Interview: Sofia Gubaidulina with the BSO

Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (Photo by Winslow Townson) Andris Nelsons, conductor Baiba Skride, violin Harriet Krijgh, cello Elsbeth Moser, bayan
Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (Photo by Winslow Townson)
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Baiba Skride, violin
Harriet Krijgh, cello
Elsbeth Moser, bayan

This week, Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra visit Carnegie Hall for performances from February 28th through March 2nd. They feature the New York premieres of two works. On February 28th, Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina’s Triple Concerto for violin cello and bayan, featuring violinist Baiba Skride, cellist Harriet Krijgh, and bayan player Elsbeth Moser, a piece co-commissioned by the BSO and Carnegie Hall, will be performed alongside Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh “Leningrad” Symphony.

On March 2nd, George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song, featuring countertenor Bejun Mehta and the vocal group Lorelei Ensemble, will be performed along with works by Maurice Ravel (Le Tombeau de Couperin) and Hector Berlioz (Symphony Fantastique). On March 1st, the program consists of the recently departed Gunther Schuller’s Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee, Emanuel Ax in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, and Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony #3.

With the kind help of a translator (alas, I don’t yet speak Russian), I recently interviewed Sofia Gubaidulina about her new piece and the process of working with Nelsons and the BSO on its premiere.

sofia-gubaidulina

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For those who aren’t familiar with the instrument, what does the bayan’s repertoire sound like?

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the bayan played an entirely secondary role–as an accompanying instrument for songs, for light music, for dancing. Its repertoire was folk music. It was only in the twentieth century, really only in the second halfof the twentieth century that the bayan came into its own as an instrument for serious music on the symphonic stage, on a par with the traditional instruments of the orchestra. And that was thanks to the initiative and efforts of superb bayanists dedicated to their instrument, to expanding its repertoire and enhancing its prestige.

You’ve written for bayan and orchestra several times. Which instruments do you like to use to accompany it?

I think string instruments are most congenial in combination with the bayan. There is a natural alliance between these instruments. To be honest, if I had the inclination to pursue this further, I would love to try to combine the bayan with brass instruments,with French horns, for example. There is an episode in this piece where I combined it with trombones. In principle, I love the idea of combining the bayan with brass instruments—with French horns, Wagner tubas. It also sounds marvelous together with percussion instruments. I think it goes less well with woodwind instruments, because the bayan contains all those possibilities already, both the bassoon register and those of flute and oboe. You won’t have the same kind of contrast or enrichment. But I would love to combine it with brass.

How did you decide to write a Triple Concerto using bayan, violin, and cello?

The impetus for this work came from the bayanist Elsbeth Moser, a marvelous musician who is passionately devoted to her instrument and with whom I have worked for many years. Approaching a milestone in her life, she invited seven composers to write works for her. She asked me to write a concerto and specified the solo instruments: violin, cello and bayan. I was delighted to accept; I found the challenge of writing for this combination of instruments and full orchestra very stimulating.

You’ve mentioned that each of your concertos has a different narrative. What is the relationship between soloists and orchestra in the Triple Concerto?

The relationship of the three soloists is very complex. It could be described as an entire cosmos: the upwards, the downwards and the connecting function of the bayan. When a composer fantasizes, it often turns into something that subsequently can’t readily be described in words. The cosmic plan isn’t easily verbalized.

The bayan part here is a very important persona. To employ the metaphor of the trinity, the high and low registers of the violin and cello are united by the bayan playing glissando clusters. The bayan part in this concerto is the root from which a tree grows. The melodic, harmonic and intervallic structure of the piece derives from this tree. The breathing of the bayan is a distinctive property of the instrument. And the tree of the orchestral fabric grows out of this breathing, producing great energy. In other words, the energy that leads upwards develops from this root. This isn’t a virtuoso showpiece with many complex textures. On the contrary, my approach to this instrument—as the root from which everything grows—is very rigorous. The bayan is the persona uniting the high with the low.

