Monday, January 29, 2007

PREMIERE://Henze's Kammerkonzert 05

London Sinfonietta / Knussen, Queen Elizabeth Hall
By Keith Potter - 14 December 2006

There was music by Hans Werner Henze in both these concerts. Under Oliver Knussen, the London Sinfonietta offered Kammerkonzert 05, the latest of several revisions to his First Symphony of 1947. An awkward combination of Hindemithian earnestness, some rewardingly unforced lyricism and a little naughty avant-gardism for that post-Second-World-War fresh start, it makes a peculiarly ambiguous statement. But the slow second movement had Paul Silverthorne's solo viola nicely to the fore, and the Sinfonietta played vividly and intelligently.
Under Manfred Honeck, the BBC Symphony Orchestra offered Scorribanda sinfonica: a more extensive reworking of a "dance drama" that Henze wrote in 1956. With most of the original 1950s dance references removed, however, this retread relies mainly on some engaging, if dense, writing for large orchestra.
Fortunately, each of these concerts contained at least one much more stimulating musical experience. In the case of the London Sinfonietta, it was Mauricio Kagel's Kammersymphonie, which turned out to be an arrangement of his 1973 composition entitled 1898. The original is a sort of spoof reconstruction of early recorded sound, to celebrate the 75th birthday of the DG record company. This revision is more subtle in its quirkiness, but its lean and mean counterpoint still teems with inventive touches and occasional sheer craziness. I loved it.

London Sinfonietta/Knussen , Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Andrew Clements - Tuesday December 12, 2006

After a concert of Lachenmann two weeks ago, the London Sinfonietta turned its attention to the other senior figures in contemporary German music. Conducted by Oliver Knussen, the programme included UK premieres from Hans Werner Henze, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel (Argentinian-born, but a German resident for nearly half a century), made up of reworkings of existing pieces, recast or reorchestrated by their composers.
Henze's Kammerkonzert 05 was the most straightforward. An arrangement for 15 instruments of his 1947 First Symphony, it's a brittle, spidery work in which fractured neoclassicism jostles with the first stirrings of serial technique in the outer movements, and which then unwraps a luscious viola melody in the central Nocturne.
Stockhausen's Five Star Signs was more perplexing - ensemble expansions of five of the rambling, music box melodies of his 1974 Tierkreis, orchestrated in a strange, almost unidiomatic way, with odd voicings and balances that made no more sense on a second hearing.
Kagel's 1996 Kammersymphonie is more substantial, and intriguing. It began life as 1898, a piece for children's choir and instruments written in 1973 to mark the 75th anniversary of Deutsche Grammophon. In the reworking, it has been transformed into a study in instrumental doublings. The result is essentially a pair of massive two-part inventions, with pairs of musical lines winding through them and scored in such a way that the textures constantly change colour and density. The music is bewilderingly varied, sometimes stealthy and mysterious, sometimes brash and anarchic; it made the deepest impression in an unexpectedly amorphous programme.

INTERVIEW & PREMIERE://Saariaho's Adriana Songs

Transforming Adriana

This month, the New York Philharmonic presents the world premiere of Adriana Songs, Kaija Saariaho’s song cycle adapted from her highly praised opera, Adriana Mater.
By ARLO McKINNON - December 2006

Adriana Mater, Kaija Saariaho's second opera, is set in a war zone in an unspecified country at an unspecified time (although at the work's premiere, most reviewers indicated that the production brought to mind the Bosnian war of the 1990s). Adriana becomes pregnant after being raped by Tsargo — a soldier from her own community, not someone from the opposing army. Despite opposition from her sister, Refka, Adriana decides to bear and raise the child. Years later, Adriana and her son, Yonas, come across Tsargo, now a blind and broken man. Yonas is determined to exact revenge for his mother by slaying Tsargo, despite the fact that he would be committing patricide. Adriana does not approve of this plan but determines that Yonas must do as he sees fit. Ultimately, after an encounter with his father Yonas leaves without killing him. Upon his report of this, Adriana embraces him and states, "We are not revenged, but we are redeemed," closing the opera on a note of hopefulness for struggling humanity.

On December 14, 15 and 16 of this year, the New York Philharmonic will present the world premiere of Adriana Songs, a song cycle derived from the opera. Adriana Songs will feature Irish mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon, who created the role of Adriana in the opera. In July, OPERA NEWS reached Saariaho at her Paris home. At the time of our conversation, the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon (librettist Amin Maalouf's homeland) had been in effect for a fortnight, and Paris was in the midst of an oppressive heat wave.

OPERA NEWS: Adriana Songs will be conducted by David Robertson. Have you worked with him before?
KAIJA SAARIAHO: Yes, we did when he was working with the Ensemble InterContemporain, so that was a really long time ago. And I'm very happy about this encounter again.

ON: When you created an orchestral song cycle from L'Amour de Loin, you made some significant changes. You took an aria from the alto and transposed it to the baritone and the like. Will there be any changes of that type, or changes of orchestration, for Adriana Songs?
KS: Well, there are several changes in the orchestration, because there is no choir in this song cycle, but not as many changes. Adriana Songs is for mezzo voice, and all the sung material comes from the part of Adriana. There are altogether four pieces, one of which is purely orchestral. And that's there for several musical reasons. I wanted to bring in this material, and I have completely reworked it again.

