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Hear Museum Art (B.L.C./Greenfest) <> Mad Dreams and Brits
THE PRINTED WORD
RECENT RELEASES, 31
COMPOSER INDEX, 34
BULLETIN BOARD, 35
Chamber Players In Concert for Impact
Birtwistle: Refrains and Choruses
From Russia with Love
By Patricia Spencer
Original music by Klaus Huber, Mathias Spahlinger, Louis Andriessen, Edison Denisov, John Harbison, Joan Tower, Charles Wuorinen, George Crumb, Kirill Umansky, Andrew Keeling, Peter Sculthorpe, Barry Guy, Alexander Goehr, Iraida Yusupova, John Cage, Dmitri Kourliandski, Alexey Sioumak, Arthur Honegger, Igor Rechin, Sergei Zagney, Karol Szymanowski, Alla Kesselman. New treatments of old compositions by Anton Webern, Mr. Wuorinen, Johannes Schöllhorn, Bruce Adolphe, and Elmer Schönberger, Performed by Da Capo and many other groups at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music (Russia), under the auspices of the Centre for Contemporary Music, with Vladimir Tarnopolski, artistic director. April 14-20, 2003.
A richer theme for a festival would be difficult to find: New Music on Old Instruments, Old Music on New Instruments. The opportunity for musical interaction at the Moscow Forum International Festival thus stretched across centuries as well as across national boundaries. Taking place at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music under the auspices of the Centre for Contemporary Music, with Vladimir Tarnopolski, artistic director, the festival offered performances by distinguished ensembles in both early and new music. Fretwork, a leading early music ensemble based in Britain, performed eight Russian premieres of works written in the past decade. The Da Capo Chamber Players, a leading new music ensemble from the USA, performed a set of 15th century songs in a re-working by Charles Wuorinen, plus Guillaume de Machauts catchy Ma fin est mon commencement (from the 14th century) in a re-composed version by Bruce Adolphe titled Machaut Is My Beginning. Further variants of the new-and-old theme were performed by the renowned Schoenberg Ensemble (Netherlands), Elisabeth Sykora and Wolfgang David (soprano and violin) from Austria, pianist Mikhail Doubov from Russia, and three Russian groups: the Trio BaRockers, the "318" Ensemble (an early music group), and the Studio for New Music ensemble (Igor Dronov, conductor), the resident group of the Centre for Contemporary Music.
The entire experience of hearing and performing in this festival-among other things, hearing the sound of todays music played on viols, with their time-honored subtle timbres and articulations-sparked the imagination. Tarnopolski, in his introduction to the program booklet, raises the questions: "How do old and new coexist today? What is this. Narcissus and Echo or Saturn, devouring his children? What happened to the earlier popular genre of transcription and arrangement of other composers themes?" These questions opened the doors for a remarkable musical "play" with time.
Day 1. Studio for New Music and "318" Ensemble.
The tone was set on opening night with a program titled "Avant-Garde in Old Style," performed by the Studio for New Music ensemble and the "318" Ensemble, conducted by Igor Dronov and Felix Korobov, respectively. An atmospheric, slightly eerie work by Klaus Huber, for viola damore and 13 instruments, appropriately titled "Lament-the Furrowed Time" (1990), was followed by Mathias Spahlingers quiet, spatial Adieu mAmour (1982-83), for violin and cello, dedicated to Guillaume Dufay (ca. 1400-1474). A longer work of Hubers titled Intarsi, or Source, ?? (from 1994, a chamber concerto for piano with 17 instruments) opened with a vibrant piano trill that was supported, reinforced, and finally transformed by the other instruments. The work featured trembling harmonies and wonderful timbrel changes, with the percussion coloring lines carried by other instruments. A percussion solo near the end, with an exotic scraped gong sound, was particularly dramatic. Shifting our perspective by double-stepping backwards in time, the Studio for New Music ensemble continued with the rarely-heard setting by Anton Webern of J.S. Bachs Fuga (Ricercata) from the Musical Offering.
