For its debut performance at the Prague Spring festival, the Slovak Quasars Ensemble has selected a programme consisting of works by leading foreign composers. At the forefront of this concert’s dramaturgy is a portrait of the colorful, dynamic world of spectral music. An emblematic work of compositional poetics or technique, which paved the way for the latest major step along the path of the development of European musical thought, is the vast three-part composition titled Vortex temporum (Vortex of Time) by the father of spectral music, the brilliant French composer Gérard Grisey. The overwhelming energy of the vibrating garlands of six instruments is a true delicacy par excellence from the world of contemporary, virtuosically conceived music. The premiere of this work, which now has a cult following, took place almost exactly 20 years ago.
The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is the first lady of the world of complex, rhythmicized specters. Her humorous, extraordinarily popular “mini-concerto” for solo flute and small chamber ensemble was created as a transcription of the second part of her flute concerto with the title L’Aile du Songe.
The Swiss composer Michael Jarrell, like Kaija Saariaho, studied in Klaus Huber’s famed composition studio in Freiburg. As the composer of an extensive cycle of chamber works with variable instrumentation titled Assonance, he is constantly attempting to illustrate through music the property of the imperfect yet all the more sonorous manner of rhyming vowels instead of syllables, familiar from the language arts.
One member of Michael Jarrell’s composition studio is the versatile Slovak musician Ivan Buffa, whose new chamber symphony titled Identity represents something of a summary of his efforts towards a symbiosis of spectral color with organically interlinked rhythm.
Since its founding in 2008, the Quasars Ensemble has been one of the most interesting professional musical ensembles of its kind in Slovakia. Besides contemporary art music, the group also focuses on the works of past epochs, boldly programming interesting combinations of music. The ensemble has presented several concert profiles of leading contemporary composers from around the world (Bent Sørensen, Michael Jarrell, Kaija Saariaho), and it has collaborated with such artists as Camilla Hoitenga, Mario Caroli, Dalibor Karvay, and Lionel Peintre. It has performed at a number of prestigious contemporary music festivals (Warsaw Autumn, Arcus Temporum in Pannonhalma, Ostrava Days of New Music), and it makes regular appearances at the Bratislava Music Festival and the Melos-Étos festival.
Ivan Buffa studied piano and composition at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava and at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. His compositions have been heard on such festival stages as Wien Modern, Aspekte Salzburg, and the ISCM World Music Days. In 2007, his composition Ritual won the prestigious Ján Levoslav Bella Prize, and for his work Organismi he was nominated for a Tatra Banka Prize. In 2013, together with the members of the Quasars Ensemble, of which he has been the artistic director since 2008, he received the most important arts prize in Slovakia – the Crystal Wing Award. His repertoire ranges from romanticism, impressionism, expressionism, and the post-war avant-garde to the most recent musical creations.
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