mercoledì 3 giugno 2015

A Box of Wonders in Music and Vision 1 aprile

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A Box of Wonders
Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo,

The thirty-first annual festival, Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo (20 March-12 April, every weekend, normally from Friday or even from Thursday to Sunday), is currently in progress. Its main feature is to juxtapose contemporary music (often new commissions) with great classics. This year there is an added feature: there is neither ballet nor opera, but concerts are performed in unusual settings such as the Oceanographic Museum, the Cathedral, the Conseil National (the Parliament of the Principality) and churches in smaller villages. Then, in parallel with the music festival, the National Museum carries a major modern art exhibit, and 'street art' from the local Arts Academy is a prologue or an epilogue to concerts. Unexpectedly, the end of March was cold and rainy; an indirect incentive to visit art galleries and museums. Finally, to attract new audience (now around 12,000 each year), the festival management organizes chamber concerts in private homes before the start of the event, when artists are already in location for rehearsals.
I was at the festival on the first weekend, 20-22 March 2015, when three new commissions, receiving their world premieres, were confronted with compositions by Bach, Sibelius and Donatoni as well as less known baroque musicians (such as Reinken and Buxtehude).
The inauguration was a very long evening. It started in the Oceanographic Museum with the world premiere of Deviner/Devenir, two small pieces of electro acoustics by François Bayle (now eighty-three, one of the 'founding fathers' of French contemporary music); a very impressive composition based on electronically molded sounds of the sea.
François Bayle
François Bayle. Click on the image for higher resolution
After this introduction, the audience moved a few metres to the Cathedral for the first version of Bach's Passion according to St John. The German complex La Petite Bande performed it quite well under the expert baton of Sigiswald Kuijken. The four young soloists were high quality singers (Lucia Napoli, Stephan Scherpe, Minna Nyberg and Stefan Vock). However, the Cathedral acoustics left much to be desired, especially for the audience at the rear of the Church. The freezing cold caused a hemorrhage of audience after the first part. At the completion of the Passion, back to the Museum for drinks and snacks with the artists.
La Petite Bande
La Petite Bande. Click on the image for higher resolution
On 21 March, two quite well known compositions by Sibelius (Les Océanides, Op 73 and the Symphony No 3, Op 52) were preceded by Donatoni's Orchesterübung, a highly dramatic piece from a period when the Italian composer was highly influenced by constructivism of the Darmstadt School. The concert was performed in the Ranieri III Auditorium. The young conductor, Jean Deroyer, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo (OPMC) were really remarkable and fully deserved the audience's accolades.
The Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
The Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. Click on the image for higher resolution
On 23 March, a different concert space again: the very modern and impressive Grimaldi Forum. The two-part program was structured in a way that the initial piece was one of new commissions and the rest baroque music by Bach, Buxtehude and Reinken. Of course, there are some analogies in spite of several centuries of distance; especially, the taste for innovation, fantasia and improvisation. The contemporary parts were performed by the Ensemble Cairn conducted by Guillaume Bourgogne; the baroque part by Ensemble Stravaganza.
Ensemble Stravaganza
Ensemble Stravaganza. Click on the image for higher resolution
Let us focus on the novelties. Nouno's Reverse is an elegant exercise, admittedly composed 'to fit the space' of the debut and to use lights and a limited number of projections to develop an atmosphere. Pesson's Carmagnole borrows a well known song of the French Revolution (La Carmagnole) to make it a box of wonders. All in all they fitted well with the concert's other compositions. The audience responded with warm applause.
Copyright © 1 April 2015 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy
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