Johannes Schöllhorns Madria, for bass clarinet, accordion, and contrabass, is dedicated to Francesco Landini (1325-1397). The accordion at first acted as a drone for the Renaissance-inspired harmonies, punctuated with tongue-slaps from the bass clarinet and bouncing col legno battuto figures from the bass. A spirited second movement accordion solo led to a lyrical finale that made abundant use of clashing "Landini" cadences.
The Russian premiere of Louis Andriessens Symphony for Open Strings was performed by the "318" Ensemble, the Early Music Ensemble of the Moscow Conservatory, conducted by Felix Korobov. An intriguing minimalist work, with an opening of five pitches masterfully expanded in such a way that each new pitch is a shocking development, it also features "round-robin" tunes (i.e., tunes handed around among the players-a consequence of the open strings), some supremely resonant pizzicato effects, and a dramatic texture-almost a growl-on the lower pitches. The evening closed with Edison Denisovs Crescendo e diminuendo for harpsichord and 12 strings, a prolonged crescendo enriched by voice-exchanges and textural increases, reversed in the diminuendo.
Day 2. Da Capo Chamber Players.
The Da Capo Chamber Players program, featuring four Russian premieres of American works (by Bruce Adolphe, John Harbison, Joan Tower, and Charles Wuorinen), continued the festivals dynamic interaction with musical forces from the past. Charles Wuorinens Bearbeitungen über Das Glogauer Liederbuch is a setting of six 15th century songs from the celebrated songbook of the Glogau Cathedral, unchanged except for being cast in colorful contemporary instruments (piccolo, flute, bass clarinet, violin, and cello) and distinctly contemporary articulations. John Harbisons November 19, 1828 (the date of the death of Franz Schubert) focuses on counterpoint fragments that Schubert left unfinished at his death. Harbison first completes these in the style of Schubert, then in his own way-expanding our experience of Schubert in the process. Bruce Adolphes Machaut Is My Beginning is a playful reworking of Guillaume de Machauts (ca. 1300-1372) Ma fin est mon commencement ("My End Is My Beginning")-chosen for its relevance to Da Capo, for whom the newer work was written. Adolphe transforms Machauts famous palindrome while following his own rules: not to change any of the notes or any of the rhythms. He changes register, dynamics, tempo, and introduces overlaps, giving us a topsy-turvy musical "time machine." George Crumbs Eleven Echoes of Autumn, 1965, written in 1966-in a totally contemporary idiom-heightened awareness of musical time in another way: cadenza sections, where one instrument plays out of time with the others, are dramatically punctuated with whispered quotes from Federico García-Lorca, "Y los arcos rotos donde sufre el tiempo" (". . . and the broken arches where times suffers"). Composer Kirill Umansky is a graduate of the composition class of Nikolai Sidelnikov, of the Moscow Conservatory. His Kammerstück (commissioned by the Studio for New Music), a fascinating work of contrasting lyricism and drama, was also performed by Da Capo (David Bowlin, violin; André Emelianoff, cello; Patricia Spencer, flute; Meighan Stoops, clarinet; with guest artists Blair McMillen, piano and Lois Martin, viola.) Their program concluded with Joan Towers "Petroushskates"-an exuberant homage to Stravinsky, unfolding his Petroushka tremolo into her own unexpected shapes and driving rhythms. The audience response was warmly enthusiastic, with rhythmic clapping and repeated calls for an encore.
Day 3. Fretwork.
In their first program, the widely-renowned British early music ensemble Fretwork, offered five Russian premieres-by Andrew Keeling, Peter Sculthorpe, Barry Guy, and two by Alexander Goehr-interspersed with 17th century fantasias by John Jenkins and Henry Purcell. The concert gave an opportunity to hear present-day repertoire performed with the subtle articulations and inflections of the Renaissance viols-an "accent" from a different era. The opening Fantasia (2000), by Alexander Goehr, was wonderfully expressive in its exchanges, almost a single-line piece with the line handed from instrument to instrument. Andrew Keelings Afterwards (1999) opened with a pulsing ostinato against expressive lines, followed by a rhythmic section punctuated with chords. The ostinato recurs, transformed with fifths, then eventually we hear the espressivo lines over a chordal texture. Moving backwards in time, John Jenkins (1592-1678) Two Fantasies in Five Parts cleared the sonic palate for Sculthorpes Djilile, written in 1994. The new work opens with a recitative (first a solo, later a duo and trio), which very gradually, through repetition and slight accelerando, becomes dance-like without ever seeming to change. Poul Ruders Second Set of Changes (1949) feels like a Scottish reel, rhythmically and tonally, with suspension-created dissonances and alternating smooth vs. punctuated exchanges.
