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Heinz Holliger Basel

papiruszportal.hu Ildikó Lehotka
In the BMC grand hall, the small ensemble of the Festival Orchestra played compositions by Sándor Veress, Schoenberg and Heinz Holliger on 25 April. Despite the fact it was a contemporary music evening, many were curious about the concert, since the conductor was a highly acclaimed artist, one of the most important musicians of our times. Although Holliger did not play on his instrument, the oboe, that evening, we could nevertheless welcome him as composer and conductor, and easily came to like him.

In the first part of the concert Holliger’s interpretation of Orbis tonorum (“The world of sounds”), an eight-movement composition by Veress, was played; Holliger looked upon Veress as his maestro. This piece was composed six years before the death of the composer, and therefore many regard this colourful garland-like musical set as his last will and testament. The performing apparatus is small, besides the five strings and three woodwind instruments, it consists of a harp, a celesta and the percussion. The composition develops within some kind of framework, between the first and last movement – “Tempi passati” and “Tempi da venire…?” – we can hear character movements. The second movement Siciliano nostalgico, evoking peaceful old times, is one of them, which is suddenly and violently cut in two. The moving eighth movement also depicts calmness and beauty. The third movement has an exciting tone with many percussion instruments – the sixth movement is also dominated by the rhythm of the percussion section – while the relaxed fourth movement Intermezzo silencioso, whose melody was played at a higher, lower or same level as the sustained sounds, created a magnificent atmosphere. Gentle humour appeared in the second, seventh (especially the closing) and fifth movement, the latter even emphasised pranks and rhythms. This movement is most detailed, the dialogue between the cello and the double bass, the melodies played by the oboe unfold, the clarinet and harp solo, the fughetta-like part are all very interesting, which makes it less surprising why this might be a central movement. Only a few compositions by Sándor Veress have recently been performed, Threnos twice thanks to the Festival Orchestra, and some other works were conducted by Holliger at the concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth.

The 6 little piano pieces (Op. 19) by Schoenberg were played in the orchestration of Heinz Holliger, even as an encore – the conductor referred to the cycle’s brevity and “its message as deep as in Mahler’s music”. The piano pieces – whose first five movements were composed by Schoenberg in one day only – have already been orchestrated by several people. Well, we heard some exciting tones, the apparatus did not differ much from that of the Veress piece. The pieces, as short as Webern’s pieces, provide a perfect opportunity to play in full tone, and Holliger indeed took advantage of this opportunity.

The BFO’s chamber orchestra played well, yet fire, dynamism and confidence were still missing. After the interval, however, a confident and extremely expressive orchestra performed; Holliger’s “Meta arca” for strings was composed for the fiftieth anniversary of Camerata Bern in 2012. The title is an anagram of the word “camerata”, while the individual music sections describe different concert masters. The fascinating quasi-violin concerto is a great opportunity to demonstrate the prevailing concert masters’ instrumental knowledge and humour. Holliger’s Janus – double concerto for violin, viola and small orchestra, with its many great details, is wonderful, it is quite similar to Kurtág’s 2002 piece entitled …concertante…, which was later revised twice. This double concerto by Holliger premiered in 2012, featuring excellent soloists Thomas Zehetmair and Ruth Killius. It is no coincidence that Holliger gave a title that emphasises dichotomy: fast versus slow, tutti versus solo, musical sounds versus noises (even swishing bows contributed to the noise). For me, the composition was a great experience, Holliger did not aim to surprise us (three movements or three parts were even implied), he did not build on exaggerated sound effects, each process was gradually developed, and each sound had its importance. The performance itself was great too, the two soloists, violinist Muriel Cantoreggi and violist Geneviève Strosser, understood the composition perfectly, and delivered the meaning to the audience in an extremely expressive and loving performance with incredibly good solutions. The double concerto moved and came to life with an enjoyable dynamism and vividness.