• Joy of Music – Over 250 years of quality, innovation, and tradition

Tagged with 'Peter Eötvös'

Eötvös: Frontiers of Knowledge Award of the BBVA Foundation

The Frontiers of Knowledge Award of the Spanish BBVA Foundation in the Music and Opera category in its thirteenth edition is going to  the Hungarian composer and conductor Peter Eötvös,  "undoubtedly one of the most important musical voices of our time," in the words of the citation. "His artistic significance, originality and contribution to the advancement of music since the second half of the 20th century can be recognized in his writing for voice, solo instrument and orchestra in operas such as Three Sisters, Love and Other Demons and Senza Sangue. His instrumental compositions have been played by the most important ensembles and orchestras around the world," committee chair, Joana Carneiro, Principal Conductor of the Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa, states.

The annual Frontiers of Knowledge Award comprises seven further categories, such as Information Technologies, Ecology and Basic Sciences. With 400.000 €, it is one of the most significant cultural awards of the world. Former awardees include composers such as Pierre Boulez, Sofia Gubaidulina and Arvo Pärt.

photo: © Szilvia Csibi

Work of the Week - Peter Eötvös: Alhambra

Peter Eötvös found inspiration for his third violin concerto Alhambra in the picturesque fortress enthroned over the southern Spanish city of Granada from which the work takes its name. The world premiere of the violin concerto will take place on 12 July at the palace of Charles V in the center of Alhambra. Soloist Isabelle Faust and conductor Pablo Heras-Casado – to whom the work is dedicated – will perform with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

The intersection of Spanish and Arabic culture, exemplified by the building, has already become part of the tradition of Western art music, thanks to De Falla, Debussy and Ravel (among many others). The fountains of the palace, its dimension, the surrounding mountains, the amazing sunset of Andalusia: all of this became part of my piece.– Peter Eötvös

Alhambra is composed in a single movement in the manner of a rondo, encapsulating various moods and styles from highly gestural and exciting passages to lyrical and mysterious moments. The name ‘Alhambra’ is inscribed literally into the fabric of the violin concerto via a musical cryptogram that assigns each letter to a particular note. The resultant motif is characterised by the intervals of the fifth and the tritone. The music often centers itself on the note G, adding another symbolic connection to Alhambra and the city of Granada.

Peter Eötvös: Alhambra – A musical discovery of the Spanish castle

A mandolin in scordatura tuning is a curious addition to the instrumentation of the concerto, playing an integral role as accompanist to the solo violin. The combination of instruments serves to reflect the history of Alhambra with its Moorish and European influences.

Following the first performance, Alhambra will receive its UK premiere on 24 July at the BBC Proms while later this year on 7 and 8 September the work can be heard in Berlin.


Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: Das Floß der Medusa

Hans Werner Henze’s oratorio, Das Floß der Medusa, with a text by Ernst Schnabel, will be performed by the SWR Symphonieorchester and Peter Eötvös on 15 November at the Konzerthaus in Freiburg and again on 17 November at Hamburg Elphilharmonie. The work was inspired by the 1816 maritime disaster and shares a name with Théodore Géricault’s painting of the event.

In 1816, the French frigate Méduse ran aground off the west coast of Africa. A shortage of lifeboats meant a hastily constructed raft was used in an attempt to ferry 150 survivors to shore. However, soon after setting off on the 30 mile journey, it became clear that towing the raft was impractical and the decision was made to cut the connecting ropes. The rudderless and ill equipped raft was abandoned to its fate.

Henze uses the tragic events to explore the moment where morality, law and social convention dissolve. In today’s climate, the work resonates as a critique on the response to the refugee crisis in Europe, with parallels to the thousands of lives lost at sea.

Hans Werner Henze: Das Floß der Medusa: A fight for survival

The stage is divided in two between the living and the dead. On the side of the dead is a soprano who attempts to lure survivors with her siren song. Jean-Charles, a cabin boy, represents the living and their struggle to remain alive. In the course of the performance the chorus crosses the stage from the side of the living to the side of the dead. Charon, named after Hades’ ferryman in Greek mythology, is the narrator and slips frequently between the two worlds.

Henze transfers the mood and characters from Géricault’s iconic painting to his music, for example using the woodwind section to underscore the living chorus, with ‘breath like noises’ and screams. The journey to the side of the dead is accompanied by the string section.
I had Théodore Géricault’s magnificent painting, The Raft of the ‚Medusa‘, clearly in my mind’s eye when I started work on the music. The pyramid-like pile of human figures in the painting, which is now in the Louvre in Paris, is surmounted by our hero, the mulatto Jean-Charles, waving a fragment of tattered red cloth at a boat that is seen sailing past the distance and that signifies hope and perhaps also salvation – an idea present in our own piece from the very outset. – Hans Werner Henze

As part of ‘Elbphilharmonie+’ there will be a lecture-performance on 16 November featuring a string quartet made up of musicians from the SWR Symphonieorchester who will trace the experience of escape through the music of Béla Bartók and Emin František Burian interjected with readings from texts written by refugees. The concert featuring Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa will be broadcast on SWR 2 on 26 November. In March 2018, Dutch National Opera will present staged performances of the work.