Between the Red and Black Halls of the luxurious International Music Forum (NFM), the MEN in Wroclaw, directed by Pierre Jodlowski, is showcasing Polish creation in an evening dedicated to the Union of Polish Composers, inviting Studio Dan from Vienna to perform on stage, and paying a heartfelt tribute to the immense composer Elzbieta Sikora.
With the Polish release of a book of interviews and an Anaklasis CD featuring three concertos, 2023 is an anniversary year for the Lwow-born composer Elzbieta Sikora, who has been living in France for the past 40 years. She has directed the MEN for nearly ten years, and today the MEN is hosting a monographic concert at the Black Hall, focusing on saxophones and electronics. The composer trained very early in the studios of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales in Paris as well as with the greatest Polish masters of instrumental music, such as Tadeusz Baird and Zbigniew Rudzinski. Music is everywhere," she says, "in the breath of the wind, in the drops of rain on the windowsill, in the sound of the wheels on the rails [...]". Commissioned by the GRM in 1998, Lisboa, tramway 28, a tribute to Fernando Pessoa , is performed as the first part of a concert, accompanied by a lighting device as discreet as it is operational. Lisboa, tramway 28 is a mixed work for saxophone and fixed sounds, emblematic of the composer's work and a masterpiece of the genre. We embark with her in the famous yellow bus that passes through the main districts of the Portuguese capital: the creaking of the machine, the bell, the voices of the passengers, the braking and acceleration pass through the loudspeakers while the saxophone line, slightly amplified and spatialized, crosses this living environment, with a touch of nostalgia and much poetry. We are under the spell of the warm and enveloping sound of Władysław Kosendiak on soprano and alto saxophones.
Fifteen young saxophonists (from soprano to baritone) arc around their conductor, Władysław Kosendiak for the performance of Happy Valenciennes. The 2012 piece, which is about 50 minutes long, was commissioned by Art Zoyd for saxophone teacher Michel Supera and students from the Conservatory of Mons and Valenciennes. Tonight they are young musicians from two music schools, Ryszard Bukowski and Karol Szymanowski, from Wroclaw, superbly prepared by Władysław Kosendiak and Agnieszka Jutkiewicz. The piece for learning is of different levels of difficulty, making use of the springs of electronics (fixed sounds and live transformation). Collective sequences alternate with three long solos, three impressive pages dedicated to the most experienced among them where playing techniques, exploration of registers and palette of sonorities are at work, magnified by the treatments of electronics (spatialization, reverberation and demultiplication of the line). Władysław Kosendiak joins the ranks of his students to perform the third solo before engaging with them in a duly refereed collective improvisation, a kind of refreshing soundpainting that puts a final energetic touch to this monumental fresco signed Elzbieta Sikora.
Studio Dan's dominant red
They are a dozen instrumentalists on stage and have envisioned their concert as an audiovisual spectacle, with a quasi-continuous flow of sound and a luminous laser environment changing the colors and scenic perspectives with each new piece. Studio Dan is an undirected Viennese ensemble founded in 2005. It engages in interdisciplinary projects, seeking the crossing of styles (rock, jazz and contemporary writing) and the hybridization of sounds via the electronic source.
Vibrant Duo Altera Nudos vacantes for electric bass guitar and ensemble by Mexican Juan Pablo Trad Hasbun gardens a theremin, a monodic instrument whose highly fluctuating sound is produced from an electrical signal generated by an electronic tube oscillator. The instrument is played with the hands without contact with the structure. The electric bass soloist brings, as for it, its low resonances and a depth of field where the timbres of the ensemble are inscribed (the violin-guitar is played under the arm!) within a space more and more abundant. But one wonders about the true nature of the project, especially when this sequence of pulsed and iterative sounds reminiscent of Steve Reich intervenes.
An electronic part and a muscular drum kit are added to the ensemble of ten musicians in Just a little Beat by the Polish composer Pawel Hendrich, a world premiere commissioned by the festival. Between contemporary writing and rock energy, the composer shapes a moving material full of breath where high tension sequences alternate with more suspenseful tracks. Without any direct action on the quality of the timbres, the electronics brings its rock touch and its noisy emanations that the composer lets "linger" in the last seconds of the piece.
Belarusian composer Oxana Omelchuk takes us on a further journey with Wow and Flutter (2016), summoning two tenor trombone soloists to the forefront. Wow and Flutter are untranslatable terms to evoke the distortion of sound in the high and low registers, fluctuations/distortions that our two seasoned soloists, Daniel Riegler and Matthias Muche , will seek out on their infinitely rich soft brass instruments, with the help of mutes of course! The composer has chosen the pastiche, even the anamorphosis, of different eras and styles of jazz where the drums are central. Thus we go from the over-vitamin fanfare to the groovy colors of the 30's with the same agility and a good dose of humor. The last sequence is intriguing, giving the illusion of a diphonic song coming out of the two horns before the sensual voice of a Bessie Smith ends this retrospective in the coolest of swings.