How has it been collaborating with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony?

It has been a fortunate circumstance. On the one hand, the young conductor Andris Nelsons is a very deep musician, very deep and talented, with intensely energized pathos. Spiritually, I feel very close to someone like this. So for me the experience has been a happy one. As far as the orchestra is concerned, this is not the first time I have encountered it. And every time I do, my admiration for its musicians is unbounded. The first time I came to Boston, for the performance of Offertorium in 1988, I observed that every musician in the orchestra possessed a distinctive individuality, even those in peripheral roles, say in the rear desks of the violas. It makes no difference: the quality is so high, and the attention to the sound so exacting, that I am a true enthusiast of the orchestra.

What are you composing now?

I don’t want to formulate my next steps because they demand unpredictability.

Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (Photo by Winslow Townson) Andris Nelsons, conductor Baiba Skride, violin Harriet Krijgh, cello Elsbeth Moser, bayan
Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (Photo by Winslow Townson)
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Baiba Skride, violin
Harriet Krijgh, cello
Elsbeth Moser, bayan

Bryn Harrison on Another Timbre

at96

Bryn Harrison
Receiving the Approaching Memory
Aisha Orazbayev, violin; Mark Knoop, piano
Another Timbre CD 96

Another Timbre’s  96th CD is devoted entirely to Bryn Harrison’s “Receiving the Approaching Memory,” a violin-piano duo lasting nearly forty minutes. Throughout its duration, the piece consists of overlapping spirals between the violin and piano, corruscating gently but emphatically. The piece is divided into five sections. While each has a similar gestural language, the pitch material starts with a regular circulation of the total chromatic and, with each section, gradually has the parts drop shared notes until, by the end, only two pitches (C and F) are held in common. While these common tones might suggest glancing against tonality (they form a fifth), Harrison instead sets up “shadow selves” among the increasingly impoverished means. The thinned texture points up the repetitive nature of the gestures rather than any sort of pitch consolidation. As such, it is a fascinating and often beautiful work. Harrison is fortunate in his advocates: violinist Aisha Orazbayev and pianist Mark Knoop play with accuracy, musicality, and indefatigable stamina. Recommended.

Francois Couturier and Anja Lechner at Greenwich Music House (Concert Review)

anja-and-francois-at-greenwich-house
Anja Lechner and François Couturier Greenwich House, NYC February 18, 2017. Photo by Claire Stefani

 

Francois Couturier and Anja Lechner

Greenwich Music House

New York

February 18, 2017

By Christian Carey

 

Five Things to Like About Francois Couturier and Anja Lechner in duo performance

 

  1. Versatility — These are two musicians who are able to play in a plethora of styles: classical, jazz, world music, et cetera. I first interviewed cellist Anja Lechner for a Signal to Noise feature about the bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi. I was impressed with her versatility then and remain so today. Pianist Francois Couturier is an eminently qualified performing partner for Lechner.
  2. Ensemble — Even though most of their set consisted of composed pieces — Couturier had sheet music on the piano throughout — the improvisational directions that they took the works featured a plethora of surprises and sharp turns into different musical terrain. The duo hardly needed to look at each other to turn on a dime into a new section or tempo.
  3. Variety — The concert included pieces by Couturier, with the back-to-back presentation of Voyage and Papillons creating a swirl of timbres and techniques. Federico Mompou also featured prominently, with renditions of three of his works on the program, including Soleil Rouge, a sumptuous encore. Komitas, Gurdjieff, and a transcription of an Abel piece originally for viola da gamba were other offerings. But the standout was Anouar Brahem’s Vagues, a work that the duo had previously performed with the composer. It brought out a tenderness and poise that was most impressive.
  4. Technique and effects — Both Couturier and Lechner demonstrated abundant performing ability. However, conventional playing was just a part of their presentation. The duo used a host of effects, Couturier playing inside the piano, Lechner supplying all manner of harmonics, pizzicatos, and alternate bowing techniques. This gave the abundant lyricism of their performance just the right amount of seasoning.
  5. Tarkovsky Quartet CD — Happily for those who missed this intimate event, or for those who heard it and want more, Couturier and Lechner appear as members of the Tarkovsky Quartet (which also includes soprano saxophonist Jean-Marc Lerché and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier) on a new ECM CD, Nuit Blanche.

