MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Heinz Holliger at 80

“My entire relationship with music is such that I always try to reach its limits.”

The extraordinary Swiss oboist, composer, conductor, teacher, and all-around musical personality Heinz Holliger turns 80 today — his creativity undimmed.

Later in the week, ECM is releasing Zwiegespräche, an intriguing gathering of “dialogues”: works for oboe by Holliger and György Kurtág, who share a strikingly similar aesthetic. Both studied under Sándor Veress and, notes Roman Brotbeck in his liner notes, “both use the entire history of music as a frame of reference, both love miniatures, both speicalize in homage to friends and colleagues and cultivate a living ‘Davidsbund’ with living and departed soulmates.”

Holliger plays oboe, English horn, and piano on the album and is joined by fellow oboist Marie-Lise Schüpbach, bass clarinetist Ernesto Molinari, soprano Sarah Wegener, and Philippe Jaccottet reciting seven of his poems for another remarkable dialogue here: Holliger responds to the poems with various formal strategies in Lecture pour hautbois et cors anglais (2015-16).

Last year at Zurich Opera I was mesmerized by Holliger’s latest stage work, Lunea. In this opera to a libretto by Klaus Händl, Holliger returns to one of the figures who has haunted him throughout his creative life: the Romantic poet and polymath Nikolaus Lenau, who was institutionalized in his final years. Holliger’s exquisitely refined musical sensibility and aesthetic of fragmentation, indirection, and dislocation work to tremendously powerful effect here in depicting the search for love and longing for eternity.

Holliger has been a formative presence for decades at the Lucerne Festival. Here’s an insightful interview (in German) with Christian Wildhagen.

And here a radio interview with Dorothea Bossert for SWR.

Filed under: anniversary, Heinz Holliger, new music

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