A second Fantasia (also from 2000) by Alexander Goehr featured radiating musical gestures that seemed almost like sparks, plus cadenza-like conversational motifs over chordal support. With its clear returns to the opening material, and episodic chordal development, the work reminds us of the delights of coherence. Two fantasias by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) fit right in with the spirit of 20th century inventiveness, especially the Fantasia on One Note. The concluding work, Barry Guys Buzz (1995) was full of surprises, sounds that were curious and unexpected from a decorous consort of viols. Quick reparteé among the intsruments, a big chord with a growl and a glissando, ringing pizzicatos on a recurrent pitch, climaxed with a huge sound as all players and bows went wild with arpeggiations across all six strings. The program was superbly performed by Richard Boothby, Richard Campbell, Julia Hodgson, Susanna Pell, and Wendy Gillespie.
Day 4. Concert #1. Tabulaturas.
An early evening concert on the fourth day was devoted to "Tabulaturas," or works notated with figures, letters, symbols, most often encountered in 16th and 17th century lute music but here presented in connection with present-day experimental notation. Samuel Scheidts (1587-1654) "Passamezzo" from Tablatura Nova was an elaborate set of variations played alternately on a small portable organ (in tempered tuning) and a harpsichord tuned in a 17th century "mean tone" tuning. A work by Valentin Silvestrov titled Projection onto Harpsichord, Vibraphone and Bells (1965) included highly gestural cadenzas for chimes and harpsichord, and a fascinating finger-tapping episode for the vibraphone, in a duo with the chimes. Iraida Yusupovas PolyCordia (2001) made use of some simple staging. After a chorale-like opening alternating between harp and cello, the harp gradually introduces pizzicatos suggestive of a piano-then a pianist suddenly appears and joins the group. Next we hear a taped soprano, then we see a wanderer who moves from stand to stand and eventually discovers and plays a tiny Irish harp. The Irish harp at first joins the ensemble texture, then becomes the leading line, ending the work with an Irish harp solo.
A superb performance of John Cages Aria (1958), for solo voice, with its hysterical range of colors, was given by soprano Svetlana Savenko. A new work by Dmitri Kourliandski, titled "~#(:-&" (written in 2002, for four musicians) incorporated extended techniques on clarinet, violin, cello, and piano: unusual scraping bows, low stopped notes on the piano, very effective rushing air sounds and a series of dramatic crescendos in multiphonics on the clarinet. Clarinetist Mikhail Beznosov shone also in the next piece, a solo clarinet piece titled Cl.air (2000) by Alexey Sioumak. The work created an almost inaudible, magical atmosphere, with multiphonic trills, slides, air sounds, overlapping overtones, and tiny little short, soft, high notes. The program concluded with Edison Denisovs Birds Singing (1969) for prepared piano and tape, performed with authority and flair by Mikhail Doubov. A variety of plucked piano and harpsichord sounds emerged from and mixed with a tape of actual birdsong.
Day 4. Concert #2. Fretwork.
Fretwork returned with a program featuring contrapuntal works old and new, including Russian premieres by Ivan Moody, Simon Bainbridge, and John Woolrich. The program opened with two selections from J.S. Bachs Art of the Fugue and Williams Byrds Fantasia in four parts and In Nomine #2. Ivan Moodys In Nomine a 4, written for Fretwork in 1996, received its Russian premiere. An expressive opening duo of the upper voices over a low pedal note evolved into a chordal homophonic section, then a series of dramatic sustained-note crescendos, culminating in a pedal note with a sudden dissonant duo in the upper voices-a well-structured, effective piece. Two dance-like Fantasias by John Jenkins and Mathew Lockes (1629-1677) Consort of Four Parts completed the first half of the program. In these and in the Thomas Tompkins (1572-1656) Pavan and Almain and Purcells Fantasia in Three Parts, Fretwork again charmed listeners with elegant shaping and subtle articulations.
