The Prague Spring has devised a new format dedicated to contemporary music. Over a period of two days, the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Holešovice will come alive with the latest from the contemporary international and domestic scene, and this primarily thanks to the contribution from one of the most high-ranking ensembles specialising in contemporary music, Klangforum Wien, who will assume the role of Ensemble-in-Residence for the next three festival editions.
“We have succeeded in securing extremely productive collaboration for this venture, namely by involving Klangforum in the early stages of the project. We are thus able to utilise their experience and contacts acquired over the decades they have been active as a leading ensemble on the international contemporary music scene,” says the festival’s Programme Director Josef Třeštík. Klangforum Wien will appear at two evening concerts and, via public workshops and master classes, they will hand down their expertise to the young generation of composers and instrumentalists.
Each year Prague Offspring will have a Composer-in-Residence, whose work will be featured on the festival’s concert programmes. In 2021 Prague will host Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, one of the world’s most sought-after artists. “Olga Neuwirth has been the subject of wide discussion over the past year, particularly in connection with the premiere of her opera Orlando at the Vienna State Opera, although she has been one of the most fascinating and most important composers for several decades now,” Třeštík states. “We are delighted that she has agreed to take part in our festival.”
Prague Offspring will also host the premieres of works by renowned composers that have been commissioned by the festival – this year it’s the turn of Martin Smolka. The most promising talents will be given an opportunity as well – Jakub Rataj, Lucie Vítková, Adrián Demoč, Konstantin Heuer and Ian Mikyska. And that’s certainly not all. Festival audiences can look forward to encounters with musicians and artists, a panel discussion featuring major names on the European contemporary music scene, a performative installation by composer Matouš Hejl and director Aleš Čermák, and a lecture and performance by architect of the DOX+ building complex Petr Hájek, who conceived the concert hall itself as a musical instrument. And we’ll wind things up with a closing party, at which composer Kontantin Heuer will act as DJ.
“Prague Offspring is a new tradition for the Prague Spring festival – crunchy, a bit mischievous, young, open, experimental,” is how the new format is defined by Miroslav Srnka, composer and member of the Prague Spring’s Artistic Board. “Prague is reinforcing its name on the European map of cutting-edge music. The capital’s entire DOX complex will come alive with sound for an entire weekend, when fans of the latest from the music scene will appreciate that being in Prague is starting to pay off.”
The second concert planned for the new Prague Offspring format will offer a total of five world premieres. Jakub Rataj, Lucie Vítková, Adrián Demoč, Konstantin Heuer and Ian Mikyska were commissioned by the festival to each write a short new composition. “One of the aims of the project is to bring the domestic and international contemporary music scenes closer together,” explains Programme Director Josef Třeštík, “to mediate contact between the best and most promising composers and world-class ensembles, in this case Klangforum Wien. We would be delighted if this collaboration were to continue into the future,” he adds. The concert will be framed by the music of Composer-in-Residence Olga Neuwirth, whose impressive Lost Highway Suite for six instrumental soloists, live electronics and large ensemble from the opera based on David Lynch’s film will round off the evening. Moreover, thanks to a special performance, the audience will experience what it’s like to sit in a concert hall that has become a musical instrument itself. This is precisely how the DOX+ hall – the concert venue – was conceived by its architect Petr Hájek.
The concert will open with Magic Flu-idity for solo flute and typewriter, which originated in 2019. This is the solo version of Aello – ballet mécanomorphe for flute and ensemble (incorporating a typewriter), the outcome of Olga Neuwirth’s involvement in a project devised by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, where six contemporary composers were approached to write new works inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
Lost Highway is an opera by Olga Neuwirth, based on the film of the same name by David Lynch and written to a libretto by Nobel Prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek, one of the composer’s regular collaborators. The premiere was performed in Graz in 2003 by Klangforum Wien under conductor Johannes Kalitzke. In 2008 Neuwirth took this “video-opera”, as she herself describes it, and used its material to create a suite for six instrumental soloists, live electronics and large ensemble; the premiere of Lost Highway Suite was held that same year at the Cité de la musique in Paris. The result is a stirring, monumental and highly distinctive work evoking the hypnotic atmosphere of the original: here, the acoustic sound of the instruments, variously employing traces of the composer’s favourite jazz, blends with the echoes of recorded human voices and the almost psychedelic electronics.