Praise for Brass
No lighting design or other scenography in this exciting Black Hall concert featuring six Polish composers, those from the Wroclaw and Posńam divisions of the Polish Composers' Union. The platform welcomes mostly composers (of all generations and aesthetics) but also musicologists and music theorists, with a shared love of sound.
Six mixed pieces (instrument and electronics) of about ten minutes each are on the bill, five of which are world premieres, all dedicated to the same trumpet and trombone duo, Piotr Nowak and Wojciech Jeliṅski, together (1 and 6) or playing alternately: a challenge for the lips of these two wonderful instrumentalists on stage for an hour of music! All present, the composers are at the controls of the console for the broadcast of their piece.
Chamber Music V for trumpet, trombone and electronics by Michał Janocha begins with the breath, that universal energetic principle (the ch'i!) that initiates the sound and will remain active throughout the piece. The three sources converge in a very fine conception of the sound stages, constantly modifying the spectral perspectives. In Katarzina Taborowska's Frottage for trombone and electronics, the instrument seems to be magnetized by the electronic environment that makes it travel, change registers and sound emission via mutes and other playing modes, until the two sources interpenetrate and texture the space. The teasing plugged trumpet dialogues with its modified alter ego (synthesized sounds) in Rafał Zapała 's Hybrida mixing humor and stage play. The low notes of the trombone above which the sound spectrum unfolds, at the beginning of Dualabilis by Paweł Hendrich, evoke those of Partiels by Gérard Grisey. The abundant electronics irradiate the sounds of the eminently virtuoso trombone until the resonance space is saturated. The transformation of the sound of the trumpet is live in Alchemia (2019) by Mateusz Ryczek giving to hear a new instrument with a wide spectrum and an increased power as well as layers of white noise coming from the breath of the instrumentalist. With the electronic part, a polyphonic dimension of the writing is established, calling for promising developments, but which unfortunately cuts a little short.
Pianist, composer, performer and lecturer, Cezary Duchnowski, whose piece brilliantly closes the concert, participated in the foundation of the Studio of Electronic Composition at the Academy of Music in Wroclaw. Together with the composer and vocalist Agata Zubel (a native of Wroclaw), he formed the duo ElettroVoce , in which they practiced improvisation for a long time. cRossFAdE for trombone, trumpet and electronics belongs to a series of duets for various instruments including electronics. The live transformations are carried out with the pedals operated by the two instrumentalists, which Duchnowski wants to make visible and audible: exaggerated foot noises, bell movements, a shower of slaps, bursts of sound, and an amusing dialogue between the two instruments looped by the software. The performance is as alert as it is muscular, and the ambiguity is always maintained between the real and the false in real time: right up to these tragic-comic exchanges (the voice is crushed by the software) of the two soloists in the mouthpiece of their instrument. All-round performers, whose virtuoso and scenic slaughter impresses, Piotr Nowak and Wojciech Jeliṅsky reveal to us tonight the immense palette of their talents.
Musica Electronica Nova Festival, Wroclaw on 14-05-23
6pm: Red Hall: Elzbieta Sikora (born 1943): Lisboa, streetcar 28, Homage to Fernando Pessõa, for saxophone and electronics; Happy Valenciennes, for seven saxophones, fixed sounds and live electronics. Władysław Kosendiak, solo saxophone; Student saxophonists from the classes of the Ryszard Bukowski and Karol Szymanowski School of Music in Wroclaw; Maciej Michaluk, electronics; conductor Władysław Kosendiak;
8:00 p.m.: Red Hall : Juan Pablo Trad Hasbun (born 1978): Vibrant Duo Altera Nudos vacantes for electric bass guitar and ensemble; Oxana Omelchuk (b. 1975): Wow and Flutter, for two trombones and ensemble; Paweł Hendrich: Just a little Beat for 10 musicians and Studio Dan electronics; Computer Music Producer, Werner Angerer; sound diffusion, Alexander Forstner.
Musica Electronica Nova Festival, Wroclaw on 15-05-23
Black Hall: Cesary Duchnowski (born 1971): cRossFAdE for trombone, trumpet and electronics; Pawel Hendrich, Dualabilis III for trombone and computer; Mateusz Ryczek (b. 1986), Alchemia for trumpet and electronics; Michal Janocha (b. 1983), Chamber Music V for trombone, trumpet and electronics; Rafal Zapała (b. 1975), Hybryda for trumpet and electronics; Katarzyna Taborowska (b. 1974), Frottage for trombone and electronics; Piotr Nowak, trumpet; Wojciech Jelinski, trombone; Cesary Duchnowski, Paweł Hendrich, Mateusz Ryczek, Michał Janocha, Rafał Zapała, Katarzyna Taborowska: electronics.
Photos © Slawek Przerwa - NFM
Photos © Joanna Stoga - NFM