MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Lucerne’s Piano Festival

The third and final installment of Lucerne Festival’s 2016 programming is the Piano Festival. It starts on Saturday (19 November), with Grigory Sokolov in a Mozart-Schumann recital.  And he’s playing one of the pianistic holy of holies, Schumann’s Op. 17.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, piano, Schumann, Uncategorized

2017 Lucerne Summer Festival Announced


The program for the 2017 Summer Festival in Lucerne has just been announced. The overall theme is “Identity.” Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Jay Campbell will be featured as “artistes étoiles,” and Michel van der Aa will be the composer-in-residence for 2017’s Summer Festival.

Lucerne has also launched a new magazine packed with interviews, commentary, and articles and listings of the programming for all three festivals.

download a pdf of the magazine

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

A Summer of Changes in Lucerne

This coming weekend brings the close of the Summer Festival in Lucerne. Along with the usual Stendhal Syndrome-inducing concentration of great artists and great art, the 2016 edition introduced two major changes — if not exactly paradigm shifts — to Lucerne Festival’s organization and overall character: the inauguration of Riccardo Chailly as new Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, succeeding the late Claudio Abbado, and, in the wake of Pierre Boulez’s death, the first Lucerne Festival Academy under new leadership, with Wolgang Rihm as Artistic Director and Matthias Pintscher as Principal Conductor.

Michael Cooper reports in The New York Times on how the Lucerne Festival is “reinventing itself”:

But behind the scenes, the Lucerne Festival, an increasingly important part of the classical music ecosystem, was being forced to reinvent itself. Within the past couple of years, the festival has lost not one, but both of its guiding artistic lights: Mr. Abbado died in 2014 at 80, and Mr. Boulez this year at 90. Their losses pose a challenge at a moment when Europe’s leading summer festivals hotly compete for artists, audiences and prestige.

Cooper also wrote about the 2016 Lucerne Festival theme of women in music, interviewing four of the eleven female conductors who appeared on the podium there this summer: Barbara Hannigan, Marin Alsop, Susanne Mälkki, and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

And here’s a European perspective from one of the German-speaking world’s major music critics, Christian Wildhagen (who wrote his dissertation on Mahler 8, the work with which Chailly and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra opened the festival last month):

Niemand sei «in der Gewalt seelenvollster, rauschendster, visionärster Musik dem Himmel näher getragen worden» als Mahler, schwärmte Ernst Bloch in seinem Buch «Geist der Utopie». Eine Aufführung der 8.Sinfonie wäre indes nicht komplett, wenn auf diesem Weg nicht auch ein paar Unzulänglichkeiten Ereignis würden.


Filed under: conductors, Lucerne Festival, music news

Olga Neuwirth’s New Percussion Concerto for Lucerne Festival

Last weekend at Lucerne Festival brought the world premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s latest major orchestral work: a percussion concerto titled Trurliade – Zone Zero (which references one of the Austrian composer’s sources of inspiration, the sci fi master Stanisław Lem). The soloist was Victor Hanna, and Matthias Pintscher conducted the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy.

Trurliade was the eighth in the ongoing Roche Commissions series, which picks from the leading composers at work today to commission a new orchestral work every two years, which is then premiered at Lucerne Festival. Neuwirth has also been serving as this year’s composer-in-residence at the Festival, which is focusing on the theme of women in music.

Neuwirth is a genuinely fascinating, one-of-a-kind composer who has created especially striking works of music theater (including collaborations with fellow Austrian and Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, an operatic treatment of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, and a “musicstallation” in homage to Herman Melville, among others).

In her Neue Zürcher Zeitung review, Michelle Ziegler writes:

Trotz der plastischen Anlage geht Neuwirth mit den Bezügen und Zitaten in ihrer «Trurliade – Zone Zero» ungemein feinsinnig um. Sie lässt die Zahnräder der Orchestermaschinerie zwar wie geschmiert laufen, verliert sich aber nie in einem vorhersehbaren Trott. Sie fügt Geräusche nicht zur Show ein, sondern findet im Klang der Schrottobjekte einen poetischen Zauber. Damit hat die Komponistinfür ihre zweite Residenz beim Lucerne Festival ein wunderbar persönliches, zugleich tiefsinniges und erfrischendes Werk geschaffen.

