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Work of the Week – Bernd Alois Zimmermann: Sinfonie in einem Satz

March 2018 marks the centenary of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s birth. Among the performances in celebration of this occasion are two concerts on 29 October featuring Sinfonie in einem Satz in its two versions, one with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern and Peter Hirsch, and the other with the Gürzenich Orchester Köln conducted by Harmut Haenchen.

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Work of the Week – Chaya Czernowin: Guardian

Chaya Czernowin’s inspiration for her new cello concerto, Guardian, grew from her in depth research of the human experience of time. The work is dedicated to cellist Séverine Ballon who along with the SWR-Sinfonieorchester and Pablo Rus Broseta, will give its world premiere at the closing concert of the 2017 Donaueschingen Festival on 22 October.

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Work of the Week – Peter Eötvös: Multiversum

When Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into space in 1961, he sparked a generation’s interest in the mysteries of the universe. This included a young Peter Eötvös, whose latest work, Multiversum for concert organ, Hammond organ, and orchestra, sets out to explore this theme. The composer himself will conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and soloists Iveta Apkalna and László Fassang in the world premiere on 10 October 2017 in the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.

Peter Eötvös: Multiversum – creating a universe out of sound

Eötvös was inspired to compose a piece that would envelope the listener in the same way the universe envelopes the earth.  A three-dimensional sound is created by the staging: the strings are placed to the left of the audience and the woodwinds to the right, while the brass and percussion are spread over the stage alongside the Hammond organ.  A carefully placed Leslie rotary speaker creates a Doppler effect that obscures the Hammond organ’s location, allowing it to seemingly float above the whole audience. Even immovable instruments are presented in a different light – the Klais organ, which is built into the wall of the Elbphilharmonie behind a section of the audience, is played at a keyboard at the front of the hall. The overall effect is a visual break from traditional orchestral staging and an immersive sound experience for each audience member.

I try to describe the world with sounds, just like writers do it with words, painters with a brush, and directors with a camera. We often describe the same thing; only the medium is different. – Peter Eötvös

Eötvös will conduct Multiversum again on 11 October at the Philharmonie Köln, 12 October at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brüssel, 14 October at the Müpa Budapest and 19 and 20 October at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam.


Work of the Week – Aribert Reimann: L’Invisible

Aribert Reimann’s new opera, L’Invisible, conjures a mysterious and foreboding atmosphere. On 8 October, the world premiere of this “trilogie lyrique” will be presented at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in a production by Vasily Barkhatov conducted by Donald Runnicles.

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Work of the Week – Valentin Silvestrov: Symphony No 3

The London Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates Valentin Silvestrov’s 80th birthday with the UK premiere of his Symphony No. 3 (“Eschatophony”) at Royal Festival Hall on 27 September with conductor Vladimir Jurowski.

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Work of the Week – Krzysztof Penderecki: Symphony No. 6

The genre of the symphony includes many strange beasts: “Unfinished” works, others labelled “No. 0”, and even some with alternate or multiple opus numbers. Krzysztof Penderecki’s Symphony No. 6 may well be one such oddity. His Symphonies No. 7 and No. 8 were completed decades ago and have enjoyed multiple performances, however, Symphony No. 6 has only recently been completed.

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Work of the Week: Luigi Nono – Il canto sospeso

“…Your son is leaving. He won’t be able to hear the bells of freedom”, wrote Konstantinos Sirbos in a farewell letter hours before his murder by the Nazis. Luigi Nono chose this and other similar letters as the basis for his work Il canto sospeso (“Floating chant”), which will be performed on 11 September by the SWR Symphonieorchester and the SWR Vokalensemble at Musikfest Berlin with Peter Rundel conducting and soloists Mojca Erdmann (soprano), Jenny Carlstedt (mezzo soprano) and Robin Tritschler (tenor).

During the Third Reich, many people chose to resist the injustices of the Nazi regime and most of them faced death as a result. Letters written by such fourteen- to forty-year-old members of the resistance from around Europe just before their death were published in a documentary in 1954. Nono’s work sets fragments from these letters in nine connected sections and is dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom.

Luigi Nono‘s Il canto sospeso: Overcoming death through music

At the work’s opening, Nono uses floating orchestral sounds to draw the audience in before the choir sings the first episode. “I’m dying for justice. Our ideas will win”, wrote a young man from Bulgaria. In the next episode, the three soloists simultaneously sing the words of three different Greek patriots. At the climax of the piece, Nono uses lines written by a condemned woman describing moment the Nazis came to execute her, with the music moving from heart-rending brass and timpani to a contrasting, stark string accompaniment. The soprano soloist then sings words of farewell from a young Russian woman to her mother, accompanied by the hums of the women in the choir and a selection of high instruments. The piece ends with the choir singing the words “I’m leaving, having faith in a better life for you”, with only timpani accompanying. Nono connects each cryptic text fragment with instrumental Intermezzi, creating an atmosphere of farewell, desperation, and bewilderment around the listener.

Now as much as ever, works dedicated to remembrance and reflection are of great importance, giving a voice to thoughts and feelings and even serving as focal points for discussion, talks, and educational activities. You’ll find more works of remembrance by following the link below. In these works it is evident that composers at all times have deeply believed that music has the ability to remind, admonish, but also comfort and reconcile. Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein put it like this:

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.

This year offers another opportunity to hear Il canto sospeso on 26 November at the Sendesaal des Hessischen Rundfunks in Frankfurt, Germany.


Work of the week – Igor Strawinsky: L’Oiseau de feu

Igor Stravinsky’s L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) has enjoyed regular performances all over the world for more than 100 years, with the Orchestral Suite being a staple of the concert repertoire. This week alone, the piece will be performed in five different cities.

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Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: Der junge Lord

On 2 September, the Opernhaus Hannover will present Hans Werner Henze’s much-performed comic opera, Der junge Lord, for the first time in the opera house’s history with director Bernd Mottl and Mark Rhode conducting the Niedersächsische Staatsorchester.

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Work of the Week: Gerald Barry – Canada

Ludwig van Beethoven and Canada. What do those two have in common?

Gerald Barry’s new work for voice and orchestra, Canada, will have its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms on 21 August.

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