Ensemble Phoenix Basel
Monday 27 September at 8:00 p.m.
Teatro alle Tese
ENSEMBLE PHOENIX BASEL
conductor Jürg Henneberger
saxophone Raphael Camenisch
Gérard Grisey (1946-1998) Perichoresis for three instrumental groups (1969 - rev.1973, 13’)
Vladimir Tarnopolski (1955) Eastanbul for large ensemble (2008, 20’) Italian premiere *
Nadir Vassena (1970) materia oscura for saxophone and ensemble (2006, 25’) Italian premiere
Hanspeter Kyburz (1960) Parts for chamber ensemble (1994/95, 24') Italian premiere
Concerto programmed with the support of Pro Helvetia
* Commissioned by the Ensemble Modern and Siemens Arts Program in the context of „into Istanbul", a project by the Ensemble Modern and Siemens Arts Program, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut
Created in 1998 as part of the International Gesellschaft fur Neue Musik in Basel thanks to Jurg Henneberger, who after creating occasional and flexible formations felt the need to provide the company (IGNM) with a permanent operative instrument to perform new music, the Phoenix Ensemble and the nucleus of 25 musicians who are its members are one of the most vital groups on and beyond the Swiss music scene. The group’s mission is to dedicate its work to consolidated composers of contemporary music, and in particular the younger ones with the objective of introducing them to a wider audience.
The feather in the cap of the Phoenix Ensemble concert will be the performance of Perichoresis by Gérard Grisey, a seminal figure in spectral music. Grisey – and his companions with whom he founded the Itinéraire ensemble: Tristan Murail, Roger Tessier, Michael Levinas, and later Hugues Dufourt – opens a new direction with respect to the integral serialism of Darmstadt, examining sound under its physical and acoustic profile, exploring the spectrum which ranges from harmonic sounds to noises. The perfomance of Perichoresis, which dates back to the end of the Sixties and was revised in 1973, probably for the second and last performance which, however, has left no trace, and which was never repeated, is all the more interesting because it came shortly before the cycle that would mark the birth of spectral music, Les Espaces Acoustiques, of which Perichoresis contains the seed and represents the first genesis. Conceived for three instrumental groups, according to Grisey himself Perichoresis means “a mutual exchange, a profound relationship that is established, beyond language and thought, between two or more people. Three groups, three characters, three colours, three rhythmic cells meet…”
The concert continues with Eastanbul, the Italian premiere performance of a piece by Ukrainian composer Vladimir Tarnopolski, one of the active exponents of new music in Russia and one of the most committed advocates of dialogue with the west since the 1990’s, with the foundation of companies, festivals, conferences. Tarnopolski is the author of music that paradoxically combines two different aspects: on the one hand the search for new euphonics, using sonic material with a complex construction and abolishing the difference consonance and dissonance, between sound and noise, harmony and timbre, acoustic and electronic instruments; on the other hand a refined theatrical quality to which he adds a cheerful irony and a surreal sense of the grotesque.
In Eastanbul, Tarnopolski seeks to capture the spirit and the essence of a city that is considered to be the crossroads between east and west. Arriving in the Turkish capital full of prejudices, Tarnopolski thought he would entitle his piece Westanbul, as a tribute to this city’s yearning to become an integral part of the European Community. But his visit to the real Istanbul changed his plans. “The allure of this city, writes Tarnopolski, consists precisely in the fact that it is the dominion of the East, therefore I abandoned my earlier ideas and chose to call it Eastanbul. Istanbul is like an interface between east and west – not only in geographical terms, but in cultural, social and political terms. I was struck by the incredible energy of this city, like a basin of bubbling lava. Even from a geological point of view Istanbul is located in an active earthquake zone, and experts predict powerful earthquakes in the decades to come. The sonic landscape of Istanbul is dotted with the frequent calls of the muezzin, which are heard simultaneously from every direction. This idea of a simultaneous variation of similar melodic lines and rhythmic figures is the foundation of my work”.
The concert will be completed by two Italian premieres: Materia oscura by Swiss composer Nadir Vessena and Parts by Hanspeter Kyburz, a complex author, whose mathematical computational processes do not reduce, but on the contrary reinforce the dramatic intensity of his pieces.
Conceived for saxophone and ensemble, Materia oscura expresses Vessena’s love for this instrument and his origins as a composer; as for the piece, he declares that it is “basically autobiographical”: “As my first instrument, I link the saxophone emotionally to my early musical experiments, as a performer, and more or less simultaneously, as a composer. Because of the deep roots it has entrenched in my way of thinking and conceiving music, it was the ideal instrument for this incursion into the materia oscura. This is in fact an autobiographical piece (with the inevitable transfer and ambiguity that thd word produces in this case). Writing one’s own story must be understood as coming to terms with technical, aesthetic, and historical issues (and I would add sensual and sentimental) which have already occupied earlier works, and in this case, instead of coming to a conclusion, they plunge back into the uncertainty of the beginnings”.