The composer has written an intriguing program note introducing her new concerto:

This is why the title of the piece refers to Stanisław Lem’s Trurl’s Machine. With his warning against unfreedom, Lem in turn alludes to George Orwell’s novel 1984. In Lem’s story the machine designed by Trurl insists on its mindless and inflexible assertion: “Two plus two is seven.” In Orwell’s book the apparatus of power demands obedience through re-education, propaganda lies, and surveillance by illogically claiming that “two plus two is five” – until the individual complies with the stipulations of the regime and gives up thinking. The regime “teaches” renegades and dissidents to love Big Brother by using cruel methods of torture. The protagonist, already demoralized and worn down mentally and physically through continual re-education measures, nevertheless does not give up the fight and becomes dangerous to the Party when he dares to express (mathematical) facts: “Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two is four.” And he does so even though, according to Orwell, the loudspeakers keep demanding over and over again that everyone accept whatever Big Brother defines as true, including that two and two is five. This phrase represents the obedience required by an ideology in contrast to rational facts and truth.



Filed under: commissions, Lucerne Festival, Olga Neuwirth

Chailly in Lucerne


Swiss Radio and Television has now posted the  opening concert of Riccardo Chailly’s debut with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

Chailly opened the 2016 Summer Festival on 12 August with a rousing performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony: the one work missing from the late Claudio Abbado’s otherwise complete  Mahler cycle with his beloved LFO.

The broadcast also includes a 10-minute portrait of the conductor with interviews by way of a prelude.

Christian Wildhagen, an expert on the Eighth (he wrote a dissertation about the work), covered Chailly’s interpretation for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

Chailly, der aus früheren Aufführungen so umfassende praktische Erfahrungen mit dem Stück hat wie kaum ein anderer Dirigent, erkennt das Problem und versucht zu dämpfen, wo immer es geht. Doch prompt verheddert er sich in dem Paradox, das er selbst so trefflich mit den Worten umschrieben hat, man müsse mit dieser Musik fliegen und doch mit beiden Beinen kontrolliert auf dem Podium stehen. Die Kontrolle des gewaltigen Apparats gelingt bereits mehr als achtbar, das Fliegen hingegen nicht.


Chailly deutet diese Vertonung der Schlussszene aus Goethes «Faust» völlig zu Recht als sakrale Oper – angesiedelt auf einer rein imaginären Theaterbühne, aber mit halbszenischen Momenten wie der Erscheinung der Mater Gloriosa (Anna Lucia Richter mit etwas zu irdischem Tonansatz in der Höhe) auf der Orgelempore, wo am Schluss beider Teile auch jeweils das Fernorchester seinen «Auftritt» hat.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mahler

Happy 156th, Gustav Mahler

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mahler

RIP Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)

The end of an era. From Lucerne Festival director Michael Haefliger’s eulogy :

“I am a French composer, conductor, and writer.” Most likely, this is the answer Pierre Boulez would have given anyone who asked him to describe his work as an artist: an answer that is precise, to the point, without ostentation or any kind of theatrical posing. This is how most of us “youngsters” experienced, felt, and saw Pierre Boulez. And this is how he became a great model for us, indeed, almost a “demigod.” We admired what he did and the goals which he steadfastly pursued, regardless of whether they involved relatively small or large revolutions. Last night, he left us. We mourn the loss of a great human being and artist, one who infinitely enriched and influenced this Festival.

continue reading

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, obituary, Pierre Boulez

Mozart’s Serenata

Il re pastore is being featured at the Lucerne Easter Festival in 2016:

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, Mozart

New Leadership at the Lucerne Festival Academy

Wolfgang Rihm

Wolfgang Rihm

Add this to the news about major changes in the Lucerne Festival leadership, including the announcement that Riccardo Chailly is taking on the role left behind by Claudio Abbado heading the LF Ochestra.

The Festival’s other big pillar, the Lucerne Festival Academy, will now be helmed by the eminent composer Wolfgang Rihm, with his younger peer Matthias Pintscher at his side as Principal Conductor.

About his future plans, Rihm stated:

“For young artists it can be tremendously enlightening to work with composers from their own time. It often happens that misleading, myopic views that are commonplace impede access to the reality of a score. Conversely, an encounter with praxis is often essentially more important for young composers than yet another turn of the artificial screw.

