Thursday, September 29, 2011

MUTANTS at the 55th Venice International Festival of Contemporary Music

Mutanti - Photo: la Biennale di Venezia © 2011


(Venice, Italy) Mutants and mutations is the theme of the La Biennale's 55th International Festival of Contemporary Music. Is mankind losing the ability to think deeply, vertically, on a profound level? Are we being fed superficial, horizontal knowledge? Are we losing our memory? Here are some excerpts of a conversation between Luca Francesconi, the Artistic Director of the music festival, and Enrico Girardi:

EG: The title of this Biennale, your fourth and last, talks about Mutants, mutations; about something that ends, at least in the form in which we know it, to become something else. What is ending?


Luca Francesconi
LF: We are witnessing a sort of genetic mutation in Western culture, in our tradition. We are living in a world that makes not only thought seem anachronistic, along with in-depth analysis and the effort that it requires, but even paper, practice, craftsmanship. At a time in which everything is available at the click of a mouse, even those of us who do not belong to a generation of "computer natives," but can compare a variety of modus operandi, are tempted to let go of memory as if it were a burden too heavy to carry. 


LF... I was saying that there has never been such a deep fracture like the one taking place today between the old "vertical" dimension of knowledge that implies depth of research and the awareness of the territory one is working in ... and the "horizontal" dimension of the here and now, which, on the contrary, is globalized, extra-territorial, capable of ... effacing differences, and always downgrading them. We don't know if this horizontality is a new form of knowledge or an illusion that makes you believe that you know more, but, in fact, invites you not to think, not to dwell on things, to bounce like a marble in a pinball machine between the knowledge of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia.  

Imagine a Piano in the Center
Imagine the Audience on all 4 sides
Someone who illustrated the ability to move both vertically and horizontally was Michaël Levinas, the Parisian piano soloist. The venue was dramatic. The piano was located in the center of the four columns of the newly (and beautifully) restored Sala delle Colonne, or the Hall of Columns at Ca' Giustinian, headquarters of La Biennale. The audience sat on all four sides. Levinas began with Beethoven's Piano Sonata op. 111 (1821-22),"the last in the series composed by the master from Bonn, who died in Vienna on March 26, 1827." It was music from heaven, and to hear it inside the Sala delle Colonne was magical.

Next Levinas played compositions from Études by Gyorgy Ligeti, 18 pieces composed over a period of time from 1985 to 2001. I could see the written score from my position in the audience and it looked technically difficult to play. Levinas succeeded brilliantly. From the program:


Photo at La Biennale
In the first study - Désordre - diatonic and pentatonic scales overlap in a proliferation of syncopated rhythms; Cordes à vide is a moment of intimate mediation; Arc en ciel represents a rainbow in a sequence of rising and falling chords, whereas in Automne à Varsovie Ligeti is thinking of the annual contemporary music festival in Warsaw in the is fascinatingly polychrome piece. 


Levinas then played his own collection of Three Studies for the piano composed in 1992. When he was finished, the audience gave him ovation after ovation. The applause would not stop. Levinas returned again and again to take a bow, then finally played an encore, another piece by Beethoven, this time an early work, the Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14, No. 2, composed in 1798-99 -- a perfect closing to a perfect performance. 


Opening Night at Teatro alle Tese
Photo at La Biennale
The opening concert was conducted by the Hungarian composer and conductor, Peter Eötvös, winner of this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement who "brings together an exceptionally fine ear and level of knowledge, with iconoclastic and experimental delight." The program included works by the Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th Century, Peter Eötvös' own work, the Concerto for two pianos, and Agon by Igor Stravinsky, who is buried here in Venice. 


The Silver Lion went to the Milan ensemble, RepertorioZero, for "innovative research -- in its way of working with today's music -- that seeks to expand on the experience of th traditional avant-garde, addressing a repertory yet to be constructed and with the need to find solutions to the many variables in contemporary music."


Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

3 comments:

  1. (Venice, Italy) Mutants and mutations is the theme of the La Biennale's 55th International Festival of Contemporary Music. Is mankind losing the ability to think deeply, vertically, on a profound level? Are we being fed superficial, horizontal knowledge? Are we losing our memory?

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