Simon Bainbridges Henrys Mobile (1994) was composed as a response to a fragment of a piece by Purcell. A soft repeated minor third motif is answered by a beautifully dissonant, changing chord-motifs which evolve while at the same time maintaining the unity of the work. Another swing back to Purcell (this time the Fantasia in Four Parts) was followed by John Woolrichs Fantasia (1995), then two more fantastic Fantasias by Purcell. The Woolrich featured a simple, lyrical line, handed around amongst the players and gradually expanded. The concluding four-part fantasias of Purcell were stunning, replete with surging expressive lines, wonderful dissonances, and dance-like melodies full of cross-relations. William Byrds Christe Redemptor was a delightful encore, closing Fretworks portion of the festival. The experience of hearing new music played with the articulations and inflections of a consort of viols was unforgettable, and will provide many stimulating performance ideas for this listener.
Day 5. B.A.C.H.
A collection of pieces written on the B-A-C-H theme (Bb-A-C-B natural) made up the early concert on Friday, performed by Russian soloists and the "318" Ensemble, Felix Korobov, director. The opening piano solo piece, Arthur Honeggers Prélude, Arioso, Fughette sur le nom de BACH, (1932) presented the theme with singing counterpoints above and below it, in very expressive build-ups, and hidden in a bouncy, toccata-like fugue. In Aldo Clementis B.A.C.H. (1970), the theme was even more hidden. Both these pieces were very effectively performed by Mona Haba. A guitar solo by Igor Rechin, Prelude and Fugue in B Minor on the BACH Theme (from the cycle 24 Preludes and Fugues for guitar) presented a haunting, beautiful fugue statement, beautifully performed by Dmitri Illarionov. Sergei Zagneys clever rhythmic playfulness with the theme in Study on the Rhythm BACH (1984), for oboe and harpsichord, was juxtaposed with the Russian premiere of Helmut Lachenmanns tongue-in-cheek work for the same instruments, A Third Voice to J.S. Bachs Two-Part Invention in d minor, BWV 775 (1985). Receiving its world premiere, Marina Voinovas Transforms on BACH for two pianos (2003) was characterized by big explosive gestures moving to smaller, quick little flurries, whispered B-A-C-H, an uneven tick-tock metronome, and strummed glissandos inside the pianos. The final work, Arvo Pärts Collage on BACH (1964), featured oboe soloist Anastasia Tabankova with the "318" Ensemble conducted by Korobov. The opening movement gave a repetitive rhythm to a Bb major chord, gradually dissolving into dissonance. The second movement, with oboe solo, alternated between almost tonal moments and sudden dissonance, building to a huge climax followed by the third movement fugue-atonal, in the shape of B-A-C-H, with much syncopation.
Day 5. Concert #2. Avant-Garde of the XVII Century.
Highly adventurous works from the 1600s were grouped together for a program titled Avant-Garde of the XVII Century, performed by the "318" Ensemble and the trio BaRockers, another Russian early music ensemble. Sudden, wild key shifts were heard in Dario Castellos (1590-1644) Trio Sonata No. 12. Thomas Balzars (ca. 1630-1663) "Prelude in G" from The Division Violin was performed with a background tape of ocean surf. George Muffats (ca. 1653-1704) Sonata in D Major, for violin and continuo, presented a long progression of sudden, crazy harmonic turns. It was performed with a tape of wind and poetry. A cantata titled Lagria mie, op. 7 by Barbara Strozzi (1619-1663), along with her aria Unite, amanti, la cagione op. 2, featured slides and daring vocal melismas, but were harmonically tame after the Muffat.
