Giacinto Scelsi – Aitsi for amplified piano (1974)

In 1974 Scelsi employed the piano for the last time when he created Aitsi for amplified piano and To the Master (two improvisations in collaboration with Victoria Parr) for cello and piano. Assuming a special position within Scelsi’s compositional output, his works for piano shed not only light on his outstanding pianistic talent and his abilities as an improviser, but they indicate major changes in his compositional development. Twelve-tone procedures in his early piano works reveal the influence of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. In his search of the “depth” of sound and its microtonal qualities, the piano with its half-tone step limitation could no longer correspond to his artistic ideas; and as a consequence he stopped composing for this instrument in 1956. However, Scelsi did not discard the piano, which had served as one of his imperative composing aids since the mid-forties. Instead, he employed the “ondiolina,” an electric keyboard instrument which made possible quarter-tone differentiation. Aitsi, Scelsi’s last work for amplified piano solo of 1974, in which the sustained pitches are distorted, incidentally originated due to a malfunction of his tape recorder. It was ultimately arranged for string quartet in 1985. [Source]



[via Thomas Bjørnseth on ATONALITY.NET]

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Staatsoper Berlin Season Opening Premiere

By Ronnie Rocket, in Berlin-Charlottenburg

The Staatsoper im Schiller Theater season will open on October 3, 2011 with Leoš Janáček’s From the House of the Dead staged by Patrice Chéreau and conducted by Simon Rattle as conductor, which is an obvious attraction for those yet to see the production, originally conducted in Aix by Pierre Boulez.

Leoš Janáček’s opera deals with power, relationships, passions and indignities; ultimately it portrays the hopeless misery of a Siberian prison camp, which could be seen as a symbol of a society that exists parallel to ours. Each of the three acts tells a story that tries to cope with life and the desperate melancholy: a dream, a report of a crime and the memory of a woman. The narrative helps to survive and a utopia of freedom to come.

Read the synopsis and watch previews (from a production by Theater Bonn and Beethovenfest Bonn in 2004 directed by Tomaž Pandur) here:

ACT I
Daybreak at a prison camp. The prisoners are attending to their morning tasks before assembling for the drudgery ahead. Quarrels are rife. They are interrupted by the arrival of the new inmate Goryanchikov, imprisoned for political activism and who immediately becomes the centre of attention for the common-law detainees and the focus of the commandant’s hostility. His possessions are confiscated and he is beaten. In the meantime the prisoners are admiring an eagle, brought by the old prisoner.

Some of the prisoners march off to work, the others go about their daily chores in the camp. Among those are the young Tartar Alyeya, Luka and Skuratov, who recalls his life in Moscow. Luka relates how he came to kill he commandant during a previous spell behind bars and the flogging he received for that, before being sent to the labour camp. Goryanchikov is dragged in, half dead from his flogging.



ACT II
Half a year later. The prisoners are busy with their chores. Goryanchikov and Alyeya have become friends, and the boy is talking about his sister and his mother. The elder one offers to teach him to read and to write. The sound of the bells marks the end of the chores and the start of a night of celebration.

After the visit of a pope, the prisoners eat. Before the show which is about to be performed by some of the group, Skuratov recounts why he landed in the labour camp: the murder of a rich German his sweetheart Luisa was forced to marry. Guests arrive and all take their places for the performance about to commence.

The prisoners enact »Kedril and Don Juan«, followed by »The Miller’s Fair Wife«, tales of seduction. The evening was coming to a close. One of the prostitutes who entered the camp goes off with a prisoner. Goryanchikov and Alyeya are drinking tea together. This arouses the envy of an inmate, who attacks Alyeya and injures him with a knife.



ACT III
In the prison hospital, Goryanchikov watches over the feverish Alyeya. Chekunov offers them some tea, provoking words of contempt from the dying Luka. Shapkin recounts the tale of his burglary that backfired, as Skuratov lapses into madness.

Shishkov’s story draws the group’s attention: he relates how he married a young girl named Akulina that a certain Filka had boasted of having dishonoured. But it turned out that Akulina was still a virgin on her wedding night. Anyway he learned from his wife that she actually loved Filka. Losing control of himself, Shishkov slit her throat. As the story winds to an end, Luka dies. Shishkov now recognizes him as none other than his rival Filka and reviles his corpse. A guard comes to get Goryanchikov.

The governor announces to Goryanchikov that he is to be released. Alyeya embraces him, calling him dad: he now knows how to read. The prisoners release the restored eagle. Goryanchikov leaves the camp as the convicts return to their chores.



Listen to a recording of the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado on Spotify here.

Listen to a recording of the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras on Spotifyhere.

Ticket information here.

Read the history of the Staatsoper here.

Aaron Copland – Dance Symphony for Orchestra (1925)

One of Aaron Copland’s first significant works upon returning from his studies in Paris was the necromantic ballet Grohg. This ballet, suggested to Copland by the film Nosferatu, a free adaptation of the Dracula tale, provided the source material for his later Dance Symphony. Copland composed three numbered symphonies, but applied the word “symphony” to more than just symphonies of typical structure. He rewrote his early three-movement Organ Symphony omitting the organ, calling the result his First Symphony. His fifteen-minute Short Symphony was the Second Symphony, though it also exists as the Sextet. His Dance Symphony was hurriedly extracted from the earlier unproduced ballet Grohg to meet an RCA Records commission deadline.










Read a review of Copland conducting himself in 1975 in The New York Times here.