la Biennale di Venezia
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Music


53rd International Festival of Contemporary Music

The Body of Sound

25 September > 3 October 2009

Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro La Fenice

Friday 25 September, 8 p.m.
Teatro La Fenice
Rihm / Rehnqvist / Ligeti / Varèse
 

- Wolfgang Rihm Formen / Zwei formen (hommage à Edgar Varèse) for ensemble (1993–1994, 9’)
- Karin Rehnqvist Solsången (Sun Song) for female voice, 2 narrating voices and orchestra (1994, 29’) Italian premiere
- György Ligeti Lontano for large orchestra (1967, 10’)
- Edgard Varèse Arcana for orchestra (1927, 18’)
voice Lena Willemark
voices speakers Sara Mangini and Marta Dalla Via
conductor Joana Carneiro
Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro La Fenice
 
The 32-year-old Portuguese conductor, Joana Carneiro, one of the most brilliant currently on the scene, twill be conducting the prestigious Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice in the inaugural concert of the 53rd International Festival of Contemporary Music. Freshly nominated as conductor of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, where she is the successor to Kent Nagano, former assistant conductor to Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Los Angeles Philharmonic and principal guest conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, Joana Carneiro will offer a programme that ranges from Wolfgang Rihm and Karin Rehnqvist, respectively present with Form/Zwei Formen and Solsången, the latter for its Italian premiere, to Ligeti and Varèse, with celebrated pieces such as Arcana, and the Lontano, which shed light on their technique and their musical thinking.
 
While the concerts in the afternoon presents composers who, with different nuances of language, working on sound as understood as matter, through the figure of one of the top Scandinavian composers, Karin Rehnqvist (1957), the inaugural concert highlights a different perspective of the Festival: the primordial power of music, born with the body and the bond with the earth. Exploring the area between art music and ethnic music with absolute originality, Karin Rehnqvist has above all investigated the extraordinary vocal technique of kulning, linked to women and the way they would bring together the scattered flocks with highly acute calls: “a technique that possesses an absolutely physical dramatic power, which involves the whole body, expressed with a quality of voice and a force directly comparable to those of a trumpet” (K. Rehnqvist). The song in concert, Solsången, or Sun Song, built around some antique and new scientific and poetic texts, some of which drawing on the oral tradition, was composed for the folk-jazz singer, Lena Willemark, known throughout Europe for her records, and who here lends her prodigious voice. With the Sun Song, Rehnqvist creates the magic of music which is, as Guy Rickards has written in “Gramophone”, at once “radically new and extremely old”.
 
Form/Zwei Formen by Wolfgang Rihm (1952), one of the most requested and performed composers at home and abroad, connects some subtle links with the universe of Varèse. “Written for two flutes, two bass clarinets, two horns, two trumpets, three trombones, bass tuba, contrabass tuba, five percussion and bass soloist, Form/Zwei Formen resumes with only some minor modifications”, writes Andrea Zietzschmann, “the result of Edgard Varèse’s Déserts. Wolfgang Rihm has abandoned the piano and tape, replacing them with a five-string bass and cut the percussion to the family of large metal drums. In this ‘sculptural flow’, an image that Morton Feldman used to describe the music of Varèse, everything is dynamic and rhythmic contrast, overlapping layers of sound in layers, accentuated by the brass. A few bars from the end, this essentially powerful work changes abruptly and closes pianissimo in the lowest register of the double bass, kettledrums and bass drum”.
 
After Hyperprism and Integrales, Varèse (1885-1965) turned to Arcana, performed for the first time in 1926 by Leopold Stokowski at the Musical academy of Philadelphia. On the front page of the score, Varèse printed a quote from Paracelsus Hermetic Astronomy: “...a Star exists, higher than others. It is the Apocalyptic Star. The second Start is the Ascendent one. The third is that of the Elements which is presented in the number of four, so that six stars are established. In addition to these there is yet another Star, Imagination, which creates a new Star and a new Heaven”. Despite the disagreements caused by the performances of his works, some critics recognised the value of Varèse and a review of the time published in the Christian Science Monitor states: “One can say that this work marks an important date in the history of art... And this is probably the first truly original score for large orchestra that has been composed in America since the beginning of the century”.
 
Among the most famous pieces by Ligeti (1923-2006), which brought world fame to the Hungarian composer, is certainly Lontano. Written in 1967, the piece offers an example of his concept of immobility and the effect that the composer himself called “sound blanket”. As with Atmosphères and other contemporary pieces, which offer the sort of music, we are offered a large orchestra without percussion. Performed for the first time in Donaueschingen, in 1967, by the Baden Orchestra to which it was dedicated together with conductor Ernest Bour, in the programme notes, Ligeti expressed the idea that emerges from this very particular form of composition: “behind the music, there is another music, and yet another behind that and so on in an infinite perspective, as when one is reflected in a double mirror”.