MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Lucerne Festival Academy in Berlin

INORI

To the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy fell the honor of closing out the 2018 Musikfest Berlin — and what could possibly top their rendition of Stockhausen’s INORI as the final act?

Led by Peter Eötvös, the Academy musicians found themselves on the stage of one of the most sacrosanct spaces of Berlin’s music scene, the Philharmonie, playing the Berlin premiere of the full version of Stockhausen’s intensely beautiful “Adorations” for large orchestra and two “dancer-mimes” (hitherto given here only in a reduced version).

They’d spent the summer rehearsing it and presenting it as part of the Stockhausen homage at Lucerne Festival — the two pairs of artists who undertook the unusually demanding dancer-mime roles spent the past year mastering their parts — and everything was in place for Stockhausen’s weirdly gripping, transporting music of the spheres to cast its spell.

Spirituality and ritual comprised a thematic focus for several of the Musikfest programs. Stockhausen’s gathering of ageless gestures of prayer and worship that have been used across global cultures conveyed a contemporary longing to transcend the mania of our fragmented, restless lives and attention spans in this late-capitalist era.

Trained under the supervision of Kathinka Pasveer, Alain Louafi, and Peter Eötvösm Winnie Huang and Diego Vásquez were the dancer-mimes in this performance. At the start, they ascended the steps to the two raised platforms positioned downstage, where over the course of the 70-minute work they performed Stockhausen’s meticulously notated gestures, in sync with changes in the pitch, rhythm, and dynamics of the music. INORI has been described as a sister work to GRUPPEN, but here the focus is on synchrony rather than simultaneously unfolding polychronies.

Mostly performing from a seated position, the dancer-mimes eventually descended again from their perch, slowly retreating to an exit high behind the stage, like Bodhisattvas who have fulfilled their mission.

Filed under: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

Ruth Reinhardt at Lucerne Festival

The talented young conductor Ruth Reinhardt, who returns to Seattle Symphony for a major concert next month (where she was a Conducting Fellow in 2015-16), led an impressive performance of Luigi Nono’s No hay caminos, hay que caminar … Andrej Tarkowskij this past Sunday — one of the highlights of this year’s Lucerne Festival Academy.

Reinhardt gave a brief introduction to this highly challenging piece, suggesting the possibility of perceiving in the highly structured, subtle transformations to which Nono subjects his material a “metaphor for the human journey, our pilgrimage through life.

The Nono work explores spatial music as well, with discrete groups of the players subdivided into seven and positioned throughout the hall. Before and after this concert (which also included Messiaen’s awe-inducing, terrifyingly loud Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum for winds and percussion, led by Sir Simon Rattle), the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy joined the London Symphony for Stockhausen’s Gruppen.

A fascinating juxtaposition: the devoutly Catholic Messiaen, the resolutely atheist Nono.

Filed under: conductors, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

Kosmos Stockhausen

Getting ready to take in my first experience of Lucerne Festival’s Kosmos Stockhausen series: a seven-concert homage to the powerful postwar avant-garde guru marking what would have been his 90th birthday this year.
My adventure will begin with this afternoon’s program of GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE, REFRAIN, ZYKLUS, and KONTAKTE, featuring Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Helga Karen on keyboards, Dirk Rothbrust on percussion, and sound designer Marco Stroppa.
Then comes a solo recital with Aimard performing KLAVIERSTÜCKE I-XI, GRUPPEN with the London Symphony and Lucerne Festival Orchestra (and, as the three conductors, Simon Rattle, Jaehyuck Choi, and Duncan Ward).
I wasn’t able to make the most-touted of the series, INORI in its Swiss premiere, but I’m planning to catch it during the Academy’s tour in Berlin as part of the Musikfest Berlin.

