MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Piano Fest in Lucerne

This evening begins a new mini-spring festival presented by Lucerne Festival: lasting through Sunday, Piano Fest is curated by Igor Levit and features Levit along with his colleagues Fred Hersch and his jazz trio, Johanna Summer, Anna Vinnitskaya, Alexei Volodin, and Mert Yalniz.

As the host of Piano Fest, Igor Levit will be involved in a variety of configurations: in a duo with Igor Volodin, in a joint concert with the jazz musicians Fred Hersch and Johanna Summer, and in a very personal solo recital. The last named will feature such works as Four Serious Songs, in which Johannes Brahms reflects on transience and passing away, along with Sergei Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata, composed during the Second World War, and a brand-new commission written by Fred Hersch, titled Songs Without Words.

Of Fred Hersch, All About Jazz observes: “When it comes to the art of solo piano in jazz, there are two classes of performers: Fred Hersch and everybody else.” Hersch will perform a solo evening and will also appear in a trio with Clemens van der Feen (bass) and Joey Baron (drums).

Piano Fest closes with a meetup between Igor Levit and his master student Mert Yalniz, Fred Hersch, and Johanna Summer: classics like Beethoven’s Appassionata and Schumann’s Waldszenen will be juxtaposed with jazz improvisations.

Complete program here.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news, piano

Mendelssohn Spring Festival in Lucerne

Lucerne Festival launches its new year tonight with the first offering in a three-day spring celebration featuring the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Replacing the ailing Riccardo Chailly tonight is Iván Fischer. He leads the orchestra in the continuing Mendelssohn cycle, pairing the First Symphony with music by Schubert and Chopin’s F minor Concerto (Rafał Blechacz the soloist). Listen to Susanne Stähr’s excellent introduction to Mendelssohn’s First (in German) here.


Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mendelssohn

Lucerne Festival Forward

Lucerne Festival’s three-day fall edition devoted to contemporary music starts today. The opening program of Forward takes place at the Swiss Museum of Transport planetarium and is centered around the Swiss premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Enigma for string quartet, featuring with 360-degree video by Sigurður Guðjónsson.

Telescope meets microscope: let’s shake up the relationship between outside and inside, between macrocosm and microcosm! Under the massive planetarium dome at the Swiss Museum of Transport, you will zoom into the infinite expanses of the universe, accompanied by improvisations. Sigurður Guðjónsson’s immersive 360-degree video Enigma also makes visible what is normally hidden from the human eye: with the help of an electron microscope, Guðjónsson scans the surface of a carbon fragment – suggestive images reminiscent of Martian landscapes. In tandem with the sounds of Anna Thorvaldsdottir, which oscillate subtly between flow and fragmentation, they combine to form a hypnotizing Gesamtkunstwerk.

more on Lucerne Festival Forward

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

2022 Summer Festival at Lucerne

Following several days of showcasing the young generation with performances by various youth orchestras, Lucerne Festival’s summer of music for 2022 officially launches tomorrow, 12 August. Riccardo Chailly will conduct the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in a program of music by Wolfgang Rihm, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and Rachmaninoff, with Anne-Sophie Mutter as the soloist in Saint-Georges’ Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 5, no. 2.

Here’s a list of concert transmissions that will be broadcast. Check Radio SRF 2 Kultur as well for broadcast information.

This summer’s theme is “Diversity.” The Festival describes the program as follows:

“For a long stretch, until the post-war decades, time seemed to stand still in the classical music scene. Orchestras were a male domain — women could only be found playing the harp or in the ranks of the violins. People of color were almost non-existent, and Asian women had to fight for their place on the stage. Of course, the leadership was also in male hands: the conductor was to be addressed as “maestro” or, in German orchestras, as “Meister” or “Herr Professor.” The repertoire, in turn, was limited to the Eurocentric canon of works, including the Viennese classics, the German-Austrian Romantics, plus Italian opera and a few coloristic touches from the fringes of Europe. This monoculture even persisted with respect to the audience, since access was found primarily among educated bourgeois circles who had enough income for musical pursuits.

A great deal has of course changed since then, yet a lot still remains to be done. Through this summer’s theme of “Diversity,” we want to make a plea for genuine diversity in classical music. That is why we have invited artists from demographic groups that were previously underrepresented in the scene. A number of women have made their mark on the program, and many works that are inherently diverse or have never been heard here before will be performed. And with affordable offers like the “Overture” presented by international youth orchestras, we hope to prove that enjoying classical music is not a question of money. Because music is for everyone.”

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

Mendelssohn Festival in Lucerne

Tonight in Lucerne, the festival year will be launched with a three-day Mendelssohn Festival — which is also the first in a new spring residency for the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly that will complement their customary Summer Festival performances.

This mini-Spring Festival will explore Mendelssohn in conjunction with his leading contemporaries, including, for the opening tonight, with his chief antagonist, Richard Wagner.

Anne-Sophie Mutter and friends will also join with musicians from the Lucerne Festival Orchestra for a special benefit concert for Ukraine on Saturday, performing chamber music by Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Shostakovich.

more on the Mendelssohn Festival

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mendelssohn, music news

Lucerne Festival Forward: Inaugural Edition

This weekend, Lucerne Festival will launch the first edition of its Forward Festival devoted to contemporary music. Members of the international Lucerne Festival Academy network have spearheaded this new fall initiative, which has been curated by a team of 18 members. The organizing theme is “networks” and the process of forging connections and achieving closer communication with the audience.

