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Work of the week – Toshio Hosokawa: Blossoming II

Toshio Hosokawa’s orchestral work Blossoming II will be performed this week by two orchestras in four cities. As part of a short tour, the London Symphony Orchestra will perform the work under the baton of Robin Ticciati, travelling from the Austrian premiere in Vienna on 22 January via Linz on 23 January to London on 25 January. At the same time, Jun Maerkl and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will perform the work at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall on 22, 24 and 25 January.

Hosokawa’s string quartet Blossoming provides the groundwork for its successor, Blossoming II, which elaborates on the musical material and introduces new ideas. Blossoming II conjures the image of a lotus flower, slowly blooming and ascending towards the sun. The single sustained note rising out of silence in the beginning symbolizes the surface of a pond; any sounds below this note represent the world under the water, those that are higher portray the world above. Thus, a melody develops from below and rises higher and higher. A book about Buddhism and the blossoming of the lotus flower inspired this image, an important part of Japanese culture:

The deep roots of flowers in Japanese aesthetics and spirituality led me to them as the subject of this work. The flower and I are one; the blossoming of the flower represents my shedding of my skin, my self-discovery. – Toshio Hosokawa

Hosokawa intended to express a personal matter in Blossoming II: a critique of Japanese society’s great interest in Western culture that is gradually replacing its own ancient traditions. In writing his own music, Hosokawa aims to reverse this process and carve out a place for traditional Japanese aesthetics and music forms in the perception of culture in his home country.




Work of the Week – Ryan Wigglesworth: Études-Tableaux

On 16 January, Ryan Wigglesworth’s new orchestral work Études-Tableaux will have its world premiere performance at Severance Hall in Cleveland. Franz Welser-Möst will conduct the Cleveland Orchestra where Wigglesworth currently holds the position of Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow. The concert, which concludes with Mahler’s 6th Symphony, will receive a second performance on 17 January.

Wigglesworth drew inspiration for Études-Tableaux from aspects of material first conceived in 2009, redeveloping fragments from the original music in this new work. Throughout, Wigglesworth allows melodic and harmonic ideas to migrate and transform freely between sections. The central section is made up of several smaller episodes, all fast in tempo and crosscutting with a greater frequency. It is framed by chorale-like parts, a clarinet solo and sections that contrast slow with fast tempi.

My intention was to forge from these discrete panels a single arch-like shape, each section flowing into the next (sometimes with bridging material, sometimes not) without any hiatus. – Ryan Wigglesworth

The collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra, commissioners of the new work, was made possible by the Young Composers Endowment Fund which previously supported Jörg Widmann during the 2010-11 season. The UK premiere of Études-Tableaux will take place on 6 February at London’s Barbican Hall, conducted by Wigglesworth.



Work of the week – Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Straussiana

The New Year’s Concert 2015 of Dresden’s State Operetta will be on 1, 3, 4, 8, and 9 January. It is titled after Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s work Straussiana and will equally be a homage to Johann Strauss. The Orchestra under the baton of Andreas Schüller will play other Strauss-adaptations by Korngold as well, and of course also original works of the Waltz-king.

Korngold, who had to emigrate in 1938 to the US, tried a comeback in Europe after the Second World War. He stayed in his home country Austria for some years but could not regain his former popularity. Finally he went back to Hollywood, where in 1953 he wrote his last orchestral work Straussiana, commissioned for America’s school orchestras. For the three sections “Polka – Mazurka – Waltz”, Korngold used some Melodies from rather unknown works of Johann Strauss like “Fürstin Ninetta”, “Cagliostro in Wien” and “Ritter Pasman”. Thus he created a charming and brilliantly orchestrated Potpourri. Since the 1920s, the composer committed himself to the operettas of Strauss and helped to perform forgotten works by adapting them carefully. Also his Geschichten von Strauss op. 21 for piano dates from this time. Korngold’s father Julius, a famous critic, wrote about his son’s devotion to Johann Strauss:

When he once had been asked to rehearse and perform a Strauss-operetta, he soon felt the urge to revive the receptivity for Strauss’ forgotten music. That is how Erich’s approach led to a kind of Strauss-renaissance. – Julius Korngold

After the experience of war and exile, the composer certainly felt a certain melancholy writing Straussiana, remembering the glorious past in his native city Vienna. Only four years later, he died in Hollywood at the age of sixty.