Katharina Thalmann offers a preview of INORI for the Luzerner Zeitung here. From her interview with the composer and conductor Peter Eötvös, who collaborated closely with Stockhausen, comes this observation about the work’s contemporary resonance:

Trotzdem: «Die Interpreten in diesem Projekt kommen aus der ganzen Welt zusammen, dadurch wird die multikulturelle Haltung von Stockhausen hier in Luzern am besten repräsentiert.» Denn fast scheint es, als hätte Stockhausen mit «Inori» in die Zukunft komponiert. Die mannigfaltigen religiösen und spirituellen Symbole, die in dem Werk aufeinandertreffen, nehmen das Konzept der Globalisierung vorneweg. Diese Weltvorstellung repräsentiert die heterogene, multikulturelle Zusammensetzung des Academy-Orchesters perfekt.

Manuel Brug writes about INORI here.
And in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Jürg Huber offers this commentary.

Filed under: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

Live from Lucerne Festival: All-Ravel Concert

Tonight’s edition of Live from Lucerne Festival is an all-Ravel concert: Riccardo Chailly conducts the Lucerne Festival Orchestra starting at 7.30pm Lucerne time.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival

The 2018 Summer Festival in Lucerne

Tonight the 2018 edition of Lucerne’s Summer Festival opens with a program of Stravinsky and Mozart. Riccardo Chailly conducts the Lucerne Festival Orchestral, with Lang Lang as the soloist in Mozart’s C minor Concerto.

The concert starts at 6:30 pm (Lucerne time), and its second half — Firebird — will be broadcast live on the Lucerne Festival Facebook page and YouTube channel. WQXR will also stream the second half on its webpage.

Additionally, Radio SRF2 Kultur will broadcast the entire concert (with a time delay, starting at 7:30 pm Lucerne time).

 

Filed under: Lucerne Festival

Daniele Gatti Replacements at Lucerne Summer Festival

The replacement conductors for the two programs that the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra had originally scheduled at the 2018 Summer Festival in Lucerne with their former, now-ousted music director Daniele Gatti have been announced.

Manfred Honeck takes the reins for the 5 September concert; the very interesting lineup of Wagner, Berg, and Bruckner’s Third Symphony remains unchanged.

And on the evening after that, Bernard Haitink will replace Mahler’s Seventh (which was to have been paired with Webern with the Ninth Symphony. Given the reception of his Mahler Ninth last year in London, this should be one for the ages:

Other conductors extract more pathos (or self-pity, depending on one’s view of Mahler and the conductor involved) from the final Adagio, but few usher it towards its faltering close with more care and gentle humanity than Haitink did here. If the Ninth is the work through which Mahler confronted his mortality and came to terms with it, then in this performance it was expressed unswervingly.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mahler, music news

Sheku Kanneh-Mason Coming to Seattle

Sheku Kanneh-Mason moved countless viewers around the world playing “Sicilienne” (attributed to*) Maria Theresia von Paradis (a contemporary of Mozart), Fauré’s “Après un rêve,” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria” at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Because of the engagement, Kanneh-Mason had to forego what would have been his U.S. orchestral debut in LA (with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

And so lucky Seattle gets to be the host for the cellist’s actual U.S. debut in the fall: with the Seattle Symphony under conductor Ruth Reinhardt, when he will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations.

He’ll also give a concert in the Debut series at Lucerne Festival on 30 August, with his sister Isaka Kanneh-Mason at the keyboard.

*From the musicologist Michael Beckman (this fascinating update passed along to be by Elena Dubinets): “Can’t help noting that one of the cello pieces played at the royal wedding, the “Sicilienne” supposedly by Mozart’s blind contemporary Maria Theresia von Paradis, is actually a fake by the 20th century violinist and hoaxster, Samuel Dushkin. Pretty piece and perfect for a romantic ceremonial occasion…but also an exotic mashup based partly on a violin sonata by Weber.”

See Schott’s page for this score here:
“According to the latest research findings, ‘Sicilienne’ was not written by Maria Theresia von Paradis, but by Samuel Dushkin.”

