Ritornello (with video) (West Coast premiere) w/ Roomful of Teeth
New work for orchestra world premiere, LA Phil commission)
Concerto for Two Pianos (world premiere, LA Phil commission) Katia and Marielle Labèque, pianos
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra
April 23rd, 2015
The Double Piano Concerto was composed for the Labèque Sisters in the Fall and Winter of 2014-2015. It was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and will receive its world premiere in Los Angeles in May of the year, 2015.
The Orchestre de Paris, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Göteborgs Symfoniker, and Orquesta Nacional de España are all co-commissioners and will be presenting their own premieres in their home cities in the coming year.
Like many people involved in today’s music I have long been an admirer of Katia and Marielle Labèque’s performance of traditional and new concert music for duo pianos. I was very happy to hear their brilliant playing and interpretative skills with my own music – first with the 2007 work, Four Movements for Two Pianos and then, more recently, the Two Movements for Four Pianos. This last work was premiered by the Labèques along with additional pianists Dennis Russell Davies and Maki Namekawa. I was very pleased when they suggested a new work – the present double concerto.
The work itself follows the three movement form in which many concertos are conceived. However in this case the first and second movements are both fast and the slow movement is the third and last part of the concerto.
Also it seemed that there were enough ‘fireworks’ in the first two movements as to make an additional cadenza for the soloists unnecessary.
Again the relationship of the soloist to the orchestra is not the usual one, contrasting the smaller duo with the larger orchestral ensemble. Instead the music of the soloists is shared between the two and the orchestra serves to extend the range and color of the soloists.
Finally, in the last few years I have had the pleasure of working with the LA Philharmonic on projects very important to myself. This included a live performance of Koyaanisqatsi at the Hollywood Bowl as well as the West Coast premiere of Symphony No. 9 conducted by John Adams. I look forward with great pleasure to working with them again.
"Glass' new concerto has no lack of vitality, not with the Labèques, and he intentionally avoids transparency. Instead he employs the pianos as added glitter and grit to the big orchestra.
The first movement is exuberant. At 78, Glass is long past his own infatuations with straightforward cadences and has become a master of arresting chord changes. A similarly fast second movement, however, begins a process of tonal darkening, with double basses producing an ominous unpinning to the pianos. The third movement begins in, and retains, a solemn quiet.
Dudamel kept the pulse in the background and brought out broad expressivity. "
“Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life [...]”
William Shakespeare, 1595
David Chalmin has collaborated with Katia & Marielle Labèque on numerous occasions, in particular on the Minimalist Dream House project. His new 30-minute break-dance ballet, Star-cross’d lovers tinged with Minimalism, rock and electro.
Shakespeare’s timeless theme of impossible love allowed the composer and the choreographer, Yaman Okur, to play on tension and resolution, violence and harmony, antagonisms and similarities, love and hatred.
A producer of classical music as well as experimental rock, Chalmin constantly builds bridges between different musical universes. In Katia and Marielle Labèque he found allies who continuously break down barriers. As they were able to do with Gershwin or The Beatles, they continue to demonstrate that rock, Minimalism, or electronics can cohabit with classical pianos and that contemporary music can be living and close to pop music without being elitist.
In the same way, Yaman Okur shows us that break-dancing is not limited to solo improvisation or street battles but can also be written and danced by a group and have a place in concert halls alongside classical soloists. His numerous experiences with Madonna or the Cirque du Soleil have enabled him to develop a professionalism and rigour that complement his visionary talents, making him a veritable contemporary choreographer and not simply a B-boy trained in the street.
The result of Chalmin’s encounter with Okur is a topical work based on universal, accessible themes, which, for all that, is never facile. Experimentation is of the essence, and we fluctuate between amorous dances accompanied by two romantic pianos inspired by Schubert or Chopin, and rock explosions illustrating gang wars by way of Minimalist electronic celebrations that could bring certain Berlin parties to mind…
Premiered at the Paris Philharmonie in May 2015,
with the support of Fondazione KML and Academie Internationale de la Danse Paris,
Star-Cross'd Lovers is the fruit of a coproduction between the Paris Philharmonie, Zaubersee Festival Luzern, Konzerthaus Dortmund,Bordeaux Auditorium.