ON: I have not had the chance to hear the new opera. At least in its setting, Adriana Mater seems very topical, given the troubled state of our world right now. And from one of the interviews I read it sounded as if it was by chance that Amin Maalouf set it in a war zone. Were you intending to speak on any level to the war conditions of the current world?
KS: Well, you know that we work very closely together, and as maternity was one of the subjects that I wanted to deal with, for him something as intimate and important was the subject of war. It was quite well balanced: I brought my important subject, and he brought his. The violence in relations and the violence in wartime, this all is touching us so much today that it was quite natural to speak about it. And also we really, deliberately, wanted to do something very different from L'Amour de Loin. So, that all came together quite naturally.

ON: Do you regard yourself on any level as a political artist?
KS: Until now I felt that I have nothing to say, and I'm not political person. I don't think one needs to be a political person to treat these subjects. But today it is so urgent.

ON: Absolutely. These must be very, very painful times for Mr. Maalouf, with what's going on in Lebanon.
KS: Yes. Think about it. The war [in the 1980s] had already left him so deeply marked that he had never ever touched it in his writing before Adriana Mater.

ON: Will the full opera of Adriana Mater be performed in the U.S. any time soon?
KS: There is a plan for Santa Fe Opera for the U.S. premiere for 2008.

ON: You write extremely well for the voice. I find it interesting that on the one hand, with this, the most basic and organic of musical instruments, you have such strength as a composer, yet I understand that you do your writing on the computer.
KS: Well, it's like my typewriter — nothing more mysterious than that.

INTERVIEW & PREMIERE://Saariaho's Adriana Songs

Transforming Adriana

This month, the New York Philharmonic presents the world premiere of Adriana Songs, Kaija Saariaho’s song cycle adapted from her highly praised opera, Adriana Mater.
By ARLO McKINNON - December 2006

Adriana Mater, Kaija Saariaho's second opera, is set in a war zone in an unspecified country at an unspecified time (although at the work's premiere, most reviewers indicated that the production brought to mind the Bosnian war of the 1990s). Adriana becomes pregnant after being raped by Tsargo — a soldier from her own community, not someone from the opposing army. Despite opposition from her sister, Refka, Adriana decides to bear and raise the child. Years later, Adriana and her son, Yonas, come across Tsargo, now a blind and broken man. Yonas is determined to exact revenge for his mother by slaying Tsargo, despite the fact that he would be committing patricide. Adriana does not approve of this plan but determines that Yonas must do as he sees fit. Ultimately, after an encounter with his father Yonas leaves without killing him. Upon his report of this, Adriana embraces him and states, "We are not revenged, but we are redeemed," closing the opera on a note of hopefulness for struggling humanity.

On December 14, 15 and 16 of this year, the New York Philharmonic will present the world premiere of Adriana Songs, a song cycle derived from the opera. Adriana Songs will feature Irish mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon, who created the role of Adriana in the opera. In July, OPERA NEWS reached Saariaho at her Paris home. At the time of our conversation, the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon (librettist Amin Maalouf's homeland) had been in effect for a fortnight, and Paris was in the midst of an oppressive heat wave.

OPERA NEWS: Adriana Songs will be conducted by David Robertson. Have you worked with him before?
KAIJA SAARIAHO: Yes, we did when he was working with the Ensemble InterContemporain, so that was a really long time ago. And I'm very happy about this encounter again.

ON: When you created an orchestral song cycle from L'Amour de Loin, you made some significant changes. You took an aria from the alto and transposed it to the baritone and the like. Will there be any changes of that type, or changes of orchestration, for Adriana Songs?
KS: Well, there are several changes in the orchestration, because there is no choir in this song cycle, but not as many changes. Adriana Songs is for mezzo voice, and all the sung material comes from the part of Adriana. There are altogether four pieces, one of which is purely orchestral. And that's there for several musical reasons. I wanted to bring in this material, and I have completely reworked it again.

ON: I have not had the chance to hear the new opera. At least in its setting, Adriana Mater seems very topical, given the troubled state of our world right now. And from one of the interviews I read it sounded as if it was by chance that Amin Maalouf set it in a war zone. Were you intending to speak on any level to the war conditions of the current world?
KS: Well, you know that we work very closely together, and as maternity was one of the subjects that I wanted to deal with, for him something as intimate and important was the subject of war. It was quite well balanced: I brought my important subject, and he brought his. The violence in relations and the violence in wartime, this all is touching us so much today that it was quite natural to speak about it. And also we really, deliberately, wanted to do something very different from L'Amour de Loin. So, that all came together quite naturally.

ON: Do you regard yourself on any level as a political artist?
KS: Until now I felt that I have nothing to say, and I'm not political person. I don't think one needs to be a political person to treat these subjects. But today it is so urgent.

ON: Absolutely. These must be very, very painful times for Mr. Maalouf, with what's going on in Lebanon.
KS: Yes. Think about it. The war [in the 1980s] had already left him so deeply marked that he had never ever touched it in his writing before Adriana Mater.

ON: Will the full opera of Adriana Mater be performed in the U.S. any time soon?
KS: There is a plan for Santa Fe Opera for the U.S. premiere for 2008.

ON: You write extremely well for the voice. I find it interesting that on the one hand, with this, the most basic and organic of musical instruments, you have such strength as a composer, yet I understand that you do your writing on the computer.
KS: Well, it's like my typewriter — nothing more mysterious than that.

PREMIERE://Farness by John Casken

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2101-2465707,00.html

Earlier that afternoon, in the Town Hall, Thomas Zehetmair had conducted the Northern Sinfonia in beautifully played tributes to Ligeti. Then, joined by the soprano Patricia Rozario and violist Ruth Kilius, they gave the first performance of Farness, John Casken’s somewhat over-written, over-heated setting of three slight poems by Carol Ann Duffy.
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14936-2466112,00.html