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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

2020/11/30

World Premiere: ‘ENSMO ↔ OMNES’ by Heinz Holliger

Online world premiere on 9 December: The Ensemble Modern is presenting the first performance of the ensemble work ENSMO ↔ OMNES for 16 instruments by Heinz Holliger as part of its anniversary concert.

Th e composer dedicates his technically challenging work to the Ensemble Modern on the 40th anniversary of their foundation. The first part of the title plays on the syllables of the famous ensemble whereas OMNES refers to its total of 16 members. The opening cadenza
featuring pianos, xylophone and marimbaphone is interrupted by the other instruments.
In the central section, the woodwind, brass and strings are independently superimposed above one another. Finally, the musicians depart from the piece singing softly.

‘I have written music spanning our common thread of almost 40 years of memories, culminating in a glassy C major chord.’ (Heinz Holliger)

9 December 2020 | Frankfurt am Main (D)
Alte Oper, Großer Saal
Ensemble Modern
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor

 

2020/10/12

Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: No People.

On 18 October at the Donaueschingen Festival, Ensemble Musikfabrik and with conductor Mariano Chiacchiarini will give the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s No People. for 13 instruments. The work which has been commissioned by SWR, draws on Barry’s earlier work by the same name.


Please note:
After the publication of this article, the Donaueschingen Festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we would like to invite you to learn about this interesting composition.


Continue reading “Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: No People.”

2020/09/21

Werk der Woche – Viktor Ullmann: Der Kaiser von Atlantis

Two new productions of Viktor Ullmann´s one-act chamber opera The Emperor of Atlantis or Death’s Refusal are opening in Germany this week. On 26 September the opera opens at Landestheater Neustrelitz, and on 27 September Deutsche Oper am Rhein will present a new production at Opernhaus Düsseldorf. With its compact cast of characters and instrumentation, as well as its timeless staggering subject matter, it is the piece of the hour. 

The opera is a parable of a cruel emperor, whose senseless war is claiming many lives. Death puts an end to the chaos by refusing his duty – now, everyone lives for eternity. The king becomes disempowered, but the people long for a release from the pain of life. Only the voluntary death of the emperor can restore death’s original purpose.

Ullmann wrote The Emperor of Atlantis while imprisoned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943, based on a libretto by Peter Kien, a fellow prisoner. The opera was rehearsed by a chamber ensemble founded with the permission of the SS, but its performance was prohibited after the final rehearsal. Just before his deportation to Auschwitz in 1944, Ullmann handed the score and libretto to a friend who was able to save both manuscripts.

Viktor Ullmann – The Emperor of Atlantis: a theatrical memorial

I composed quite a lot of new music in Theresienstadt, mostly for satisfying the demands of conductors, directors, pianists, singers and thus for the leisure activities in the Ghetto […]. I need to emphasize that my musical work was encouraged and not inhibited by Theresienstadt. We were not merely succumbing to grief at Babylon’s streams, and our cultural will was equal to our will to live; and I am convinced that all those who have attempted to shape reluctant material in either life or art would agree with me. – Viktor Ullmann

There will be two further performances at Landestheater Neustrelitz with the last night being presented on 24 October. In Düsseldorf, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein will run for a further eight performances until 19 November. Several versions and manuscripts of the opera are available that show the work in various stages before and after its censorship. A new Eulenburg study score from Schott (ETP 8067) shows each version together in one edition.

photo: Deutsche Oper am Rhein / Hans Jörg Michel

2020/09/14

Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: The Flood

On 16 September, Ensemble Intercontemporain directed by Matthias Pintscher presents the world premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s The Flood at the Philharmonie de Paris. The work, which has been jointly commissioned by the ensemble and the Ojai Music Festival in California, was originally scheduled to premiere at the festival in June.

