“I couldn‘t live without playing string quartets,” says Ilya Gringolts, and that is how the Gringolts Quartet came into existence. At 15 to 20 concerts per year, it has become a substantial part of the violinist’s musical agenda. In August, for instance, the four string players can be heard at the Salzburg Festival and the Menuhin Festival Gstaad.
To the Chinese-born American composer Huang Ruo, opera is more than just entertainment. Rather, it is a means of understanding the world, and perhaps even changing it. This is especially true for his three most recent projects, all of which take their inspiration from real-life events and tackle topics as diverse as the life of Chinese statesman Sun Yat-sen, the story of a Texan honour student who is jailed for missing school, and an American soldier’s hazing death.
When Henry VIII set off on his quest to dissolve monasteries throughout his kingdom, this was a turning point not only for religion and economy, but also for the history of English music: while the king, a keen musician himself, is today known as a patron of Renaissance composers, his systematic destruction of the monastic libraries in the 1530s account for the fact that only a minute amount of mediaeval sacred music was preserved – many manuscripts merely survived because they were set aside as scrap paper.
Georg Friedrich Haas' opera Bluthaus, featuring a libretto by Händl Klaus, was commissioned by SWR, Germany’s Southwest Broadcasting, together with the Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele, where it received its world premiere on 29 April 2011. In the run-up to the world premiere, Georg Friedrich Haas talked about the work with Karsten Witt.
The GrauSchumacher Piano Duo is currently documenting one part of their varied repertoire with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester in a series of three CDs recorded with the contemporary music label NEOS Music. Wulf Weinmann, head of NEOS Music, talks to the GrauSchumacher Piano Duo and Stefan Heucke about their collaboration on the duo’s Concerti II
David Krakauer, a classically trained clarinettist with degrees from the Juilliard School of Music in New York, has devoted much of his adult life to the art of klezmer. Krakauer had his first encounter with klezmer music in 1980, when he heard the Eastern European Jewish klezmer master Dave Tarras play live. “Although he was already quite old and technically not so precise,” David recalled his playing, “he created a sound that sent a shiver down my spine. It was totally unforgettable!”
She had already recorded all of Niccolò Paganini’s solo caprices by the age of 13, something that had never been done before. Now, Tianwa Yang (who is originally from Beijing and currently lives in Germany) has just finished recording the complete works of Pablo de Sarasate on Naxos – a pioneering feat. These were sufficient grounds for our author Norbert Hornig to meet the violinist for a chat. The following article appeared in the FONO FORUM magazine in February 2014.
On 7 March 1974, the Arditti Quartet gave their very first concert at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Their debut, which included works by Luciano Berio, Toshiro Mayuzumi, Stanley Haynes and Witold Lutoslawski would already pave the way for programmes focusing on contemporary music in the years to come. Since then, the string quartet has characterised the musical history of its time like no other. During the four decades of its existence, the ensemble has performed over 7,400 works in more than 2,000 concerts, over 600 of which were world premieres of works that were often composed especially for the ensemble. The founder Irvine Arditti reflects on the first 40 years of the Arditti Quartet with Karsten Witt.
On 2 March 2014, Mark Andre’s first opera will receive its world premiere at the Oper Stuttgart. The dramaturge Patrick Hahn conceived the project together with the composer and writes about their research trip to Israel.
dark dreams is the title of Georg Friedrich Haas’ new work for orchestra that will receive its world premiere by the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle on 20 February. Following the concerts in Berlin (20-22 February), the Berlin Philharmonic will perform the work in Hamburg (3 March), Brussels (4 March), Luxembourg (5 March), Cologne (6 March) and Vienna (7 March). The US premiere will take place on 6 October in Carnegie Hall, which commissioned the work together with the Berlin Philharmonic.
Mount Sodom, in the Judean desert, is made up entirely of halite, or rock salt. It continues to rise up out of the earth, as it has been doing for hundreds of thousands of year. As the heat, water, ice and pressure of the Earth's atmosphere work to break down Mount Sodom's rocks, portions separate and break away. One of these pillars is said to be Lot's wife, the Biblical figure who defied God's orders not to look back at her home, the city of Sodom, as it went up in flames. Maya Beiser was driving through the Judean desert when she saw the rock formation said to be Lot's wife, eternally suffering her punishment, frozen as a pillar of salt.
For the 26-year-old South Korean pianist HJ Lim, scaling down has never been high on her agenda. When she debuts with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra with an all-Rachmaninoff programme in February 2014, her performance will comprise the first three of the Russian master’s concertos as well as his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and will take place over the course of three consecutive evenings. An ambitious venture for any pianist, it’s not the first time in the young performer’s career that she has tackled a composer’s oeuvre in this fashion.
"In my opinion, the UPO is one of the best in Russia, which means in Europe as well, as the level of the Russian musicians is very high. (…) One of the main qualities of this orchestra is its unbelievable temperament and ability to stand for each other. This is a very important quality and it greatly impresses me every time." – Vadim Repin
Admittedly, there is quite an accumulation of engagements in Friedrich Cerha’s concert diary just short of his 88th birthday, but in this instance, this ought not to cause too many logistical problems at least: the two upcoming world premieres will take place approximately 150 km away from each other as the crow flies – less than one and a half hours by train. The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (hr-Sinfonieorchester) under Andrés Orozco-Estrada (for whom this concert will be his last as principle conductor of the orchestra) will give the world premiere of Tagebuch für Orchester on 6 February. The following day, can be heard for the first time in the Kölner Philharmonie, performed by the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne under the direction of Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
One can say that the violinist Ilya Gringolts has had the career of a child prodigy and one would not be far off: after studying violin as a child in Saint Petersburg with Tatiana Liberova, the story goes that Itzhak Perlman was made aware of the young violinist after watching a video of him. Sometime later, Ilya Gringolts was to be a student of Perlman’s at the Juilliard School in New York. He also made a name for himself as the youngest winner in the history of the Premio Paganini International Violin Competition and is a regular performer in famous concert halls such as Wigmore Hall as a BBC New Generation Artist.
It is always a sensation for the dance world when the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan brings one of their productions to Germany. The great dance critic Jochen Schmidt described the company’s performance of the trilogy Cursive in the Berliner Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2006 as, "Currently the most relevant dance piece in the world," and Pina Bausch warmly welcomed the ensemble in 2008 to her NRW International Dance Festival with great enthusiasm. The productions that have been performed in Germany over the last two decades are without exception electrifying and have received high praise from audiences and critics alike.
Without light, there would be no darkness, without darkness there would be no light. This dualism illustrates the pulse of life itself completely and has inspired a vast number of works throughout cultural history. The organist Bernard Foccroulle, who is also well-known around the world as a composer and director of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, works with artists from a wide range of different fields. Together with the video artist Lynette Wallworth, he captures the roll of light and darkness in music and nature.
Antje Weithaas is used to leading concerts from the concertmaster’s desk. Following two years as artist in residence with the Kammerakademie Potsdam, she has held the post of artistic director of the Camerata Bern, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, since 2009.
Contrary to what his name may suggest, Samir Odeh-Tamimi is a German composer through and through. Of Palestinian-Israeli nationality, it is in Germany where he studied musicology and composition and where for some 15 years now Ensemble Modern, musikFabrik, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the WDR choir, among others, have performed his works. "I have lived here for over 20 years now, but normally nobody thinks of asking me about what is German about my music", he says with a laugh. "I would prefer to speak of what is Western about my music, anyway. New Music is not strictly speaking a German but a Western movement, and it’s the same with the avant-garde in the visual arts."