Tonight’s concert was the last one at the Witold Lutoslawski Polish Radio Concert Studio for this year’s festival. The concert tonight was one of chamber ensemble music by the Polish-German Youth Ensemble. The pieces tonight were:
- Vykintas Baltakas – Ouroboros
- Alexander Shchetynsky – Chamber Symphony
- Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Omnia tempus habent
- Joanna Woźny – Return
- Enno Poppe – Öl
Some notes I took on the pieces:
Baltakas – most of piece had a very Scelsi-esque focus on single note and deviations away from it, interesting arrangement (ensemble in middle; flute, clarinet, soprano sax, and oboe soloists as a semi-circle ring outside), nice timbral transformations of ideas between solo instruments, quiet writing not so strong with overuse of silence breaking momentum (worked somewhat at end though I thought the penultimate gesture could have ended the piece nicely), bigger writing was quite nice, Lutoslawski-esque in sense of time and similarities in material; absolutely wonderful use of accordion, especially for pianissimo held tones (first time I’ve ever heard accordion work); ensemble was not big enough to support the biggest moments though; a wonderful moment with a really nice use and framing of sustained trills in the second half of piece
Shchetynsky – either too densely written for material or not orchestrated well for ideas to come out; meandered a bit under its own weight; some ideas seemed that they may have work with a larger dynamic range and felt the ideas would have worked more effectively with an orchestra size section of strings, not just for volume but also the group sound of strings versus solo string sound; some nice writing and material but overall form didn’t feel focused
Zimmerman – performer has a nice voice but did not perform very convincingly(perhaps nervous?); instrumental writing was very good, expressionistic and dramatic; did not like the text very much and vocal writing had some nice elements but didn’t seem framed very well; some vocal lines and gestures seemed over-used and thus lost efficacy; hard to get into as the vocal part was a prime focus of the piece and I wasn’t into it
Wozny – pretty strong piece; opening section filled with short gestures and frenetic sonorist texture seemed a bit much to start with; after opening section really started to establish a very cohesive sound world; very elegantly written, sax soloist performed very well; most of the extended effects were extremely well used but did feel some were out of context or extraneous(though only a few cases of that, much more on the side of being well used); would like to listen to this again
Poppe – generally lacked focus and scale of things felt out of proportion; had issues with orchestration (ideas masked by weight of other ideas); thick parts felt too densely written; high frequency ideas were nice ideas on their own but felt overly saturated and overused to be effective
Overall, I felt that there was a lot of really nice things going on in a few of the pieces tonight. The last piece really brought up a lot of issues on orchestration though and I started getting a lot of thoughts in my head about concerns that I generally think about in terms of electronic music. The complex writing with many similar instruments in the same range didn’t allow for the ideas to speak very much and in the end the spectrum felt saturated with everyone masking the sound of everyone else (reminded me of thing that happen in electronic pieces with way too much reverb). This isn’t particular to just the last piece but also a lot of pieces with very complex material.
This also reminded me of an old thought I had long ago regarding temporally complex material as well as thick harmony and the relationship of that to harmonic and inharmonic sounds and how with a gong or other inharmonic source what I found most natural was to let it ring for quite some time until the sound really “speaks”. I think with complex material it often doesn’t ever “speak” in that it isn’t used long enough or set at the right scale of time so that the different parts that form the complexity are discernible.
Many other thoughts came to mind in tonight’s concert though I think I will begin to collect them up for a different series of writings later.