9-10 mai 2015 : Philharmonie de Paris 16 mai 2015 : KKL Luzern 27 novembre 2015 : Konzerthaus Dortmund 20 février 2016 : Auditorium de Bordeaux
Anyone wondering whether musical Minimalism grew out of something in the air in post-War New York would only have to point to the composer and performer Louis T. Hardin (1916–1999), better known as Moondog. At first, Moondog’s music seems to come from the same sources as nurtured Reich, Riley, Glass and Young’s development of Minimalism in the 1960s: rounds and canons, music from south and east Asia, experiments with overtones and the harmonic series, jazz, and repetitive percussion. Yet that is only part of the story, because while those four composers, and others of the early minimal canon, were connected as friends, colleagues and collaborators, Moondog lived a life apart. What’s more, he had begun experimenting with these ideas more than a decade before, in the early 1950s.
A principled – if eccentric – objector to capitalist exploitation, Moondog chose to live on the Manhattan streets (he owned land in upstate New York that he rarely visited), and wore remarkable clothes (most often those of a Viking warrior) to avoid conforming to the dictates of the fashion industry. His earliest pieces, such as Oboe Round, All is Loneliness and To a Sea Horse, were made on the street, often on home-made instruments and incorporating the sounds of the city. Despite his outsider appearance, Moondog was widely respected among New York musicians in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The conductor Artur Rodziński allowed him the rare honour of sitting in on New York Philharmonic rehearsals; Charlie Parker suggested they make a record together. That never happened, although Bird’s Lament is Moondog’s memorial to the great saxophonist.
Because of its origins as street music and in the personality of its creator, it is difficult to produce faithful performances of Moondog’s music. In the first half of tonight’s concert, the percussion and guitar duo of Ubunoir present a creative reworking of five short pieces, extended using electronic loops, layering and other contemporary techniques anticipated in Moondog’s own music, and to which he would surely have been sympathetic. The second half features arrangements of six more pieces that are closer to their originals. In the interval Moondog’s hypnotic tape piece Cosmic Meditation, a slow canon based on the first nine overtones of the harmonic spectrum – which he believed held the secret structure of the universe – will be played.
To be musically avant-garde in the 1950s meant to be difficult. Not by the end of the 1960s. That decade saw a group of American beatniks overthrow the musical givens of postwar Europe. In a series of disobediently straightforward compositions La Monte Young, Terry Jennings, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass declared that music could be clear, honest, pretty and experimental. Turning their backs on the conventional centres of musical power, the earliest minimalist works got their first public audience in La Monte Young's 1960-61 Chamber Street Series in Yoko Ono's New York loft. Through the 1960s in art galleries and alternative spaces, the minimalists slowly demystified, democratised and Americanised European modernism. They rejected the angst (what Philip Glass would call "crazy creepy music"). They rejected the invisible games. They rejected the theatricality. "I don't know any secrets of structure that you can't hear," wrote Steve Reich in his 1968 minimalist manifesto, Music as a Gradual Process. Minimalism claimed that there was enough interest in the sounding process itself and enough new territory to be explored in rhythmic patterning to sustain a work. If one removed the Baroque complications - the harmonic story-telling and thematic cleverness - that were obscuring the natural beauties of rhythm and sound, what would be revealed and discovered could provide classical music with a new lease of life. They were right. Minimalism was the last great musical revolution of the 20th century. And it became the most influential and successful ism of them all. In the spirit of the loft concerts we also present new works by David Chalmin, Raphael Seguinier.
Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, arranged for two pianos and percussion by the musical's original orchestrator, Irwin Kostal. Latino colour and capering dominate this spirited retelling of the classic American love story. But what is also able to come out in this intimate chamber arrangement is the Labèques celebrated tenderness of touch.
IRWIN KOSTAL (October 1911 - November 1994) was an American musical arranger of films and an orchestrator of Broadway musicals. He did the original orchestration of West Side Story. His work won both an Oscar and a Grammy Award He conducted the digital re-recording of the music to Walt Disney's 1940 animated feature Fantasia. At the request of Leonard Berstein, he did the arrangement of 'West Side Story' for Katia and Marielle Labèque. In 2004 he was named a Disney Legend in recognition of his contributions to films released by the studio.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990)
Bernstein told Rolling Stone: 'Everyone told us that [West Side Story] was an impossible project... And we were told no one was going to be able to sing augmented fourths, as with 'Ma-ri-a'... Also, they said the score was too rangy for pop music... Besides, who wanted to see a show in which the first-act curtain comes down on two dead bodies lying on the stage?... And then we had the really tough problem of casting it, because the characters had to be able not only to sing but dance and act and be taken for teenagers. Ultimately, some of the cast were teenagers, some were 21, some were 30 but looked 16. Some were wonderful singers but couldn't dance very well, or vice versa ... and if they could do both, they couldn't act.
