MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Music of Luca Francesconi at Boulez Saal

Luca Francesconi

Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin continues to buzz with a remarkably varied program of events — including this chamber concert by the Boulez Ensemble directed by Daniel Barenboim. Along with pieces by Beethoven and Schumann, the program offers a chamber-cameo of the fascinating composer Luca Francesconi.

Across the street over at the Staatsoper, Francesconi’s much-produced opera Quartett — based on Heiner Müller’s deconstruction of Les liaisons dangereuses — is at last getting its Berlin premiere. I well remember the US premiere production at the 2017 Spoleto Festival, which I covered for Musical America and Opera Now. And before the pandemic intervened, Francesconi’s new opera Timon of Athens was scheduled to be premiered at the Bayerische Staatsoper.

I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Francesconi and writing about his work for the Boulez Saal program book.

The video above is from an interview last year, when Barenboim premiered Daedalus, a work newly commissioned for Boulez Saal.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, new music, Pierre Boulez Saal

Giora Feidman Trio: The Spirit of Klezmer

Tonight Giora Feidman makes his long-awaited debut at Boulez Saal in Berlin — in his Trio formation, with friends Enrique Ugarte and Guido Jäger. Some background in my program essay here.

Filed under: klezmer, Pierre Boulez Saal

Boulez Saal: Season Opener

More signs of musical life returning: on Tuesday evening at Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, Daniel Barenboim leads the Boulez Ensemble in the opening concert of the season: music by Schubert, Mozart, Berg, and Jörg Widmann, who also plays clarinet with the Ensemble. Widmann’s wild, far-ranging, at times terrifying new work Labyrinth IV — a continuation of his ongoing Labyrinth series, commissioned and premiered last year by Barenboim and the Boulez Ensemble, is the culminating work.

That premiere took place in June 2019, when Sir Peter Jonas and Daniel Barenboim curated the program celebrating the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung’s (WZB) 50th anniversary at the Pierre Boulez Saal. Jonas had been closely associated with the WZB and the Pierre Boulez Saal for many years.

The opening concert is dedicated to the memory of Sir Peter Jonas, who died this year on 22 April at the age of 73.

My program commentary can be found here.

Filed under: Pierre Boulez Saal

Interview with Olga Neuwirth

Here’s a new interview with Olga Neuwirth conducted by Boulez Saal’s Philipp Brieler, discussing Pierre Boulez and Neuwirth’s new piece Naufraghi del mondo que hanno ancora un cuore — one of the new works premiered on Saturday’s program. The entire Festival of New Music: Distance/Intimacy is being streamed live and then archived for 30 days. You can find this program here (Neuwirth’s piece begins at 55:00).

Filed under: COVID-19 Era, new music, Olga Neuwirth, Pierre Boulez, Pierre Boulez Saal

A Festival of New Music from Boulez Saal in Berlin

Starting today, Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin is presenting a four-day Festival of New Music, which will juxtapose online premieres with works by the hall’s namesake.

Curated by Daniel Barenboim and Emmanuel Pahud, the programs — presented in the the Frank Gehry-designed space — are being streamed on the Boulez-Saal Facebook page as well as on its YouTube channel. These programs will then remain available, free on-demand, for 30 days.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, new music, Pierre Boulez, Pierre Boulez Saal

The Sublime Galina Ustvolskaya

I’ve been working on notes for an all-Ustvolskaya program at Boulez Saal in Berlin by the Boulez Ensemble (which will likely end up being cancelled, alas). But I’m grateful to be immersed in this world.

Concerning the religious implications of the title Composition No. 1: Dona nobis pacem from 1970-71, Semyon Bokman writes:

The large-scale movement toward religion was not, however, a discovery of faith, at least for the majority. It was an expression of protest, freedom of thought, disagreement with the system and the rule of Soviet ideology. Ustvolskaya’s spiritual works, apart from her special connection with God, are an expression of inner protest. (The score of the composition “Dona nobis pacem,” for example, could not be published with such a subtitle.) They are a challenge to the system, a reaction to oppression. Such art could appear only under the conditions of the Soviet Union. Imagine an American composer who write spiritual music. (It does not matter whether it is religious or not.) Would it be a sensation?

Filed under: Galina Ustvolskaya, Pierre Boulez Saal

Guy Braunstein and Martha Argerich

Tonight at Pierre Boulez Saal, Guy Braunstein and Martha Argerich perform a sold-out program of Schumann, Prokofiev, and Franck. My program essay is available here. (It’s their first time collaborating as a duo, so the clip above is of Argerich with Gidon Kremer — not exactly a bad compromise — in Schumann’s A minor Violin Sonata.)

Filed under: César Franck, Martha Argerich, Pierre Boulez Saal, Prokofiev, Schumann

Eötvös and Joyce

The Cuarteto Quiroga and Jörg Widmann recently performed this fascinating program centered around music by Peter Eötvös inspired by James Joyce at the Boulez Boulez-Saal. My essay for the program is here.

The video above is from the recording of Eötvös’ Sirens Cycle by the Calder Quartet and soprano Audrey Luna, which is the origin piece for the new Joyce-inspired works for string quartet and clarinet.

Filed under: chamber music, Pierre Boulez Saal

Melody, Metamorphosis, and Memory: Music for Oboe and Friends

For this evening’s recital at the Boulez Saal by Cristina Gómez Godoy, principal oboist of the Staatskapelle Berlin, has chosen a fascinating program of Saint-Saëns, Britten, Skalkottas, Carter, Kalliwoda, and Loeffler. Michail Lifits accompanies from the keyboard, and violist Joost Keizer joins the lineup. My program essay is here (starting p. 13).

Filed under: concert programming, oboe, Pierre Boulez Saal, program notes

Europa: Mythos und Vision

D9aLlu3W4AAZzbvHere’s the program book for the celebration this evening at Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin of the 50th anniversary of the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (my contribution starts on p. 42).

Filed under: Europe, Pierre Boulez Saal

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