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Work of the Week – Kurt Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins (Die sieben Todsünden) is one of Kurt Weill’s best-known and most frequently performed works. On 21 September, a new orchestration of the ballet chanté for 15 players will receive its premiere at Beethovenfest Bonn with Ensemble Modern and soloist Sarah Maria Sun conducted by HK Gruber. The new version has been created by Gruber and Christian Muthspiel in collaboration with the Kurt Weill Foundation and Schott Music.

The Brecht text is not a period piece. It is absolutely contemporary. In our day The Seven Deadly Sins is a manifesto against capitalism run amok, and it's a dangerous piece - for the capitalists. Because it lays bare how the world works: if you are honest, you have to pay the price, here, during this life. It is even more timely than it was twenty or thirty years ago.  (HK Gruber)

The Seven Deadly Sins: An Iconic Work in a New Orchestration

Initiated by the Kurt Weill Foundation, the new orchestration of The Seven Deadly Sins will for the first time enable fully staged performances by smaller ensembles, theatres and dance companies. The work has received innumerable successful interpretations and the new version will open up further possibilities for creative productions in even more varied settings. The soprano soloist in Gruber and Muthspiel’s version is accompanied by a male vocal quartet and the following ensemble: 1(pic).0.2.1-

HK Gruber is regarded as a leading Weill expert, having frequently conducted, performed and recorded The Seven Deadly Sins and other works throughout his career. This new orchestration is characterised by its high level of fidelity to the original work, retaining Weill's original keys and using the ensemble in innovative ways to match the characteristic timbres of the orchestral version.

Playing on double-standards that are placed on the sisters, Anna 1 and Anna 2, as they make their seven-year journey through different US cities, the highly ironic and satirical work features some of Weill’s most recognisable music. It incorporates numerous popular American musical styles including foxtrot, polka, and barbershop. Despite being sung in German, the work was a success at its premiere performance in 1933 in Paris where Weill was living in exile, and it received a UK premiere at the Savoy Theatre that same year.

photo: Staatstheater Stuttgart / Bernhard Weis

Work of the Week - Ryan Wigglesworth: Piano Concerto

Ryan Wigglesworth will make no fewer than three appearances as a conductor at this year’s BBC Proms, including on 28 August 2019 when he will direct the world premiere of his Piano Concerto with Marc-André Hamelin and Britten Sinfonia. The new work is the result of a joint commission between BBC Radio 3 and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

From the chorale figures of its opening arioso, to the contrapuntal scherzo and trio and the fugal finale, Wigglesworth’s Piano Concerto is characterised by its incorporation of Classical form and stylistic elements into his own contemporary idiom.
The solo piano part, neither bravura nor particularly virtuosic, often displays a poetic, intimate character. The work’s four movements are studies in character. The first, songlike; the second, a fast scherzo with a gentler central trio; the third, a nocturne based on a folk melody; and finally, a lively contrapuntal Gigue. - Ryan Wigglesworth

The lightly scored Notturno is one of the work’s more intimate moments. The orchestra is reduced to just strings and harp, accompanying the soloist in a small set of variations based on a Polish folk song Wigglesworth first heard around a campfire. His personal association of the melody with night is rendered in the dream-like and occasionally nightmarish quality of this movement.

Ryan Wigglesworth: Piano Concerto – Incorporation of classical form in a contemporary idiom

Audiences will be able to hear Wiggleworth’s Piano Concerto in performances around the world in coming seasons, including on 27, 28 and 29 February 2020 with Seattle Symphony Orchestra.



Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

Work of the Week - Mark-Anthony Turnage: The Silver Tassie

On 10 November 2018, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera The Silver Tassie (1997-1999) in concert  as part of their In Remembrance World War I series at the Barbican in London. Ryan Wigglesworth will conduct, with an excellent cast including Sally Matthews, Sir John Tomlinson, Claire Booth, Marcus Farnsworth, Louise Alder, Susan Bickley, and Ashley Riches as Harry, the lead character.

Based on Sean O’Casey’s 1928 play on the futility of war, The Silver Tassie is set in Dublin during World War I. Its title, referring to a footballing trophy, comes from a Scottish song text by Robert Burns “Go fetch to me a pint o’ wine, an’ fill it in a silver tassie; that I may drink before I go, a service to my bonnie lassie”. The opera was co-commissioned by English National Opera whilst Turnage was their Composer in Association, and Dallas Opera.