Continue reading “Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: The Flood”

2020/09/07

Work of the Week – Jörg Widmann: Zeitensprünge

The Staatskappelle Berlin celebrates its impressive history as it marks its 450th anniversary this year. The earliest sources mentioning the orchestra date from 1570. On 11 September, the world premiere of a new work by Jörg Widmann commissioned specially for the occasion, Zeitensprünge (Leaps in time), will be given in a concert conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera House. 

The title Zeitensprünge is a pun about musical time-travel and stylistic escapades. Widmann explores the multiple stylistic periods through which the orchestra has lived during its long history, with the opening bars featuring an off-stage ensemble playing renaissance dances. Only when the musicians enter the stage does the idea of conducting start to take form, and a concert of today’s understanding commences. 

Jörg Widmann – Zeitensprünge: A Concerto for Orchestra in a nutshell

Though Zeitensprünge is a condensed 10-minute orchestral work of only 450 bars (one for each year of the Staatskapelle´s history), it nevertheless has everything a full-scale Concerto for Orchestra needs. There are solos from nearly every section of the orchestra, ensembles such as fanfares emerge from the texture, medieval winds and consorts play next to each other, and Widmann uses a variety of musical forms to lead to a brilliant final canon that symbolises many becoming one. 

“When I sit in front of a sheet of manuscript paper, I don’t keep thinking ‘you have to invent something new’. Not at all. My head is full of harmonies, connections and combinations that have never been heard before. My problem is to find forms for them. I am now in a stage of fighting to find these new forms.” – Jörg Widmann 

Photos:Marco Borggrve, Adobe Stock / spuno

2020/08/31

Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Concerto noir redux

2020 is the 200th anniversary of the Berlin Konzerthaus, a concert hall that started life as a theatre. In celebration of this anniversary as part of Musikfest Berlin, Christian Tetzlaff will perform the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Christian Jost on 6 September. The concerto, entitled Concerto noir redux, will be accompanied by Konzerthausorchester Berlin and conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. 

Concerto noir redux was originally intended to bear the same title as his opera Journey of Hope – Voyage of Despair. However, after the cancellation of the original premiere in March 2020, Jost chose instead to make changes to the music in response to recent events.

Christian Jost – Concerto noir redux: music from the lockdown

The result was not only a smaller orchestra, necessitated by social distancing, but a work that expresses a darker character and soundworld. Concerto noir redux is now one of two versions of the work Concerto noir, each with the same solo part.

Usually, I compose with a clear idea of the musical structure and of the sounds, and therefore of the course of the resulting work. But this time it was different. There was an initial thought for the opening in which the solo violin gradually separates from unison with the first violins. From this starting point the work should virtually compose itself. The resulting single-movement concerto with a single tempo (quarter = 76 espressivo) is driven by rhythmic ‘cells’. I completed the composition more or less simultaneously with the end of the lockdown, and since this had given rise to a work with predominantly dark shades of colour and sound, I considered Concerto noir to be a perfect title. Christian Jost

Photos: Adobe Stock / lakkot, Joe Quiao

2020/08/24

Work of the Week – Akiko Yamane: Arcade

On 26 August, Arcade, a new 20-minute orchestral work by Akiko Yamane will receive its world premiere at Suntory Hall, Tokyo. The concert, which is part of the 2020 Suntory Summer Festival will be given by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yoichi Sugiyama.

Yamane describes Arcade as drawing on the idea of drone music that programmatically expresses a consumerist society where the needs and desires of the people are seemingly under control. Below the surface, however, their internal desires and contradictions become apparent. Arcade has been commissioned by the Suntory Arts Foundation. 

Akiko Yamane – Arcade: State of uncertainty within a fragile society

I seek to depict this idea with a quality of sound that a person can feel on their skin. The sound fluctuates according to subtle changes within the listener’s body, or in accordance with a particular place or space and so on. In this piece, I stop and turn my attention to the various layers of sound and focus on their essence. Akiko Yamane 

Photos: Adobe Stock / topntp, Coco