Kimmo Korhonen introduces the concert.
The Musica nova Helsinki festival takes a look at urban life. Steve Reich recorded actual city sounds in New York and incorporated them into a piece of music.. The programme includes the world premiere of Sami Klemola’s Ghost Notes concerto for Hammond organ, and the opening number is Mantel by Lisa Streich, one of Sweden’s most prominent contemporary composers. The programme is conducted by Roland Kluttig, principal conductor of Graz Opera.
In cooperation with Musica nova Helsinki
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The program is subject to change, even in the last minutes. The most current information is found on our website: https://www.tapiolasinfonietta.fi/en/concerts/
Kimmo Korhonen introduces the concert.
Lisa Streich is a composer with a Swedish mother and a German mother, and in her youth she lived in both countries. She has now made a home on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. She studied the organ and composition with Johannes Schöllhorn, Adriana Hölszky, Chaya Czernowin, Beat Furrer and Mauro Lanza and others.
Streich’s early output contains a lot of electronic music, but in the early 2010s she turned to instrumental and vocal music. Although she writes for traditional instruments, her idiom is anything but. She often explores sounds on the threshold of hearing, fragile as glass, but also introduces deformed, incisive elements at times. She makes copious use of unconventional playing techniques, and in her precise specifications of the types of noise she wants she is akin to the master of noise, Helmut Lachenmann. Indeed, her chamber ensemble work NEBENSONNEN (2015) is dedicated to him.
Mantel [Overcoat] for strings and percussion was completed in 2018. Streich has said that a string section is like the skin of an orchestra for her, comparing it to a shed snakeskin dried up in the street or the dry wing of a dead butterfly or a trench coat in the First World War. Streich considered an overcoat (or mantle) as two kinds of protection: firstly to protect yourself against the weather or the climate, and secondly to conceal yourself from other people, whether we are talking about physical or mental concealment. At the end of her programme note, Streich also points out that Puccini’s opera Il tabarro (whose German title is Der Mantel) was premiered on 14 December 2018, just after the end of the First World War, and accordingly some traditional melodic ideas can be discerned amidst Streich’s modern textures.
Sami Klemola is a highly original musician on the Finnish music scene. Not interested in traditional melodic and harmonic structures or detailed motif processing, he generally works with field-like textures, rough sounds and edgy intensity. He is driven by an urge for experimentalist discovery and testing.
Electronics is an important element in Klemola’s music. Generally, it takes the form of live electronics augmenting the sonorous and textural dimensions of acoustic instruments. He has also built sound installations in a variety of contexts and spaces. Klemola is a founding member of defunensemble, a Finnish group that performs electro-acoustic music, and has been its artistic director since 2009. He was the artistic director of the Tampere Biennale, a contemporary music festival, from 2016 to 2018.
Klemola’s Concerto for Hammond Organ, to be completed in late 2020, is part of a series of works where the solo instruments are instruments that rarely appear in art music. The working title of the series is Off-repertoire Concertos, and to date he has completed a Concerto for Banjo and Big Band and a Concerto for Foley Artist and Orchestra. He is planning a concerto for mechanics and kinetics and a concerto for instrumentally treated voice, choir and electronics.
The working title of the Concerto for Hammond Organ, Ghost Notes, refers to the semi-audible notes produced by ‘leaks’ generated by specific positions of the drawbars on the instrument. Klemola describes the concerto with epithets such as fragile colours, rugged beauty, broken tone, light/shadow, polyrhythms, interfaces between musical genres (pop / electronic music), influences of optical and kinetic art, and light but dense (sound) mass.
Steve Reich wrote himself into the history of contemporary music as one of the pioneers of Minimalism in the late 1960s. His early works are dominated by busy, repetitive patterns and textures that change gradually, outlining slowly unfolding harmonies. As his career progressed, Reich adopted a more pluralist idiom, never forgetting his Minimalist roots but introducing many other elements besides.
One of the major works of Reich’s late period, City Life (1995), arose from the notion that any sounds could be used as musical material, not just sounds produced by playing instruments or singing. Early examples of this approach include Edgard Varèse employing sirens in his work Amériques in the 1920s and George Gershwin calling for car horns in An American in Paris in the 1930s. Reich had previously used recorded speech in a musical score in Different Trains (1988).
City Life is scored for a large ensemble that includes two keyboard players playing samplers. The samplers are loaded with all kinds of city sounds, most of them recorded by Reich himself in New York: talking, car horns, door slams, ship sirens, emergency vehicles, work machines, and so on. These sounds stand out from the texture but are also essential and precisely timed elements in the whole.
The work has five movements played without a break, creating a loosely conceived symmetrical form (A–B–C–B–A). The first movement opens with a tranquil chorale preceding the entry of pulsating rhythms. The second and fourth movements contain no speech; both begin calmly but then pick up speed. The middle movement, by contrast, begins with speech samples only, joined gradually by the instruments; Reich has compared this movement to his early tape works It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966). The concluding movement is the densest in expression and content; its speech samples are from communications between firefighters during the first World Trade Center terrorist attack in 1993. The work concludes with a variation of the chorale with which it began.