Brno Contemporary Orchestra – Live from Janáček Theatre in Brno
This year’s edition of the Prague Spring also sets an unusual precedent – one of the festival concerts will be held in Brno for the very first time. On 20 May the foyer of the Janáček Theatre will provide the setting for a concert given by the Brno Contemporary Orchestra.
Date of EventWednesday, 20. 5. 2020 from 20.00
- Olga Neuwirth: Un posto nell’acqua
- Pascal Dusapin: Quad (in memoriam Gilles Deleuze)
- Erkki-Sven Tüür: Oxymoron
- Jan Ryant Dřízal: Wild at Heart (world premiere of a work commissioned by the Prague Spring)
- Brno Contemporary Orchestra
- Pavel Šnajdr - conductor
- Milan Paľa - violin
- Ondřej Havelka - host
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The Brno Contemporary Orchestra (BCO) has been active in the Moravian scene for nine years and has already garnered a wealth of premieres and major performances. The ensemble prioritises highly demanding international and domestic works of contemporary music, collaborates with excellent soloists, and participates in the realisation of contemporary operas and various multimedia projects. This will be its debut at the Prague Spring. The programme of their concert offers a foray into international repertoire and one Czech premiere.
The Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth studied music together with fine art. Her compositional approach is influenced by her teacher Tristan Murail, by her work at IRCAM in Paris, and especially by Luigi Nono, whom she met and communicated with in person. She has also cooperated on several occasions with Elfriede Jelinek, who wrote the libretto to Lost Highway, her opera adaptation of David Lynch’s eponymous film. The internationally acclaimed artist’s most recent triumphs have included the world premiere of her opera, Orlando, at the Vienna State Opera in December 2019. Un posto nell’acqua will offer insight into the softly introverted side of her music. It is inspired by the literary work of Herman Melville (1819–1891), the composer’s beloved author, drawing on his mysticism, descriptions of seashore landscape with its palette of colours and lights, undulations and scents, as well as on his vision of the sea as an enigmatic, threatening element, known from his novels Moby Dick and Billy Budd.
Pascal Dusapin is one of the most remarkable composers in France today – a pupil of Xenakis and an admirer of Varès. With his focus on the form of the melodic line, he blazes his own trail somewhat apart from the compositional mainstream of his country. Quad – In memoriam Gilles Deleuze is centred on a virtuoso violin part, which makes it a chamber violin concerto of sorts. A composition dating from 1996, was written for the combination of violin and fifteen instruments. It was inspired by the eponymous television drama by Samuel Beckett, which was first aired in 1981. Its printed edition published three years later characterizes it as “a piece for four players, light and percussion,” and includes the author’s staging instructions mentioning further musical elements. The word “Quad” stands here for a rectangular space through which the play’s characters pass in a wordless sequence, their movements embodying the principle of repetition, a series governed by an order of its own, just like that of the canon in music (hence also references to Beckett’s Quad as a ballet). Each actor is assigned a “leitmotif”, and their trajectories on stage are synchronized and strictly pre-defined. Dusapin’s musical composition, based on a similar principle, can be regarded alternatively either as a concerto with a virtuoso violin part, or as a format defying the rules of the genre: it does somehow retain the outlines of classical structure, but at the same time disavows it.
Erkki-Sven Tüür is the second most successful composer from Estonia. Besides music, he appreciates architecture and the exact sciences – his compositions are often conceived with a detailed architectonic plan. The BCO’s repertoire includes Oxymoron, one of the composer’s most performed works for a large instrumental ensemble. The word, “oxymoron”, is a composite of the Greek expressions “oxys” (sharp-witted), and moros (“dumb”), a rhetoric figure made up of seemingly contradictory notions (similar to “bittersweet”, “silent cry” and the like). This type of mismatched coupling is likewise the principle underlying Tüür’s composition, involving the alternation and/or counterposition of linear and vertical modes of thought and other elements whose relevance to the work’s stern construction constantly shifts, emulating motion in time. Erkki-Sven Tüür currently ranks, alongside Arvo Pärt, among the foremost composers hailing from the Baltic republics. The gist of his musical thinking is to be seen in the concept of transformation of energy into sound. “I have always been attracted to contrasts – tonality versus atonality, regularly repeated rhythms set against complex rhythmic patterns, quiet meditation in contrast to eruptive force,” said Tüür in reference to his composition. Elsewhere, he said that “by the end of the century I was already oversaturated by the constant alternation of tonality and atonality,” and “felt like having a go at something more nourishing”; he then set out to approach the tonal system as a mathematical problem. Calling his method “vectorial writing”, he nonetheless forewarned before its adoption as a dogma. Oxymoron became his first composition using this particular system.
A personal affinity for the works of Erkki-Sven Tüür is openly admitted by the Czech composer Jan Ryant Dřízal, who spent a part of his studies in Estonia. He has written a new work for the BCO, commissioned by the Prague Spring and titled Zběsilost v srdci (Wild at Heart). “The title of the composition occurred to me in the aftermath of a terribly lucid dream, in which I experienced sensations of animalistic possession, even rapture,” the author explains. “But the whole thing was suffused with positive energy, which gave me the primary impetus to complete the whole work. The ecstatic character of the composition and its conception as a magic ritual are the two central notions of my composition. I borrowed the name from the famous film by David Lynch, whose expression and tempo subconsciously resonates with my compositional strategy.”
The conductor Pavel Šnajdr regularly collaborates with the North Czech Philharmonic Teplice and the Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra. He served as head of opera at the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc and opera conductor at the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen. He currently holds a post at the National Theatre in Brno and also conducts ballets at the State Opera in Prague. In 2011 he established the Brno Contemporary Orchestra, with which he mainly focuses on the interpretation of contemporary music.
The excellent Slovak violinist Milan Paľa regularly collaborates with the BCO. His speciality is mastering difficult parts in contemporary compositions. This makes him in high demand as a soloist – he has premiered works by Jean Guillou, Evgeny Irshai, František Gregor Emmert, Marián Lejava, Christophe Sirodeau, or Erkki-Sven Tüür. In many cases, he has helped shape the work during the compositional process itself.