Mark-Anthony Turnage - The Silver Tassie: the tragedy of war

The story of The Silver Tassie centres around Harry Heagen - a handsome soldier on leave from the Great War, and a renowned footballer. Triumphant after winning the football cup ‘The Silver Tassie’ for his team, Harry leaves his family and girlfriend Jessie for the front. There he is rescued from death by his best friend Barney, but loses the use of his legs and is confined to a wheelchair. Harry then discovers Jessie has deserted him for Barney, and the final act brings a poignant and moving conclusion, as he sets off to face an uncertain future.
It is not only words that come across vividly, but feelings too. The sheer theatricality of the music is dazzling. Turnage knows precisely how to hold the audience's interest and sympathy, timing each scene consummately and providing haunting "tag" tunes and a series of grand operatic gestures. – Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

Further upcoming performances for Turnage include the staging of his explosive first opera Greek (1986-1988) at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music from 5-9 December 2018.


© Foto: Keith Saunders

Work of the Week: Gerald Barry – Canada

Ludwig van Beethoven and Canada. What do those two have in common?

Gerald Barry’s new work for voice and orchestra, Canada, will have its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms on 21 August.

Specially commissioned for the Proms, it will be performed by tenor Allan Clayton and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

"Some time ago I was in Toronto airport returning to Dublin. When I got through security, Canada suddenly came into my head: a setting of the Fidelio Prisoners' Chorus for voice and orchestra." Gerald Barry

Gerald Barrys Canada – A tribute to Beethoven

The text, in English, French and German, includes the lines "Speak softly! We are watched with eyes and ears" from Beethoven’s politically charged and only opera, Fidelio. Barry holds Beethoven in high regard, considering him to be the greatest composer that ever lived. Many of his own works draw on the letters and works of Beethoven.  These include Schott and Sons, Mainz for bass solo and SATB choir which uses selected texts from Beethoven’s letters to his publisher and Beethoven for bass voice and ensemble which also features excerpts from Beethoven’s personal letters to his "Immortal Beloved".
“Canada, the name and country, is both everyday and strange to me - exotically normal.” Gerald Barry

Other new works for Barry this season include an Organ Concerto for organist Thomas Trotter commissioned jointly by Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.

Beethoven would celebrate his 250. birthday in 2020. If you’re still looking for suitable musical programme, you’re invited to have a look at the recent Schott journal for inspiration.

Work of the Week: Alexander Goehr – Vanishing Word

On 25 November, Ensemble Modern will give a concert focused on the music of Alexander Goehr at the Wigmore Hall in London, including the UK premiere of his major song cycle Vanishing Word with mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer and tenor Christopher Gillet. The following day, the same performers present the concert at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, marking the work’s German premiere.

First composed in 2013 for two voices and piano, Vanishing Word is a cycle of songs, duets and instrumental pieces orchestrated in 2015 for mezzo soprano, tenor and ensemble. The work explores the ambiguities of words, of ideas, and of human understanding. Goehr has set seven texts by six different authors, among them Jakob Böhme, Rainer Maria Rilke and Ingeborg Bachmann, that address in some manner man’s distance from nature and the ways in which language and meaning diverge over time. Between the sung movements, the words ‘vanish’ in five instrumental preludes.

Vanishing Word: The meaning of meaning

Vanishing Word begins with a metaphor of language as a tree, as described by the 17th century German mystic Jakob Böhme. Through growth and separations, the universal language of nature becomes divided into increasingly weaker languages. In the second song Goehr sets the story of how Adam was ordered by God to assign a name to each animal, and the following texts are settings of poems which reflect on the nature and use of words. The texts captured Goehr’s attention while he was working on his earlier song cycle for baritone TurmMusik (2009) which tells the biblical story of the Tower of Babylon, and is thus related thematically to Vanishing Word.

Vanishing Word had its world premiere on 22 January 2016 in New York by the Juilliard Ensemble, after which the cycle was lauded for its combination of mysticism and transparency.
The impression I aim to create is one of transparency: the listener should perceive, both in the successive and simultaneous dimensions of the score, the old beneath the new and the new arising from the old. – Alexander Goehr

Alongside Vanishing Word, Ensemble Modern will give the world premiere of two other pieces by Goehr, Manere II for clarinet and horn and Manere III for clarinet, horn and violin, to complement Goehr’s existing Manere I (2008). The title ‘Manere’ refers to a particular melisma from Gregorian chant that, for several centuries, was frequently used in works by composers including by Pérotin and Machaut before largely disappearing.

Work of the Week: Karl Amadeus Hartmann – Simplicius Simplicissimus

On 11 November, Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s 1930s opera Simplicius Simplicissimus will be given its UK premiere at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. The Independent Opera production, directed by Polly Graham with Timothy Redmond conducting the Britten Sinfonia, will use a new English translation by David Poutney.