Parts is an example of the application of abstract mathematical foundations to composition, algorithms in particular, which becomes a constant practice in Kyburz’s production after 1995, the year this piece was composed. Inspired by the novel of the great Viennese author Hermann Broch, Der Tod des Vergils (which was actually published in English first in 1945), from which it borrows the division into four “acts” – arrival, descent, expectation, return – Kyburz “concentrates specifically on the dramatization of subtle plots, on the dialectic between totality and solitude, building a dynamic and expressive interior world that spreads dramatically until it hits peaks of frenzy, which finally disintegrate and collapse into apathetic detachment” (Jorn Peter Hiekel). The piece is in fact characterized by violent explosions that ex abruptointerrupt the flow of sound, and by a continuous expansion/contraction that translates into forms of crescendo and decrescendo. These are procedures that are “so intricate, interwoven and stratified in terms of counterpoint, that they put the listener in a strange position, but in a way that the ear cannot really understand what this form really contains” (Jorn Peter Hiekel).
Vladimir Tarnopolski (Dniepropetrovsk – Ukraine, 1955) – He was trained at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, where he studied composition with Nikolai Sidelnikov and Edison Denisov, and musical theory with Juri Cholopov. One of the compositions he wrote for his diploma examination, Cello Concerto (1988), was later selected by Gennadi Rozhdenstvensky for the program of a cycle of concerts entitled “From the history of Soviet music”. He is one of the pioneers of the Association of Contemporary Music, founded in 1989 in Moscow, the result of an effort to promote and spread new directions from the West. He later instituted the Centre for Contemporary Music at the Conservatory in Moscow, founded the ensemble “Studio of New Music” (1993) and launched an annual festival dedicated to contemporary music with the objective of advancing the integration of East European music into the developments in Western contemporary music: the Moscow Forum (1994). He has often been a guest at music festivals in Europe and the USA: the World Music Days of the ISCM, Berliner Festwochen, the Monaco Biennial, Wien Modern, Holland Festival, Musikfest in Frankfurt, the Almeida Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the San Diego Arts Festival (USA), Warsaw Autumn. His music has been conducted by Rozhdestvenskij, Mstislav Rostropovic and Alexander Lazarev, and performed by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk, by the Ensemble Modern, the Schönberg Ensemble, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and by the ensemble of soloists of the Bolshoi Theatre.
Nadir Vassena (Balerna – Switzerland, 1970) – He studied composition in Milan with Bruno Zanolinia and with Johannes Schollhorn in Freiburg. In 1993 he attended the Composition classes at Royaumont held by Brian Ferneyhough. He has been invited by many international festivals and has won prizes on many occasions; in 1992 at the Competition of the WDR in Cologne, in 1994 from the Institut für Neue Musik der Hochschule der Künste in Berlin (first prize ex aequo), in 1997 at the Mozart-Wettbewerb in Salzburg. His compositions have been selected for five years straight by the Gaudeamus Music Week festival in Amsterdam (1996-2000). In 1999 he was awarded the Christoph Delz Foundation prize in Basel and in 2000 he won a scholarship from the Schloss-Solitude Foundation in Stuttgart. He was a member of the Swiss Institute in Rome for the academic year 2002/2003. He worked for many years with the Oggimusica association and after 2004 became the artistic director of the Tage für neue Musik in Zurich together with guitarist Mats Scheidegger. From 2000 to 2003 he was a member of the board of directors of the Swiss Association of Musicians. He teaches composition and analysis at the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana where he is also a member of the Direction.
Hanspeter Kyburz (Lagos – Nigeria, 1960) – Though he was born in Lagos, his background is Swiss and he currently lives in Germany. He began his studies in composition in Graz and, after 1982, in Berlin, where he also studied musicology and the history of art and philosophy. A scholarship later brought him to the Cité des Arts in Paris. He won the Boris Blacher prize in 1990 and the Schneider-Schott prize in 1994; he graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in Berlin in 1996, and in 1997 became a professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin. His most recent works include: Marginalien 1 and 2 for 4 string instruments (1990 and 1992), Studien for 3 string instruments (1993), Cells for saxophone and ensemble (1993-94), Parts for ensemble (1994-95), The Voynich Cipher Manuscript for 24 voices and ensemble (1995), Danse aveugle for flute, violin, cello and piano (1997).