atara in early 2020, she had no idea that the world would come to a standstill shortly after. The work was originally intended to be a lament about the human compulsion to control the environment and nature. However, due to the Corona crisis, it has turned into a play that reflects the atmosphere of the lockdown and the loss of control during a pandemic. The Israeli composer was inspired by a poem that was written by her friend Zohar Eitan, which provides the text for Atara (Hebrew for: Crown).

In Atara, the orchestra moves slowly and forcefully in huge independent blocks. Opposing this, the singers and their chamber instrumental formation are fragile, lost in the huge spaces suddenly opened up by the orchestra. Chaya Czernowin

The German premiere of Atara will take place at the “viva musica” event series with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich during the 2022/23 season.

photo: Christopher McIntosh

2021/11/01

Work of the Week – Peter Eötvös: Cziffra Psodia

5 November 2021 marks the 100th birthday of Georges Cziffra. After Liszt, no other composer represented the Hungarian style better than him and no existing composition was difficult enough for the legendary virtuoso. 

On Cziffra’s birthday, Peter Eötvös’ new piano concerto Cziffra Psodia will receive its world premiere to celebrate the centenary. Soloist Janós Balász and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France will perform the piece under the baton of Mikko Franck at Budapest’s MüPa concert hall. 

I wrote the piano concerto on the occasion of Georges Cziffra’s 100th birthday. My family had personal connections to him and I had the opportunity to get to know him when I was still a child. Cziffra’s whole life was one of success and tragedy. It was rhapsodic and dramatic. This is precisely the atmosphere I have tried to create in my piano concerto. The characteristic, metallic rhythm heard in the first movement is reminiscent of the work in the quarry during his imprisonment. The later, meditative state of the moments of his withdrawal from the public has been composed in three quiet cadenzas. Each movement ends with a short violin solo, a personal tribute. Peter Eötvös

On 7 November, the French premiere of Cziffra Psodia will be presented in Paris at the Maison de la Radio et de la Musique. Swiss and Norwegian premieres with Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra are scheduled for 2022/2023. 

photo: Tibor Bozi

2021/10/26

Work of the Week – Paul Dessau: Die Verurteilung des Lukullus

On Monday 1st November 2021, the opera Die Verurteilung des Lukullus (“The condemnation of Lucullus”) by Paul Dessau will be performed at Staatsoper Stuttgart. It is the first time that the work has been staged in the state capital of Baden-Württemberg. Julia Lwowski and Franziska Kronfoth, the founders of musical theatre collective “Hauen und Strechen” are directing the production alongside conductor Bernhard Kontarsky, who has been working with the Staatsoper Stuttgart since the 1960s.

The opera from 1949 is based on a radio play by Bertolt Brecht called The interrogation of Lucullus, which the poet had written in 1939. During the Nazi-regime, both Brecht and Dessau were exiled from Germany, and later decided to settle down in the Soviet occupation zone. In the founding year of the German Democratic Republic, they worked together on the libretto of “Lucullus” which was intended to criticize the Second World War and any military expansion. Due to Dessau’s modernist musical language and because the criticism on the exploitive ruling was considered too weak by the socialistic leaders, conflicts with the production team emerged. The world premiere, held at the provisionary Admiralspalast of the German State Opera in East-Berlin on 17 March 1951 was a closed event which then led to a huge dispute. The authors were required to make modifications and changes, among other aspects, to the title of the opera from The interrogation of Lucullus to The condemnation of Lucullus. Subsequently, further performances were allowed, and the piece was publicly performed in the repertoire of the state opera.

Bertolt Brecht and Paul Dessau’ Lucullus as a General and Braggart

From the plot: After the ostentatious act of state for his funeral, the roman military leader Lucullus, the dead man is called to court at the realm of shadows. Among his jurors, there are also his victims so that his triumphal victories are judged differently than what he is used to. Not only are his victories being considered but also the victims on his enemies’ side and among his own troops. The final judgement is clear: “Into nothingness with him!”

The choice of instruments in the score is striking. Dessau completely abandons violins and violas and instead includes a percussion section with nine players. The alternation of wind and percussion sounds and the use of low strings results in a contrasting and effective sound pattern.

The fact that I introduce Lucullus with kettledrums and trumpets has nothing in common with the classical cliché of the hero’s introduction. For me, it is meant paradisiacally. I introduce him with kettledrums and trumpets to say, now comes a great braggart. (Paul Dessau)

Further performances at the Staatsoper Stuttgart take place on the 6, 13, 15, and 20 November 2021.

2021/10/11

Work of the Week – Joseph Schwantner: Violin Concerto

On Friday, October 15, Joseph Schwantner’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra will be first performed at Orchestra Hall Detroit, MI, with violinist Yevgeny Kutik and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.

It is the first work which the 78-year old composer names ‘violin concerto, after former works for solo violin and orchestra carry the titles Angelfire and The Poet’s Hour… The latter  being the starting point for the new 30-minute concerto:

The genesis of the violin concerto originally began as a short soliloquy for violin and strings commissioned by the Seattle Symphony to commemorate my friend, Gerard Schwarz’s retirement as the orchestra’s musical director. I had always planned to later expand and re-imagine the music as part of a larger scale work for violin and orchestra. When Gerard also performed the music with his All-Star Orchestra and violinist, Yevgeny Kutik, I was enthralled with Yevgeny’s masterful and nuanced performance. He brings a dramatic and an emotional arc to his impressive technique and captivating musical personality and that vision remained in my mind’s ear all during the writing of the concerto. (Joseph Schwantner)

One day after the premiere, there will be one further concert at the same venue. Both concerts will also be available as live streams.

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.

 

 

2021/07/30

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

 

2021/02/02

World Premiere of an early Violin Concerto by Hans Werner Henze

On 4 February 2021, 21:05 GMT Konzertmusik for violin and small chamber orchestra by Hans Werner Henze will receive it’s world premiere. After several attempts to perform the work had to be cancelled in 2020, the Bavarian Radio will broadcast a studio recording with Peter Tilling and the Ensemble risonanze erranti. This will officially mark the world premiere of the composition.

Konzertmusik is the earliest work composed by Hans Werner Henze and published by Schott: the concerto for violin and small chamber orchestra, written when he was only 17. It was not until the end of World War II that he was able to devote himself intensively to composition: a short time later, he was signed by Schott. The composition reveals its inspiration from Paul Hindemith. In its chamber music structure, a series of instruments from the ensemble including flute, trumpet and the first player of violin I repeatedly take on small solo passages and accompany the solo violin in groups of two or three. In the finale however, a ‘genuine’ virtuoso violin concerto unfolds in miniature.

Porträt Hans Werner Henze: © Schott Music / Hans Kenner