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The new Arcana Festival in Sankt Gallen, Austria, provides new music with an important new forum. Twelve days long, this Who’s Who of new music is to be hosted every summer in Sankt Gallen and is set to begin its debut year on July 28. Numerous definitive composers are expected to attend already this year before the festival finale is held on August 8, among them some of the composers affiliated with Ricordi Munich, Ricordi Milan and Durand-Salabert-Eschig Paris. The festival is named after an orchestral piece of the same name by Edgard Varèse, whose works will also be on this year’s program. On July 30, for example, the percussion quartet Schlagquartett Köln and other guest musicians will be performing Varèse’s "Ionisation", written between 1929 and 1931. The composition numbers among the first in western art music written purely for percussion instruments.
Gérard Grisey’s "Le Noir de l'étoile", written between 1989 and 1990 for six percussionists and pulsar sounds, is to be heard on the same evening, and the musicians are also to give a guest performance of Iannis Xenakis’ "Pléïades" (August 1). Further works by Xenakis will follow, including a July 29 performance of "Psappha", written in 1975, by Robyn Schulkowsky (percussion) as well as an August 7 performance of his string trio "Ikhoor" by the Zebra Trio.
Furthermore, Grisey’s "Solo pour deux" for clarinet and trombone and "Taléa" for chamber ensemble are also on the program for August 3, to be performed by Ernesto Molinari (clarinet), Uwe Dierksen (trombone) and the ensemble recherché. Preceding that will be a set of performances focused on the works of Scelsi, including a performance of Natura renovator, for eleven strings, with Ernst Kovacic directing the Wrocław Chamber Orchestra Leopoldinum (July 29). Additionally, pianist Marino Formenti will be performing Scelsi’s "Action Music", and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir will be giving a guest performance of his "Yliam", written in 1964, under the direction of Erwin Ortner (both concerts to take place on August 2).
In a highly anticipated guest performance, pianist Nicolas Hodges is also scheduled to arrive on August 4 for a performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s "Due Notturni crudely" – a set of pieces dedicated to Hodges and which he recorded on CD (on the Metronome label). On the same evening, the ensemble recherché will be appearing in concert with Sciarrino’s "Muro d’orizzonte", written in 1996. On August 6, Beat Furrer will be directing the performance of Mark Andrés’ quintet "Asche"; Olga Neuwirth’s string quartet "Akroate Hadal" is to be heard in the same concert. Works by Varèse and Klaus Huber are on the program for the big closing finale on August 8.
“‘Madjnun,’ which means ‘The Lunatic’ in Arabic, is a love story.” Madjnun falls in love with Layla, but his love – though requited – is left unconsummated because of the set of circumstances facing them. Madjnun, as a result, is driven mad – while at the same time becoming one of the most famous poets of his age.” Thus Samir Odeh-Tamimi describes the story that serves as the basis for his evening-long musical theater work "Layla and Madjnun". The work represents the Israel-born Palestinian composer’s first explorations within the genre; the instrumentation of the work comprises countertenor, one actor, choir and ensemble. The RuhrTriennial commissioned the work, which is set to be premiered on August 20 in Bochum.
The title of the musical theater work refers to a book of the same name penned by Persian poet Nezami Ganjavi, likely in the 12th century. Ganjavi’s book is a collection of poems compiled and published in the form of an overarching story. The book provides the basis of the libretto, written by Albert Ostermaier. “The story is similar to "Romeo and Juliet", just older,” states Odeh-Tamimi. “Madjnun essentially becomes the greatest Arabic poet of all time only after going mad. He leaves his tribe and moves into the desert, there leading a life of total asceticism together with the animals.” Odeh-Tamimi has long been fascinated with the book. In November of 2009, Jeremias Schwarzer and the Munich Chamber Orchestra premiered his "Madjnun" for recorder and orchestra, following which he created an adaptation entitled "Madjnun II" for recorder and men’s choir, which was premiered in 2010 in Cologne by the WDR choir under the direction of Rupert Huber.
