Voices in the Cathedral I

27.8.2019, 19:00, Cathedral of the Divine Saviour


Ostravská banda

Canticum Ostrava
Jurij Galatenko, Choirmaster
Klaus Lang, Organ
Bruno Ferrandis, Conductor

Anna Heflin*: My Voice (2019) WP
Vojtěch Šembera*: Night Soundscape (2016)
Georgina Bowden*: The Fainting Sun (2018)
György Ligeti: Lux Aeterna (1966)
Peter Graham: 
Fantasy for Six Violoncellos (1974)
Judith Berkson*: Partial Memories (Part III) (2019)
Klaus Lang: Die Bärtige Frau (2010)

WP = world premiere
* = residents of Ostrava Days 2019 Institute

Fantasy for Six Violoncellos
 (1974) by Peter Graham is Graham’s only early composition in which he uses graphic notation. In Lux Aeterna, György Ligeti explores the timbral possibilities of a mixed choir by means of micropolyphony and clusters. The Cathedral of the Divine Saviour will provide a suitable setting for this work. Klaus Lang, who is also an organist, utilizes the concept of “audible time” when composing. This idea is apparent in his composition Die bärtige Frau for organ and orchestra. The program will also feature new works by Ostrava Days Institute residents Anna Heflin, Georgina Bowden, Vojtěch Šembera and Judith Berkson. Over the course of the evening, compositions for voice will be interspersed with instrumental music, and compositions of established authors will alternate with the works of emerging composers.

Subject to change.


Anna Heflin – My Voice (2019)

         Brooklyn-based artist, Anna Heflin (1993), looks deep into the music as a composer and performer. Her string quartet Included/Excludedwas selected for S.E.M. Ensemble’s 2019 Emerging Composers Workshop and was performed on their Ostrava: Initiatives & Influences concert at the Bohemian National Hall in May. Heflin has performed on viola in NYC with the American Ballet Theatre, American Symphony Orchestra, Curiosity Cabinet, Contemporaneous, Linked Dance Theatre, ensemble mise-en and more. She graduated with her MM in viola performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2017. Heflin currently studies composition privately with Eric Wubbels.

         My Voice for choir asks how we as individuals can listen to ourselves within large groups and in our personal relationships. Throughout the majority of the work, the tempo for each singer is determined by their pulse. What is heard is the coming together of each individual listening to their own body as they are here and now. The piece is section based with slight time variations for each section determined by the conductor in the moment. Each performance is a unique expression of individuals coming together as their bodies are in this space and time, noticing and seeing each other with the presence of the audience. This work was written for Canticum Ostrava choir, Ostrava Days 2019. The text is adapted from Oscar Wilde’s poem My Voice.


Vojtěch Šembera – Noční zvukomalba (2016)

         Vojtěch Šembera je skladatel, barytonista a performer pocházející z Karlových Varů. Na Janáčkově akademii múzických umění v Brně vystudoval obory kompozice a zpěv. Je laureátem Mezinárodní pěvecké soutěže Antonína Dvořáka a Duškovy pěvecké soutěže. Pravidelně spolupracuje s předními českými symfonickými orchestry a je vyhledávaným interpretem soudobé hudby. V loňském roce ztvárnil na festivalu Dny nové opery Ostrava postavy Krista a Písmáka ve světové premiéře opery Aloise Háby Přijď království Tvé a postavu Muže v opeřeA Woman Such as Myself Daniela Lo. Je také frekventovaným hostem mezinárodního hudebního festivalu Setkávání nové hudby Plus.

         Skladba Noční zvukomalba (pro nespecifikované nástrojové obsazení) je grafickou partiturou původně zkomponovanou pro soubor VENI Academy. Jedná se vlastně o obraz noční krajiny – mapu, podle které každý člen ansámblu putuje od země k nebi. Skladba je zcela závislá na zodpovědné přípravě každého z interpretů, jelikož sami hráči si musí důkladně připravit svůj vlastní hudební materiál a předem určit, jakou cestu si zvolí. Není zde tedy žádný prostor pro improvizaci. Skladba je symbolickým vyjádřením cesty celého společenství lidí životem, na níž je ovšem každý jeden člověk zcela svobodný.

Vojtěch Šembera 


Georgina Bowden – The Fainting Sun (2018)

         Composer Georgina Bowden came from a visual arts background and has worked in many artistic disciplines, including architecture, graphic design, illustration and portraiture, before completing a Master’s of Music with Distinction in 2018 with the Director’s Prize for Excellence in Composition. She brings these other arts into her music, such as her spatial, theatrical dance work Revelations (Albany Theatre, 2018), antiphonal acoustic effects piece Soru Cevap (St John’s Smith Square and Blackheath Halls, 2019) and her glow-in-the-dark opera, Radium (King’s Place, 2018). Georgina is a conductor, particularly interested in working with choirs, and has studied with Alex Walker, Jonathan Tilbrook, Alice Farnham, Peter Hanke, and Paul Spicer. As a choral singer she has sung in many UK Cathedrals and Abbeys. She is currently studying musicianship with Derek Aviss.

         The Fainting Sun sets two texts describing the end of the day. From the sun’s warmth and the tremulous energy of natural life (“trembling on its stem … sounds and smells turn in the night air”), slowing down and moving into shade (“the sun curdles itself in clotting blood”) to the fading light of day, and the stillness of dusk (“day is far away … night has not yet called us”).