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Temples: “Certainty” (SoundCloud)

Temples - Volcano
Temples – Volcano

Temples’s album Volcano is out March 3rd via Fat Possum Records. Check out lead-off track “Certainty” below.

They are also extensively touring (dates below).

TEMPLES TOUR DATES:
(new shows in bold)
Wed. Feb. 22 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel *
Fri. Feb. 24 – Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom *
Sat. Feb. 25 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s *
Sun. Feb. 26 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre *
Tue. Feb. 28 – Felton, CA @ Don Quixote’s *
Wed. Mar. 1 – Nevada City, CA @ Miners Foundry Cultural Center *
Thu. Mar. 2 – Pomona, CA @ Glass House *
Fri. Mar. 3 – Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy and Harriet’s *
Sat. Mar. 4 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent *
Sun. Mar. 5 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern *
Thu. Mar. 9 – Tijuana, BC @ Black Box *
Fri. Mar. 10 – Las Vegas, NV @ Neon Reverb Music Festival @ Plaza Hotel & Casino *
Sat. Mar. 11 – Phoenix, AZ @ Downtown Phoenix [VIVA PHX] *
Sun. Mar. 12 – Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf *
Tue. Mar. 14 – Thu. Mar. 16 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
Fri. Mar. 17 – Dallas, TX @ Trees *
Sat. Mar. 18 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live *
Sun. Mar. 19 – San Antonio, TX @ Burger Records Hangover Fest @ Paper Tiger *
Sun. Mar. 26 – Newcastle, UK @ Riverside
Mon. Mar. 27 – Sheffield, UK @ Leadmill
Tue. Mar. 28 – Manchester, UK @ Academy 2
Thu. Mar. 30 – London, UK @ Brixton Electric
Fri. Mar. 31 – Brighton, UK @ Concorde 2
Sat. Apr. 1 – Derby, UK @ 2Q Festival
Sun. Apr. 2 – Birmingham, UK @ Institute 2
Tue. Apr. 7 – Cologne, DE @ Gebaude 9
Wed. Apr. 8 – Munich, DE @ Strom
Thu. Apr. 9 Prague, CS @ Palac Akropolis
Fri. Apr. 10 – Berlin, DE @ Festaal Kreuzberg
Sat. Apr. 11 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
Sun. Apr. 12 – Copenhagen, DK @ Pumpehuset
Sat. Apr. 18 – Brussels, BE @ Botanique
Sun. Apr. 19 – Tourcoing, FR @ Le Grand Mix
Mon. Apr. 20 – Lausanne, CH @ Le Docks
Tue. Apr. 21 – Zurich, CH @ Plaza
Wed. Apr. 22 – Lyon, FR @ L’Epicerie Moderne
Fri. Apr. 24 – Paris, FR @ Elysee Montmartre
Mon. Apr. 27 – Bristol, UK @ Trinity Centre
Wed. Apr. 29 – Leeds, UK @ Live at Leeds
Mon. May 8 – Miami, FL @ Gramps
Wed. May 10 – Jacksonville, FL @ Jack Rabbits
Thu. May 11 – Orlando, FL @ The Social
Fri. May 12 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees
Mon. May 15 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Tue. May 16 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Thu. May 18 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Fri. May 19 – Sun. May 21 – Madrid, ES @ Tomavistas Festival
Fri. July 28 – Sun. July 30 – Naeba Ski Resort, Japan @ Fuji Rock Festival

* = Desert Daze Caravan