In three acts, the opera tells the story of a naïve shepherd boy, Simplicius Simplicissimus, during the horrific Thirty Years' War which devastated Germany in the seventeenth century. Simplicius doesn’t understand his father who tries to warn him of the evils of the world, nor his mysterious dreams of a ‘tree of life’. After a series of unfortunate events, such as the destruction of his family farm and his kidnapping, Simplicius retrospectively understands his dream as a metaphor for social injustice.

Hartmann's Simplicius Simpliccissimus - History repeats itself

Hartmann’s work, based on the 1668 novel “Der Abentheurliche Simpliccimus Teutsch” by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, was also shaped by the political circumstances of his present time. Though it was composed in 1934-1935, Simplicius Simplicissimus was not premiered until 1949 since Hartmann’s music was classified as “degenerate Art” by the Nazi regime. A parallel is drawn between the two historically distinct events, and the opera becomes an allegorical outcry against war and tyranny.
I became acquainted with the book and the descriptions of the Thirty Year’s War captured my attention. How current the line seemed to me: “The times are so strange, that nobody knows whether they will get out of it all without losing their life.” Then, as now, the individual was helplessly at the mercy of the devastating brutality of the age, where people were close to losing their souls. There was no hope for salvation, except in the most simple-minded human brought forth against it. – Karl Amadeus Hartmann

Hartmann realises this historic parallel musically by incorporating among others passages of Jewish melodies, creating a complex network of compositional meaning. Also prominent is the use of a German folk melody from the 13th century, put to the words “oh world I must leave you” (“Oh Welt ich muss dich lassen”). Withdrawal from the world is a very important theme in Hartmann’s work, but at the same time, the opera shows its impossibility: reality can be found reflected in Hartmann’s engagement with an older history, and even in Simplicius innocent fantasies.

The Independent Opera’s production of Simplicius Simplissimus will have repeat performances on the 15, 17 and 19 November. Next year the work will be performed in Bremen, Germany from 28 January.



Photo: Monika Rit­ters­haus, Oper Frank­furt 2009

Work of the Week – Julian Anderson: Incantesimi

The Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle will give two national premieres of Julian Anderson's new orchestral work Incantesimi this week at the Lucerne Festival on Wednesday 31 August and at the BBC Proms on Saturday 3 September.

Written with this orchestra's particular colour in mind, Incantesimi is an 8-minute glittering exploration of orbiting musical ideas. Following its world premiere in Berlin in June, the Berlin Philharmonic have taken the piece on tour to Rotterdam, Lucerne, and culminating with the UK premiere at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Incantesimi (meaning ‘spells’ or ‘enchantments’ in Italian) is based on five musical ideas which circle around each other, sometimes accompanying in the background, sometimes rising to the foreground. The work is characterised by a recurring Cor Anglais solo, a long arching string figure, low chords, and bell chords in the middle and high registers. The piece unfolds slowly in what the composer describes as an “almost hypnotic state”, which lends the work its title. Toward the end of the work, the tempo dramatically shifts, bringing about an eruption of sound. This subsides and the music continues its orbit to close the piece.
When Sir Simon Rattle asked me to compose a work for the Berlin Philharmonic, I decided to write a piece which focused upon line and timbre unfolding at a slow rate. I have always admired the ability of Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic to play long, flowing musical lines with exceptional beauty of tone. – Julian Anderson

A co-commission between the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation, the Royal Philharmonic Society and Boston Symphony Orchestra, Incantesimi will be given its US premiere by the BSO on 26 January 2017 followed by performances on 27 and 28 January at Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts.

Work of the Week – Thomas Larcher: Symphony No. 2

On 28 August, Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2 ‘Kenotaph’ will receive its UK premiere at the BBC Proms in London, played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Semyon Bychkov. Bychkov, to whom the symphony is dedicated, conducted the world premiere with the Vienna Philharmonic earlier this year on 3 June in Vienna.

While his earlier compositions primarily extended from his wealth of experience as a chamber musician, Larcher has progressively ventured into larger orchestral writing, beginning with Red and Green (2010). This later became the creative groundwork to his first symphony Alle Tage for baritone and orchestra (2015) following the success of A Padmore Cycle (2014) for tenor and orchestra.

Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2 - “a grave for lost and forgotten souls”

Symphony No. 2 is a 35-minute long, four-movement symphony that still maintains in passages the more intimate sounds of how it was originally envisioned - as a concerto for orchestra. Written for a large orchestra with prominent percussion, Larcher’s composition traverses diverse levels of musical energy, seeking ways to find tonality and structure that is at once exploratory yet aware of classical tradition and form. The symphony’s subtitle ‘Kenotaph’ (cenotaph) refers to monuments erected to commemorate those killed in war, or in the composer’s own words, “graves for lost and forgotten souls”. Feeling anguish over the continuing European immigrant crisis in particular, Larcher poured his feeling into this work.
Thousands upon thousands of people drowned in the Mediterranean while all of Europe stood on the sidelines idly observing this tragedy or even looking away. [The symphony] is a symbol for what has been going on and is still going on in the middle of Europe. – Thomas Larcher

Performances of Larcher’s works in the next few months include Ouroboros for cello and chamber orchestra by the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra on 13 September with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and conductor Per Kristian Skalstad, and by the BBC Philharmonic on 13 October with cellist Matthew Barley and Ben Gernon conducting. On 6 October, Edward Gardner will conduct A Padmore Cycle with tenor Mark Padmore and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. The Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich conducted by Yutaka Sado will perform Red and Green in Austria from 7-10 October.

Work of the Week – Arnold Schoenberg: A Survivor from Warsaw

This year's BBC Proms will include a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw (1947) on 8 August. Simon Russell Beale will narrate, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices.

In 1933, Schoenberg, the son of a Jewish merchant, fled the Nazi party’s rise to power and emigrated to the USA. The Nazi dictatorship and subsequent Holocaust clearly impacted Schoenberg deeply, driving and intensifying the representation of human suffering and torment in his compositions, as evident in A Survivor from Warsaw .

A Survivor from Warsaw - A groundbreaking exploration of twelve-tone technique

In just 8 minutes, Schoenberg expresses musically the suffering and persecution of an entire population. The cantata text, written by Schoenberg himself, portrays a scene in the Warsaw Ghetto to illustrate experiencing the Nazi reign of terror. The cantata is in three different languages: The narrator speaks English, but quotes the commanding shouts of a soldier in German, and finally in a devastating emotional climax to the work, the narrator cries out in Hebrew ‘Shema Yisroel’, a Jewish declaration of faith.
Now, what the text of the Survivor means to me: it means at first a warning never to forget what has been done to us, never to forget that even people who did not do it themselves, agreed and found it necessary to treat us this way. We should never forget this, even if such things have not been done in the manner in which I describe in the ‘Survivor’. This does not matter. The main thing is that I saw it in my imagination. – Arnold Schönberg

Other Schott works at the BBC Proms include Henri Dutilleux’s The Shadows of Time (1997) on 8 August in the same programme as A Survivor from Warsaw, Sir Charles his Pavan (1992) by the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies performed by Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic on 9 August and a new Cello Concerto by Huw Watkins will receive its world premiere with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Thomas Søndergård and with the composer’s brother Paul Watkins as soloist on 12 August.

Work of the Week – Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: The Hogboon

On 26 June, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ last large-scale work, The Hogboon, will be premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, joined by the London Symphony Chorus, LSO Discovery Chorus and Guildhall School Musicians at the Barbican Hall, London. The work was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and Philharmonie Luxembourg.

The Hogboon is a children’s opera which tells the story of Magnus, a young Orkney Islander who, with the help of a friendly Hogboon (a household troll), sets out to defend the village from the feared sea monster, Nuckleavee.

Completed shortly before his death in March,The Hogboon was particularly close to Maxwell Davies' heart as an Orkney resident and a passionate advocate for music education. The composer wrote the libretto himself, based on an Orkney folk tale. He took great pleasure in creating a work for combined professional and student forces, assigning the children’s choir the roles of the angry sea monster and the witch’s kittens. The opera also bears an ecological moral: we must take care of nature if we wish to live alongside it.
Bearing in mind the involvement of children and students, I have not written down to them with any condescension – rather – I have written up, knowing, from long experience, that, taken absolutely seriously, children and students are wickedly perceptive, and not to be taken for granted. I have attempted to make the masque work on several levels, of interest to adults, students and children, with weavings into the work’s verbal and musical textures diverse layers of meaning not least to do with our accommodations with Nature, and our present ecological problems.– Maxwell Davies

The Hogboon can next be seen in Luxembourg with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra in May 2017. Following the premiere of The Hogboon in London, a free memorial event in Maxwell Davies' honour will take place at St John's Smith Square on 27 June. Included in the programme are two of his last works, The Golden Solstice (2016) for choir and organ and String Quartet Movement 2016, receiving its premiere performance. For more information and booking go to: https://www.sjss.org.uk/events/max-celebration.
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