Ignaz von Biber (ca. 1644-1704), a must on a program such as this, was represented first by his Sonata Representativa for violin and continuo, introduced and interspersed with a tape of cats, birds, barking dogs, and laughter. The tape introduction at first seemed puzzling-until it became clear that Bibers piece was in fact imitating the bird cries and other sounds. Carlo Farinas (ca. 1600-1639) Capriccio stravagante was also introduced with a tape, this time of a rollicking reel played on a recorder. The piece, for 2 violins and harpsichord, incorporates pedal tones that create great dissonance, wild dances, trumpet-like col legno battuto, and slides that sound like cats. A listing of the eleven movements: Lyre, Reed-pipe, Trumpets, Chicken, Cock, Quiet flutes, Tremolo, Soldiers pipe and tambourine, Cats, Dogs, Spanish guitar.
A tape of My Wild Irish Rose served as a segue to the next work, Four Arias by Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) for violin and continuo-a work highly reminiscent of Irish dances and folk songs. Johann Schmelzers (1623-1680) wild Sonata Cuckoo followed (introduced of course by a "cuckoo" tape). These pieces were performed brilliantly by baroque violinist Nikolai Dolzhnikov of the trio BaRockers. Bibers Sonata Battalia, for strings and continuo, concluded the program with stomping and marches.
Day 5. Concert #3. Ovaloid.
This concert was dominated by a musical instrument called an ovaloid. Imagine two 3-foot metal egg shell halves, or metal ovals set on their sides, connected and rocking in unison, with metal fringe pointing upward on their upper edges. This instrument was played with bows, mallets and a variety of sticks, producing many pitches and an unexpected range of sounds: gong-like sounds, a small high ringing, a grating sound from the "fringed" area, and a haunting sound reminiscent of whale song when a particular small stick was drawn across the surface. The instrument was designed and performed by Vyacheslav Koleichuk, who is also a sculptor. The program was called "Performance" of the Total Theatre. The two works heard, Mournful and Mysterious Composition for Ovaloid and Violin and Shadows, were improvisational, performed by Vyacheslav Koleichuk and others including violin, chimes, and a dancer who moved inside an intriguing moveable cage-like frame.
Day 6. Lecture and Obukhov performance.
The title of the lecture, "Nikolay Obukhov-the missing link between Scriabin and Messiaen?"-given in English by Elmer Schönberger of the Netherlands, seemed tantalizing but perhaps exaggerated. It was not. Schönberger first reported his own experience as he became acquainted with the music of Nokolay Obukhov, a Russian composer who moved to Paris as a young man in 1918, may have studied with Ravel, and died all but unknown in 1954. Obukhov constructed a musical instrument called a "croix sonore" (sonorous cross), 180 centimeters long, in the form of a torpedo, which produced sound based on electricity through the movement of hands. This obscure instrument was used in all his compositions-creating some difficulty for those who want to get to know his work or make it known to others. His magnum opus, Le livre de vie, was kept by Obukhov in his home in a "sacred corner,"surrounded by icons and candles. It is now in the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris. It is in four books, 800 pages densely written, an enormous work for voices (with the range of a single part sometimes stretching from basso profundo to high soprano) and two pianos (for pianists with enormous hands and extra fingers). In his study of it, Schönberger found that while the harmonies and idiom in general are drawn from Scriabin, everything is more extreme, more complex; for instance, a voice might be singing, crying, sighing, whistling.
Fascinating as the above details are, the music itself is more so. Schönbergers transcription for soprano and 14 instruments of Obukhovs Four Balmont Songs was performed at the evening concert. The harmonies are weird but beautifully coherent. The songs are supremely magical, alternately compelling and haunting. One particularly memorable moment was a soft phrase played with viola and cello harmonics, colored with bowed vibraphone tones-according to Schönberger, a typical "croix sonore" melody.