The opening event pays tribute to the late Louis Andriessen Friday evening, 19 November, at 10:00 pm CET, with a raucous performance of Workers Union (video intro here).

Winnie Huang will create 10-minute performances for just one guest at a time throughout the festival and Annea Lockwood’s Water and Memory and Michael Pisaro’s ricefall will similarly engage listeners. In, ricefall, for example, the participants let grains of rice trickle like rain onto various objects and surfaces, enabling an immersive and meditative sound experience. Olga Neuwirth was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s science fiction story “The Long Rain” to create her work of spatial music Construction in space: The sound is in motion, with the audience located right in the middle. Pauline Oliveros’ Out of the Dark, performed in complete darkness, is also conceived as spatial music and, like Lockwood, aims at “deep listening”: the listeners immerse themselves in the time-space continuum of the sound and become part of it.

A new piece by the Swiss percussionist and composer Jessie Cox will also be premiered — one of six works commissioned by the curatorial team to explore and exploit the architecture and acoustics unique to the KKL Concert Hall. “Networks” are additionally at the center of the various models of musical self-organization which Luis Fernando Amaya’s Tinta Roja, Tinta Negra, José-Luis Hurtado’s Retour, and George Lewis’s Artificial Life 2007 explore in open scores that work with improvisational elements. 

Complete series of video introductions

“Deep Listening” series

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy, new music

RIP Bernard Haitink (1929-2021)

Bernard Haitink has died. The 92-year-old conductor passed away peacefully at home, according to his representatives.

I had the privilege of attending his very final concert, in the summer of 2019, when he led the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Lucerne Festival. He maintained a close association with Lucerne for many years, including a nearby residence. Haitink’s farewell song was Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 (without score), paired with Beethoven’s G major Piano Concerto, with Emanuel Ax as the soloist.

Christian Wildhagen penned an eloquent review: ““Hatte er zuvor bei Beethovens 4. Klavierkonzert vorrangig Emmanuel Ax, einem feinsinnigen Pianisten der alten Schule, in nobel-zurückhaltender Weise die Bühne bereitet, so kam bei Bruckner noch einmal der grosse Architekt, der überragende Formgestalter Haitink zur Geltung. Wie beim späten Günter Wand wird die Detailarbeit hier mitnichten zur Nebensache, sie bildet aber lediglich die Basis für eine viel weiter ausgreifende Gestaltung, in der Entwicklungen teilweise über drei, vier Minuten behutsam entfaltet werden (etwa in der magischen Rückführung zur Reprise im ersten Satz oder beim grossen Wagner-Epitaph im Adagio), während sich die Spannungsbögen sogar bruchlos über ganze Sätze wölben.”

That summer–the last before the pandemic–there was also a vernissage for the publication of Erich Singer and Peter Hagmann’s fine collection of essays and conversations with Haitink: Dirigieren ist ein Rätsel. An English translation has yet to be issued.

Filed under: Bernard Haitink, Lucerne Festival, music news

Rebecca Saunders World Premiere at Lucerne Festival

The British-born, Berlin-residing Rebecca Saunders is this summer’s composer-in-residence at Lucerne Festival. Tonight brings the culminating event of her residency: the world premiere of her piano concerto to an utterance. She wrote it while working closely with the soloist Nicholas Hodges, in her signature fashion, to explore aspects of the instrument’s sound potential.

The premiere was originally to have taken place last summer and had to be postponed because of the pandemic. In another twist, Ivan Volkov, who was originally scheduled to conduct, had to bow out just last week for reasons of health. Composer-conductor Enno Poppe will lead the newly named Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra. They will then take the work to Musicfest Berlin.

“The solo piano within this concerto was conceived as a disembodied voice,” explains Saunders. “It seeks to tell its own story, wavering, almost painfully, inevitably failing to sustain its uncertain striving. It seeks to attain the silence of its end through its own excessive speaking: an incessant, compulsive soliloquy on the precipice of non-being.” 

The clip above is from a piece titled “Study,” based on the solo part, that Saunders presented last year at the Musikfest Berlin.

to an utterance is the tenth in the series of Roche Commissions sponsored by the pharmaceutical giant Roche. The latest composer to be commissioned has also been announced: Thomas Adés, who will write a violin concerto for Anne-Sophie Mutter to be unveiled in the summer of 2022.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news, Rebecca Saunders, Roche Commissions, Thomas Adès

Lucerne Festival Launching Tonight: Crazy Times

This evening in Lucerne (at 6.30 pm local time), the 2021 Summer Festival begins with Riccardo Chailly leading the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in a program of Mozart and Schubert. The concert is being streamed on arte.

The summer’s theme, quite aptly for these times, is “Crazy” — the German word verrückt having especially rich connotations that extend from mental imbalance to the dislocations and ruptures that seed a paradigm shift.

more on the Summer Festival

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

Lucerne Festival’s “Crazy” Summer

Lucerne Festival today presented its new plans for an expanded season and also introduced the programming for the 2021 Summer Festival. The theme is inspired by the “crazy” times we’ve been living through. In German, the usual for crazy (verrückt) also carries the connotation of “dislocation” — as in a revolutionary artist shifting and upending conventional paradigms.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.