For imagination also arises from knowledge of the technical conditions for realizing a score. And so this is what we expect from an Academy: that cultural spheres of knowledge and skill will be brought into mutual contact, shaping and enhancing each other in terms of the potential for understanding and realization. A musical text requires a performance that makes it a reality. Yet this is a form of prefigured understanding. Academy is dialogue!

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, music news

A Day for Pierre Boulez

Pierre Boulez (photo: Georg Anderhub/LUCERNE FESTIVAL)

Pierre Boulez (photo: Georg Anderhub/LUCERNE FESTIVAL)

This past Sunday, Lucerne Festival’s Summer 2015 edition presented an entire “Day for Pierre Boulez” to mark the 90th birthday of one of music’s great revolutionaries (the actual birthday fell on on March 26). Sadly, Boulez was unable to be present in person due to health reasons, but the day argued for his profound enduring influence.

Studded across all of the programmes were eight world premieres from a collection of composers of different vintages and Boulezian inspirations…It was the works written expressly in homage to Boulez that were most revealing of the legacy and challenge he leaves his fellow composers…[T]wo new pieces by György Kurtág and Wolfgang Rihm, both performed with unwavering conviction by the young players of the Academy Orchestra, [were] the most subtle, striking, and moving tributes to Boulez’s life and music…
As the whole Day for Pierre showed, it’s not just the inspiraton of his work as composer, conductor, writer, and teacher: Boulez, it turns out, is an attitude of mind, a way of being in the creative world.

–Tom Service in The Guardian

Every concert was exquisitely curated, and established Boulez in the context of the tradition he founded…
But it was the evening’s programme in Lucerne’s world-renowned concert hall that spoke most loudly of Boulez’s legacy. New works by living masters Wolfgang Rihm and György Kurtág were performed alongside that of young composers by the Lucerne Academy Orchestra…
For the second half, the Academy orchestra donned Boulez T-shirts for the Notations, which, in one form or another, have occupied the composer all his life. The fully orchestrated versions, composed towards the end of the century, were laid bare by the presentation of the original piano pieces of 1945, written when he was just 20. It was a revelation.

–Jonathan McAloon, Telegraph

Here’s a summary of the items that were on the program for this marathon celebration:

13.30, 18.00, and 19.00 | KKL Luzern, Roof Terrace
Chiaki Tsunaba | Justin Frieh
Boulez Dialogue de l’ombre double for Clarinet and Tape

14.00 | Tribute to Boulez 1 | KKL Luzern, Lucerne Hall
Ensemble intercontemporain | students of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY | Matthias Pintscher
Boulez Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna | world premieres by Pintscher and Mason

15.15 and 16.00 | Tribute to Boulez 2 & 3 | Kunstmuseum Lucerne
ensembles of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY | Julien Leroy | Yi Wei Angus Lee | Raphaël Ginzburg | Jaclyn Dorr
Boulez Messagesquisse (two versions) |
Mémoriale (… explosante-fixe … Originel)

15.15 | Tribute to Boulez 4 | KKL Luzern, Terrace Hall
string quartets of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY
Berg Lyric Suite

16.00 | Tribute to Boulez 5 | KKL Luzern, Terrace Hall
string quartets of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY
Boulez Livre pour Quatuor

17.00 | Tribute to Boulez 6 | KKL Luzern, Lucerne Hall
Ensemble intercontemporain | students of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY | Matthias Pintscher | Sarah Maria Sun
Boulez sur Incises | world premieres by Holliger and Machover

18.30 | Introduction to Symphony Concert 10 | KKL Luzern,
Concert Hall
A project in response to Boulez’s Notations with Richard McNicol, and Aleksandar Aces | in cooperation with Klavier-Festival Ruhr

19.30 | Symphony Concert 10 – Tribute to Boulez 7 | KKL Luzern, Concert Hall
LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY Orchestra | Mariano Chiacchiarini | Julien Leroy | Matthias Pintscher
Boulez Notations I–IV and VII (versions for piano and for orchestra) | Pintscher Osiris | world premieres by Kurtág, Moussa, Peszat, and Rihm

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, modernism, music news, new music, Pierre Boulez

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