An article about "Nicolas Obouhow" by Boris de Schloezer appeared in La Revue Musicale no. 290/291, Paris 1972, and was subsequently translated into German in "Nikolaj Obuchov," in: Alexander Skrjabin und die Skrjabinisten II p.107_121 (Musik_Konzepte 37/38, M6nchen 1984. Using his own English translation, Schönberger quoted de Schloezer: "The dark and mysterious passion, the exceptional exultation of this art, which has been characterized by some as abnormal, gives us a glimpse in a new world: a nightly world of ghastly and frightening, sometimes strangely sweet visions, which defie our judgment, our standards and on the whole the handhold of our logic."
Hearing the Obukhov work was the highlight of the festival, for this listener.
Day 6. Concert #1. Mikhail Doubov, piano. "Narcissus . . ."
In a poetic reference to the echo of musical voices over time, the two evening concerts of April 19 were titled "Narcissus . . ." and ". . . and Echo." The early concert, a recital by pianist Mikhail Doubov, included Alexander Scriabins (1872-1915) Sonatas #9 and #10, to be "answered" in the later program, not just by Obukhovs work but also by an ensemble arrangement of Sonata #10 by Faradj Karajev. Doubovs concert opened with a section of a work by Nikolay Tcherepnin (1873-1945), titled Narcisse et echo, poeme mythologique, in a concert arrangement by Doubov. The piece was a big statement, setting the stage for a momentous evening. The alternately dreamy, rich and climactic Scriabin was followed by the Russian premiere of Ferruccio Busonis rich and expressive concert transcription (1908-1910) of Schoenbergs Op. 11 No. 2. A piece for violin (played by Maria Khodina) and piano titled Narcys, by Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) further developed the theme, with its "call and response" motif.
Day 6. Concert #2. The Schoenberg Ensemble. ". . . and Echo"
The renowned Schoenberg Ensemble, from the Netherlands, performed the program titled ". . . and Echo," conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw, with Barbara Hannigan, soprano. The concert opened with the world premiere of Alla Kesselmans Die Installationen aus Stille ("The Installations of Stillness," 2003), a study in whispers, soft sustained chords, soft whistles. Faradj Karajevs arrangement (1992) of the Scriabin Sonata #10 was very effective, full of textural trills and themes tossed from instrument to instrument in playful coloration. An intriguing work followed-a compositional homage to a Scriabin work, Toward the Flame, in a piece by Klaas de Vries titled Eclipse (1992). The Scriabin piano work was played first, with the final chord transformed into the orchestras entrance. Shadowed motifs merging in and out of trills, fleeting quotes of Debussy, wonderful cimbalom, horn and flute writing emerging from the string textures, an exciting build-up leading to dramatic whispering, and a wonderful ending with a lone clarinet. Karol Szymanowskis (1882-1937) Slopiewnie (five songs on the word by Julian Tuwim) followed, the ensemble giving magical, lyrical blends and bright, strong climactic peaks.
The highlight of the evening, Obukhovs Four Balmont Songs (discussed above, under "Lecture ") received a moving performance from the ensemble, Barbara Hannigan, and conductor Reinbert de Leeuw. The program concluded very effectively with a dashing performance of Arnold Schoenbergs classic, the Kammersymphonie, Op. 9.
© 2003 Patricia Spencer
Listing of programs not heard by this listener:
Youth Forum. Works by composition students of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire: Tatyana Petukhova, Andrey Komissarov, Nikolay Khroust, Andrey Kouligin, Arman Goushyan, Vasiliy Ivanov, Maria Romanova, Alexey Nadzharov, Nina Farnieva, Irina Shoursha.
Performed by Elisabeth Sykora, soprano; Wolfgang David, violin; the Studio for New Music ensemble, Igor Dronov, conductor. Dmiry Cheglakov, cello. Vocal-choir studio of Russian National Orchestra "Magic of Music", Elena Varshavskaya, conductor.
Archaic Canons, for cello, voices, choir and phongram.
Trois autres poèmes de Stèphane Mallarmé,
for soprano and chamber ensemble. Russian premiere.
Elisabeth Schimana (Austria)
"Portrait 01 "die futuristin" taschenversion. World premiere.
Performed by Mikhail Doubov, organ, harpsichord, and piano
Six Ancient Epigraphs
the Old and New World"