Katia and Marielle have been regularly performing with Kalakan.
Ravel's Bolero is played for two pianos in the original arrangement from the composer. The percussionists have added the sound of the original basque percussions that Ravel loved so much.
Accidents of history, politics and geography have helped sustain the culture of the Basques, who live in the western Pyrenees Mountains adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and spanning the border between France and Spain. And while only a small minority of Basques on the Spanish side align themselves with the sometimes violent secessionist movements dedicated to carving out a totally autonomous Basque republic, Basques in general are fiercely protective of their language, customs and traditions.
The Basque group comprised of three singer/instrumentalists, is one of many groups dedicated to promoting Basque culture. Instrumental accompaniment of percussion instruments have been hand-crafted by group members. Perhaps the most famous Basque instrument, which appears on several tracks, is the txalaparta, a group of raised wooden planks suspended on large baskets or sawhorses – in effect, a giant wooden marimba. The players strike the instrument either vertically, with the heel of a cylindrical stick, or horizontally. Two instrumentalists play the txalaparta simultaneously, one providing the melody and the other rhythmic accompaniment... Some of the music is visceral and tribal; some is elegant and almost courtly. The three musicians of Kalakan are not graybeards just holding onto the past but relatively young, worldly musicians actively engaged in the growth and development of their traditions. They just presented their project with dancers group "Stonnie Boyz" in the festival "Black & Basque".
European Tour, June 2011: The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is rounded off in style with a visit from one of their Principal Artists, Sir Simon Rattle. The programme includes Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos, by turns lyrical and exuberant, played here with one of the world's best known pianistic partnerships, Katia and Marielle Labèque.
Fortepianos used for this Mozart concert are made by Paul McNulty, who is one of the most highly respected builders working today.
The instruments modeled after the instruments of A.Walter (1752 - 1826) and are the result of his long research of the originals, and particularly one ca.1792 Walter instrument which builder had on restoration in his workshop.
Anton Walter, who had the title of ´Chamber Organ Builder and Instrument Maker´ in Vienna, is considered to be the most famous fortepiano maker of his time. He improved the so called ´Viennese pianoforte action´, which became a standard for many years. He built about 700 instruments, which were praised for their quality by both Beethoven and Mozart, who purchased a Walter instrument around 1782. According to Mozart´s son Carl: ´Most remarkable is the wing-shaped Pianoforte for which my father had a special preference to such a degree that he not only wanted to have it in his study all the time, but exclusively used this and no other instrument in all his concerts, regardless of whether they took place in court, in the palaces of noblemen or in theatres or other public places´.
Katia and Marielle have been regurlarly performing on fortepianos since 2000. They have toured with Baroque music ensembles such as The English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Il Giardino Armonico with Giovanni Antonini, Musica Antica with Reinhard Goebel, Venice Baroque with Andrea Marcon, Ludwisburg Baroque. Their concert with Il Giardino Armonico at the Musikverein in Vienna was broadcast in Mondiovision.
"Bach on Silberman Fortepianos"
The Bach year 2000 was a high point for those admiring the original sound of period instruments. Three years ago, Katia & Marielle commissioned the building of two Silbermann forte pianos in order to participate in the Bach celebrations. One of the Silbermanns was built in Milan by Andrea Restelli, the other instrument was built by Barbara and Thomas Wolf in Washington. The instruments are copies of the same instrument built by Gottfried Silbermann in 1746 in Sanssouci, but each with its own unique character and colour. The sound of the Silbermann forte piano could be placed somewhere between the cembalo and the piano and it is the only forte piano Bach knew.
“If Bach had known the modern piano...” by Reinhard Goebel About the Silbermann fortepianos and his cooperation with Katia and Marielle Labèque, 1998. Translated by Steven Grieco.
How often in the early seventies did we hear this allegedly significant argument enunciated by conservative guardians of the Holy Grail of good taste when, owing to the uncommonly gifted Gustav Leonhardt, the cembalo was transformed from a sewing machine into a musical instrument? And how sure of himself was the critic of the “Fränkisches Tageblatt” when he wrote on the occasion of a performance of one of Mozart’s pasticcio concertos on a cembalo: “Mozart no longer even knew the cembalo.”