“The book expresses great yearning for Layla, for home and for family. Though it is possible to quench such longing, one does not always do so. That is the great overarching problem the book ultimately addresses.” At the premiere performance of "Layla and Madjnu"n on August 20, Peter Rundel will be directing the ChorWerkRuhr and the musikFabrik, with Willy Decker providing stage direction. Countertenor Hagen Matzeit will be playing the role of Madjnun, and Aleksander Radenkovic will be appearing in the role of Ibn Salam. Wolfgang Gussmann is in charge of stage and costume designing (with the assistance of Susana Mendoza), Andrea Grüter of lighting. The production will run until September 3.
It is not Enno Poppe’s wish that his orchestral work "Markt" be understood as the “symphonic vacation impressions”; instead, he speaks of a “complex system [based on] numerous individual characters,” one “dynamic, sometimes unpredictable, always too much of everything.” The 17-minute piece was premiered in Donaueschingen in September 2009 and is set to receive its Japanese premiere in Tokyo on August 25, with Youichi Sugiyama directing the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.
The Berlin Akademie der Künste already has something very special thought out for the August 26 German premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino’s "Studi per l’intonazione del mare", written in 2000. Music-loving laypeople will be performing with the KNM Berlin under Roland Kluttig. The instrumentation of the work includes countertenor, four saxophones, four flutes, percussion and a moving orchestra made up of a hundred flutists and a hundred saxophonists.
The fact that Sergej Newski’s first musical theater work reflects on the life and work of Saint Francis is quite telling. Olivier Messiaen also penned an opera based on the life of Saint Francis, but Newski’s chamber opera "Franziskus" – the first three scenes of which are to be premiered in concert on September 9 at the Klangspuren Schwaz Tirol – forges its own unique path. “The main character of Francis will be played by two performers,” explains Newski, “one having the somewhat drier, partly ironic and partly expressive voice of a narrator, the other a countertenor that makes his appearance in the most important scenes and at the most important moments to provide simultaneous narration.”
The evening-long work has a total of four tableaus and is written for two sopranos, countertenor, narrator, sixteen choir singers and twenty instrumentalists. “Franziskus is essentially a trialogue,” states Newski. “The four scenes make up four tableaus within the life of a saint, told by the figure of Saint Francis himself.” The work is based on a text entitled Heiliger Franz, by Claudius Lünstedt, written especially for the project. The most important source for the text, in turn, is provided by two descriptions of the life of "Saint Francis" by Thomas von Celano, a companion of the saint. “Saint Francis senses that his life will be a difficult struggle,” Lünstedt states. “The nearer he comes to the poorest of the world, the richer his own life appears to him and thus the more despicable he finds himself…. The basic theme underlying the text is that Francis seeks simply to survive without denying himself. He only experiences salvation when he is able to experience a spiritually sweet feeling (belief); he is willing to give his all, to vandalize his body, just for one moment of this kind. Sainthood is granted in a nervous process of mystification that includes a listing of miracles. The great number of extraordinary deeds attributed to the saint slays every thought of unbelief (doubt).” The vicissitudes and expressivity of the main character stand in contrast to his more static surroundings, explains Newski. “The soloists take on the role of the disciple, the choir and the people but are also used as individuals.”
The percussion section, which also integrates elementary materials such as stone, wood and iron, provides an important component to the music. “It completes the circle, tying together the Franciscan vow of poverty and simplicity and the aesthetic of the Italian Arte Povera ,” Newski continues. The four percussionists, positioned in various places throughout the room, bring about constant change in the spatial atmosphere. For the premiere, Johannes Kalitzke will be directing the Latvian Radio Choir, the Mark Pekarski Percussion Ensemble, Windkraft Tyrol and the Kilviria String Quartet. Soloists will include Daniel Gloger (countertenor), Natalia Pschenitschnikova (soprano) und Jakob Diehl (narrator).
The Italian premiere of the chamber opera "Franziskus" is to take place in Bozen on September 12 in the framework of the Transart Festival. The Asasello Quartet will also be performing the Austrian premiere of Newski’s "Third String Quartet" at the Klangspuren Schwaz (September 23) and Mikhail Doubov the piano work "Exploding Rooms" (September 22). Before that, on September 17, the 2008 film "Yuriev Den – Yuri’s Day", by Kirill Serebrennikov, with music composed by Newski, will be shown.