Petr Hájek (1970) holds the Architect of the Year award for 2018 and is the designer behind the DOX+ complex, where Prague Offspring events are held. He established the Laboratory of Experimental Architecture in 2010, he has headed the design studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava since 2012, and in 2016 he was appointed professor of the Faculty of Architecture at the Czech Technical University in Prague. He is the author of the concept Galegion, a research project that examines new methods of urban design. The project also features an acoustic vision of the architectural design for a utopian city entitled 15 minutes and 15 seconds in Galegion City. Here the DOX+ concert hall itself, conceived by Hájek as a musical instrument with the audience inside it, will come alive with sound via the building’s construction rods, handled by performers Martin Janíček and Filip Jakš.
Born in Graz, Austria, Olga Neuwirth (1968) has been a central figure on the international contemporary music scene since the beginning of the 1990s, when two of her mini-operas were staged at the Wiener Festwochen.
She studied at the Academy of Music in Vienna and the San Francisco Conservatory, and then privately with Adriana Hölszky, Tristan Murail and Luigi Nono. One of Olga Neuwirth’s key collaborators is Austrian Nobel Prize-winning playwright and novelist Elfriede Jelinek, with whom she created two radio plays and three operas. Her music is performed and presented by some of the world’s most distinguished orchestras and festivals. In 1998, when she was aged 30, the Salzburg Festival dedicated two concerts to her music, and in 2002 she was appointed Composer-in-Residence of the Lucerne Festival. For Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra she wrote the piece Clinamen/Nodus, and for the Vienna Philharmonic the composition Masaot/Clocks without Hands, which was performed in Cologne, in Vienna and at New York’s Carnegie Hall under conductor Valery Gergiev. Neuwirth has had a lifelong interest in film, literature, architecture and fine art, all of which have had a fundamental influence on her work. In addition to classical music compositions she has also produced several multimedia installations and short films, and she has written a series of articles and a book. In 2017, in association with IRCAM, she crafted a 3D sound installation to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The Vienna State Opera’s production of her opera Orlando, based on the novel by Virginia Woolf, was one of the major talking points on the music scene in 2019.
Klangforum Wien was established by composer and conductor Beat Furrer in 1985, since which time the ensemble has fundamentally influenced the contemporary music scene. It works closely with some of the world’s most distinguished composers and, through its commissions, it supports the genesis of a series of new works. Over the last thirty-five years or more, Klangforum Wien has become one of the most respected world ensembles specialising in contemporary music and has expanded into an important institution incorporating a variety of activities, from its own magnanimous projects and its involvement in what are often full-length multimedia works, to various educational ventures. The ensemble’s recording catalogue contains more than seventy CDs, and they have premiered over five hundred new compositions, including works that are now considered iconic, such as in vain by Georg Friedrich Haas or the opera Lost Highway by Olga Neuwirth. Klangforum Wien is regularly invited to principal international festivals and concert venues in Europe, the United States and Japan, they have won numerous awards, and they collaborate with first-rate conductors. Today Klangforum Wien comprises 24 musicians from ten different countries. Highlights of their current season include performances at Wiener Festwochen, Acht Brücken and ManiFeste in Paris. The ensemble appeared at the Prague Spring in 2018, when they presented works by Enno Poppe and Bernhard Lang and also gave the world premiere of a new composition by Luboš Mrkvička commissioned by the festival.
Bas Wiegers has been Principal Guest Conductor of Klangforum Wien since 2018. After studying in Amsterdam and Freiburg he began a successful career as a violinist specialising in early music.
In 2009 he was awarded a conducting scholarship from the Kersjes Foundation and he began to devote himself entirely to conducting, working as an assistant to Mariss Jansons and Susanna Mälkki at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. In the Netherlands he works with such orchestras as Residentie Orkest, the Netherlands Philharmonic and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. He has conducted the finest contemporary music ensembles and orchestras, such as Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Musikfabrik, the Asko|Schönberg ensemble, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart and the WDR Symphony Orchestra. He also appears regularly on the programmes of important festivals – Wien Modern, Holland Festival, November Music, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, London’s Almeida Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival and Acht Brücken. As an opera conductor he has headed productions of Così fan tutte, Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, the opera An Ocean of Rain by Yannis Kyriakides, and Poulenc’s operas Les mamelles de Tirésias and La voix humaine. Bas Wiegers is highly regarded by some of the world’s major composers, and is approached for collaboration by the likes of Louis Andriessen, George Benjamin, Pierluigi Billone, Helmut Lachenmann, Rebecca Saunders and Georg Friedrich Haas. In 2019 he conducted the premiere of the revised version of Haas’s successful opera Koma at Stadttheater Klagenfurt. “After the premiere, Haas could only kneel down to thank conductor Bas Wiegers for such a remarkable performance,” Der Standard’s Michael Cerha wrote at the time.