We would all live in a golden age if people only talked and wrote after having re- searched and elucidated their subject. A glance at the store of musical instruments of an present theatre or radio station would teach us that not every institution bought reproductions of historic cembalos in 1970, or reproductions of Stein fortepianos since 1990. And so we are justified in presuming that not everybody in 1780 suddenly owned a Stein fortepiano...
No, the invention, introduction and general acceptance of new keyboard instruments was always a historical process which, faster at times and slower at others, was ever influenced by numerous details and finally resulted in the changes we see today. Many an aged virtuoso and composer still played the cembalo when the upcoming generation had already accepted the tangential piano and was eagerly awaiting Stein’s fortepiano. Letters, private records, bills and compositions dating from the second half of the 18th century show time and again how slowly the cembalo went out of fashion. A detailed scrutiny of an instrument built by Taskin in Paris disclosed the fact that the original cembalo was first transformed into a fortepiano and later back into a cembalo.
W.A. Mozart certainly did not have problems with the cembalo on which he learned to play until his father acquired a tangential piano by Späth. During his first years in Vienna he undoubtedly still played on the cembalo, at a time when Countess Thun’s Stein piano was not available and his own instrument had not yet been delivered.
But “what about Bach???” Like Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert he certainly did not yet know the “modern piano,” but being the offspring of a family of organists and cembalists he must have kept himself informed on Cristofori’s and Silbermann’s efforts to enliven the rigid sound of the cembalo. We can hardly think that he was first confronted with Silbermann’s fortepiano during his visit to Potsdam in 1747. As a respected authority on musical organs, he must have followed the early development of the instrument, and commented on it. The “infancy” of the new instrument, which Antonio Lotti and probably also F.M. Veracini brought from Venice and Florence to Dresden in 1719, thus was directly witnessed by Bach himself.
In 1732 Gottfried Silbermann was able to present a functioning “piano-fort” to the Saxon court in Dresden and to the “musical world” at large. It is hardly astonishing that the “Collegium Musicum” at Leipzig, an ensemble conducted by Bach, announced already in 1733 a concert “with a new clavicymbel, of a kind which has not yet been heard here”. With due caution, we can assume this instrument to be identical with Silbermann’s invention shown in Dresden. But as none of the cembalo concertos arranged in those years by Bach for himself and his sons show clear traces of a new “piano-et-forte” culture, some prudence is called for. On the other hand, we cannot really expect to find hints of the new instruments in the scores. Bach and those of his sons who played the concertos, had no reason to hand down to posterity their way of dealing with the new musical medium. This posterity is still assiduously and vainly searching in the “Ricercar a 3” of the “Musical Offering” - which, according to the sources, was first extemporised in 1747 and only printed later - for proof that this composition was solely written for the “forte-et-piano”.
This proof will not be forthcoming, just as there is no proof that Mozart’s late concertos were never played on cembalo. In the case of the concerto for three “pianos” KV 242, we fortunately possess the irrefutable proof that its version for 3 keyboard instruments was always played with a mixture of cembalos and fortepianos, and that it was originally written in Salzburg for 3 cembalos. The countess Thun - who was on friendly terms with Mozart but also with his often and wrongly reviled competitor Ignaz von Beeke - did not own three pianofortes by Stein, and the Lodron sisters and their aunt in Salzburg could only dream of it. We have a “sonata for two pianofortes and a cembalo” by Ignaz von Beeke, which definitely complements Mozart’s concerto and which therefore allows us to infer the original set of instruments.
Not satisfied with this heterogeneous mix of two fortepianos and cembalo, Mozart later rearranged the concerto for two pianos. But it seems that originally it was a concerto for three cembalos which, after Mozart’s early but only partial turning away from the old instrument in Vienna, could - under the new circumstances - no longer be performed adequately.
The question of the historically correct employment of the cembalo and the fortepiano is still open to discussion. After almost thirty years of performing in concerts and studying the sources, we still break new ground every day...
But we are happy to have found in Katia and Marielle Labèque two virtuosos of the “Steinway” who, by exploring the potential of the “Stein” and especially the ”Silbermann”, wish to contribute to the “quest for time past”.
A world of light touch never heard before.