Georgina Bowden

György Ligeti – Lux Aeterna (1966)

         In his compositions from the late 50s and 60s, György Ligeti unveiled an absolutely unique sound universe, which has been mesmerizing listeners to this day. This is remarkable if we consider that until 1956, the composer lived in Hungary, which was part of the Eastern Bloc and was therefore effectively cut off from current music developments in Western Europe. Not long after the brutal suppression of the Hungarian Uprising by the Soviet troops, Ligeti fled to Vienna and subsequently relocated to Cologne, where he acquainted himself with new compositional movements in more detail and began to pursue the creation of electronic compositions at the local radio’s electronic music studio. In the end, Ligeti managed to finish only two electronic compositions (the third was left unfinished); however, this experience with electronic music enriched his musical imagination. In a simplified way, we could say that in the following years, Ligeti tried to introduce certain techniques from electronic music in his instrumental works, working independently with the timbral components and musical textures. This approach is reflected in orchestral pieces such as Apparitions (1958–1959) and Atmosphères (1961). In these compositions (to a varying degree), Ligeti made use of micropolyphony – a compositional technique in which the musical structure, consisting of many independent voices, engenders a rhythmically complex and intricate texture, which paradoxically manifests itself as a “static”, monolithic and randomly transforming surface. This method of developing musical structure also dominates the vocal composition Lux Aeterna (1966) for a mixed choir of 16 singers. The entire composition proceeds in low dynamics, and the entries of individual voices are barely noticeable. The work comes across as unprecedentedly fragile and crystal clean, as if the composition was “frozen in time”. Not long before he began work on Lux Aeterna,Ligeti finished his vocal-instrumental work Requiem (1963–1965), setting the text from the mass to music in four parts: IntroitusKyrie,Dies Irae and Lacrimosa. The textual element of Lux Aeterna comes from Communio, which the author eventually decided not to include in Requiem – the composition can therefore be viewed as the reconciliatory “epilogue” to this dramatic and emotionally charged composition.

Petr Zvěřina


Peter Graham – Fantasy for Six Violoncellos (1974)

         Peter Graham (1952) is a composer and improviser. As Jaroslav Šťastný, he teaches at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno. In the context of Czech music, Graham is a representative of a non-academic compositional style, with an interest in unconventional approaches to composition. In the 70s, he was one of the few Czech composers creating graphic scores and conceptual compositions. From 1993 to 2009, he was the Artistic Director of the Exposition of New Music Festival. In 2010, he participated in the Czech translation of John Cage’s book Silence,and in 2018, in the translation of Cage‘s Selected Letters. Graham’s compositions have been performed by Arditti Quartet, English Chamber Orchestra, ensemble recherche, Kammersveit Reykjavíkur, Ostravská banda, flutist Áshildur Haraldsdóttir, and pianists Jonathan Powell and Daan Vandewalle, among others. As a pianist-improviser he performs with the duo Palagrachio (with Ivan Palacký on amplified knitting machine and home-made electronics), Divergent Connections Orchestra, the freejazz group Next Phase, and is a member of the projects of Pavel Zlámal Heterofón and Brünnwerk. He also fronts his Peter Graham Trio. No less extensive is Graham‘s literary and visual art output.

         Fantasy for Six Violoncellos, from 1974, evades any unifying system of musical organization, and in a quite bold way divests the basic music parameters of their importance (i.e. pitches and rhythmical values). These play a rather subservient role here. What matters here are the “secondary parameters”, i.e. the timbre, dynamics, and playing style: the rhythm arises from the difficulties putting the requirements of the score into practice; the pitches result from spontaneous grips; the intervals are determined by the individual dimensions of the performers’ hands. After all, the notation is rather suggestive, evoking the character of different sonic planes, which permeate each other as each two players render it in their own way. The tempo of the changes fluctuates. Each sonic event lasts as long as required. There are no specific requirements regarding coordination, and it does not really matter who will begin, but in the end, the reading speed of the score slows down, and everyone stops playing more or less at the same time.

Peter Graham

Judith Berkson – Partial Memories, Part III (2019)

       Judith Berkson is a composer-performer living in New York. She has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet, City Opera and Laurie Anderson and has premiered vocal works by Enno Poppe, Mick Barr, Joe Maneri, Rick Burkhardt, Julia Werntz, Chaya Czernowin and Aleksandra Vrebalov. Her solo album Oylam was released on ECM Records and fuses a background in new music, jazz, German lieder and improvisation. She is also a cantor and has collaborated on Yiddish music with Theodore Bikel. Her current work focuses on microtonal writing for acoustic instruments and voice.  

         Partial Memories Part III is part of a larger group of work for ensemble exploring harmonies which have existed, exist, and will be existing in our physical and metaphysical worlds.

Judith Berkson

Klaus Lang – die bärtige frau. sterne im gesicht (2010)

         Klaus Lang (1971) does not treat music as a vessel for extra-musical content like politics, philosophy, social change, etc. Instead, he sees it as an independent, self-sufficient acoustic object. Sound, explored through aural experience, becomes a temporal phenomenon – “audible time”. That is to say that for Klaus Lang (“klang”), time manifesting itself in sound is the very substance of music. When we commune with a work of art, it is possible to slow our hectic world down or suspend its movement altogether, transforming it into eternity and infinity. The knowledge that our lives must come to an end amplifies our yearning for timelessness that can be found in music – in its continuity and its surprising turns. Klaus Lang holds a degree in composition from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz; he also trained as an organist and remains an active organ player and improviser. In 2006 Lang was appointed as professor of composition at the above mentioned university in Graz.

Lenka Nota

         When we see the immensity of the stars and the galaxies in the nightskies we are awestruck by the vastness of the universe. We experience the same endlessness when we look through a microscope into the microcosms of the nanoworld. The smallest particle of a star is a universe itself. In die bärtige frau. sterne im gesicht for organ and orchestra the audience is surrounded by tableaus of sound that oscillate between two extremes of dynamic and of sound quality. Fragile states of extremely soft sounds between noise and pitch alternate with very loud and full harmonic fields.

Klaus Lang




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