Filed under: cello, Lucerne Festival, music news, Seattle Symphony

From Toscanini to Abbado: The History of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra

Filed under: Lucerne Festival

Overwhelmed by Cerha

Recently, I had one of my most remarkable experiences in the concert hall ever. In the middle of this summer’s Lucerne Festival, this was a performance that I was initially only “curious” to hear, bringing no real expectations with me. The program consisted of the complete Spiegel by Austrian composer Friedrich Cerha, being given its belated Swiss premiere as a full 90-minute cycle, performed by the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra with Matthias Pintscher on the podium.

As my friend visiting that day remarked, “This music is so human. Despite everything going on, it’s incredible that we can still do things like this.” The Spiegel Cycle, understandably a rarity to encounter live — and that’s the only real way to encounter it, especially in such a committed performance from these enormously talented young musicians — is a landmark of 20th-century “originality,” often tagged as an instance of the Klangflächenkomposition movement, in which the actual sonorities produced by an orchestra provide the center of interest (think Ligeti and Xenakis).

But unlike, say, Ligeti, who can sound more “otherworldly” in comparison, Cerha’s unprecedented experiments in this direction seem to implicitly evoke more “accessible” dramatic impulses without losing anything of their audacity and originality.

In a talk beforehand, the 91-yer-old Cerha, who still composes, spoke of a twofold connotation in his choice of the title Spiegel. One is architectural: the overall design is an arch form, with movements mirroring one another around the central Spiegel IV: III and V share certain characteristics, as do II and VI and I and VII, a summarizing movement that also mirrors what has gone before. And there are internal cross-references within the individual movements.

The second connotation Cerha mentioned is autobiographical, though he says he didn’t come to realize this until the 1980s, long after he began the project in 1960 and assumed what he was writing was so outrageous it would never actually be performed. Spiegel can be seen as a reflection of and coming to terms with his traumatizing experiences in the Second World War, when he was drafted as a teenager and deserted. But like any great work of art, the ultimate reflection will be of the experience the listener brings to it.

The concept of composing without motifs, themes, counterpoint, rhythmic phrases — all the traditional “thinking” processes of Western music — is incredibly liberating, but also frightening. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of Baroque Affekt in terms of the mood that dominates a movement. But the emotional complexity elicited is of a high order.

Cerha even foregoes the instinct to use the orchestra in terms of its choirs. All of the voices of his enormous orchestral apparatus are autonomous, though they do gather and unite to thrilling effect.  Pintscher conducted with his hands and inspired the young players to new heights. Each Spiegel called for a separate score, which he ritually put to the side when done, pulling out the next one. His control of the massive crescendos that gradually detonate was remarkable, Pintscher practically flying with wing-like arms).

The climax to end all climaxes that arrives in Spiegel VII brings with it something beyond catharsis: a power of expression that sees hope beyond the devastation in the very fact that it can be articulated by such art.

Filed under: Friedrich Cerha, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

John Luther Adams in Lucerne

To open its Special Event Day on Sunday 27 August, Lucerne Festival presented the Swiss premiere of Sila: The Breath of the World by John Luther Adams. I’m not able to post video of that (the video above is from the Lincoln Center premiere three years ago at Hearst Plaza), but I can report that the “JLA effect” was in full sway: the audience, some there by design, some caught by surprise and curiosity, fell under the spell of this aural mystery unfolding for nearly an hour at the Europaplatz, just between the sleek, modernist KKL concert complex and Lake Lucerne.

And today I just learned that the wonderful music writer and critic Bernd Feuchtner devised a program for the first-ever German performance of Become Ocean last year at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe, pairing JLA with Alberto Ginastera’s Popol Vuh.

Back in Seattle on 15 September, Emerald City Music will present the world premiere of JLA’s there is no one, not even the wind … Spring will meanwhile bring his latest major orchestral work, Become Desert, to be unveiled by Seattle Symphony.

More on that soon …

Filed under: John Luther Adams, Lucerne Festival

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