With Reinhard Goebel one never knows if he is joking or speaking in earnest. Possibly he does both at the same time. So he spoke - as if incidentally - the almost inane sounding sentence: “pianists are called pianists and not forte-ists.” A distressing truth. On the stage of the giant Kasseler Stadthalle sit two women with their backs to the empty house, they play on ancient-looking instruments that sound like a mixture of a cembalo and a piano. And outside in the hall Reinhard Goebel, the violin virtuoso and founder of Musica Antiqua Köln, is practising. Although the doors are closed, one hears him with at least the same intensity as the pianists, a situation that could turn into a nice mess.
But the highly ornate instruments played by Katia and Marielle Labèque, the world-renowned piano duet, are very special. They are reproductions of the fortepianos known to Bach, and for which he may even have composed some music (the experts have been discussing this point more and more often and more and more violently). Fortepiano? The entire early literature for pianos suffered from the cembalo as well as the fact that its volume of sound could not be varied. But in 1698 Bartolomeo Cristofori succeeded in Florence in building an “arpicembalo che fa il piano e il forte”, a harpsichord capable of playing forte and piano.
This instrument fulfilled the age-old dreams of musicians, but in no way did it become an instant sensation. There were good reasons for this. The change from the cembalo to the forte-piano was not only technically difficult, but the new instrument was not yet sufficiently reliable and loud enough. Cristofori’s instrument was in any case brought to Dresden in 1719, where it was copied and developed by the famous organ-builder Gottfried Silbermann. Bach, who came to know Silbermann’s instrument in the thirties, had some objections: “it is not loud enough in the higher positions and difficult to play.” But he liked its sound and played it in concerts - certainly for Frederic II in Berlin, but presumably even earlier.
Of the Silbermann pianos of Bach’s time, only three have survived, and not one of them can be played anymore. But in the meantime four reproductions of these exceptional instruments have been built - two of them are owned by Katia and Marielle Labèque. A phenomenon, a sensation. Traditional musicians only rarely take up old music, so why the Labèques, of all people?
Everything began in Munich, where the pianists met the bassoonist Marco Postingel, a member of the Bayrischer Rundfunk orchestra, who was able to fill them with enthusiasm for baroque music. Before this meeting, they thought baroque music was, in Katia’s words, “antiquated”. They now became acquainted with Reinhard Goebel’s legendary recording of the Rosenkranz sonatas, a masterpiece of the composer and famous violin virtuoso Heinrich Franz Biber (1644-1704), who for a long time was employed at Salzburg. This recording is galvanising. As usual, Goebel attacks with the attitude of a general and confronts his audience with a radical vehemence and tremendous tempi. The audience is at first bewildered by his extreme and unorthodox play, but the great music historian Goebel (of whom Katia says: ”he is all books and notes”) is able to appeal to a number of sources which endorse his interpretation, at least as a historical possibility. But above all things, this drastic approach inspires the listener to commit himself to a bacchanalian exuberance. So the pianists just rang up Reinhard Goebel.
The Labèques, began in 1997 to play Mozart with Goebel and modern orchestras. The Labèques were enthusiastic - but they wanted to play the Master. Katia: “20 minutes of Bach are like 70 years in a lifetime.” For their purpose they ruled out the cembalo and the modern piano.
So they ordered reproductions of Silbermann fortepianos. A spectacular and fairly costly undertaking. Two different lute makers worked two years each to fashion the two reproductions. The Labèques have played on their Silbermann fortepianos since last June, and now they have taken them for the first time on a concert tour, an uncommon and exciting experiment.. the sound of the fortepianos unfolds freely and without restraint. A musical world never heard before.
Reinhard J. Brembeck, Reportage in the ´Süddeutche Zeitung´, 26 February 2000. Translated by Steven Grieco.
Longstanding friends, Katia Labèque and the violinist Viktoria Mullova, have been performing in duo recitals since 2001. Their first tour took place in February (Italy) then March (Germany and Portugal) and the City of London festival which was an outstanding success and was recorded and broadcast 2 days later on BBC Radio 3. The concerts received much critical acclaim. Recent performances included recital at Carnegie Hall-New York, Athens, Lucerne, Schubert Festival in Schwartzenberg, Geneva, Helsinki Festival, Bucarest Enescu Festival, Dublin, Dijon, Paris Theatre des Champs Elysées, St Petersburg. They will reunite again in 2015 with a new programme for concerts in Europe and South America.