09 November 2018, 20:00

Trekhgornaya manufacture, Nadezhda. Address: Rochdelskaya street, 15/24


Marking an anniversary of sorts with its 20th concert, SOUND UP new music festival will honor David Lang, one of the most brilliant American composers of the postwar generation.

Before he became a part of the cultural establishment, David Lang began his career with a bold and somewhat ruffian initiative. In the 1980s, together with two other composers from the Yale School of Music – Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe – he established a musical commune Bang On a Can, whose aim was to compose music that would combine the complexity of structure with the energy and drive of pop music and to perform it in the environments that would be as far removed from the classical world as possible. The similar ideas were adopted by the older generation of American composers, the minimalists Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, which is why the “new rebels” were called “postminimalists.” Having kept their loyalty to the principles of laconic brevity of the means of expression, the postminimalists went further: in addition to using the language of classical music and traditional sound practices of different nations, David Lang and his creative soulmates carefully study everything that’s happening in the rock, funk, punk, hip hop and electronic music, insatiable for everything new. This is why David Lang has often partaken in joint projects with such rock-n-roll heroes as Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond and Bryce Dessner from the National.

David Lang’s music is tonal, harmonious, clearly structured, devoid of empty rhetoric and excessive cleverness, but also incredibly inventive. It might be the reason why the composer has achieved an almost universal acclaim: his music is performed by the most influential contemporary music ensembles, and he has been generously praised with professional awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Music, a Grammy, and an Oscar nomination for his score to Paolo Sorrentino’s film Youth.

The New York-based composer’s portfolio is full of different genres, from operas and symphonies to chamber music, but he is especially drawn to vocal and choral music, which makes him one of contemporary era’s most outstanding artists composing music for the voice.

the little match girl passion is probably his most famous vocal piece, which in 2008 brought the composer the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Music, putting him on par with the founders of American school of composition Aaron Copland and Charles Ives.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Christmas story the little match girl passion has often been chosen by composers for musical interpretation. Ever the admirer of paradox, David Lang saw this beautiful and tragic story as a paraphrase of life of Jesus Christ, and turned it into a chamber oratory, styled after Bach’s passions. Sublime, serene and full of delicate details, the music of the American composer provides a genius sound illustration for the soaring between the anguishes and hope that are experienced by the story’s little protagonist. The experience of listening to the little match girl passion is much like a religious revelation.

On November 9, the SOUND UP new music festival will present the special program DAVID LANG /ULTRA/, allowing the audience to fully acquaint itself with the oeuvre of our outstanding contemporary and to hear not just the little match girl passion, but also his other key works performed by the Intrada ensemble and New Music Studio ensemble.

An accordion is not the most eagerly sought instrument for the contemporary music, but one of the artists of the 23rd event of the SOUND UP festival, the Swiss composer Mario Batkovic, proves that in skillful hands its resources are practically limitless. Performing solo, and declaratively using no electronic accessories, he puts the audience into a state of trance with his fanciful instrumental pieces that echo a great variety of musical styles, from the academic minimalism to punk rock. Batkovic’s accordion resembles not a handmade device for extracting sounds, but a living creature, with the irregular breathing of its bellows, the heartbeat of the bass notes, and the tender, fragile voice of the principal melodies, which, at times, is raised to a shouting pitch.

Batkovic was born in Bosnia, but he studied first at the Hannover University of Music, Theater and Media, and then at the Basel Academy of Music, which he graduated as the Master of Arts in Chamber Music Improvisation. Despite his academic training, he quickly realized that the world of academic music is too confining for him, and went rogue: he performed in rock bands, wrote soundtracks to movie shorts and computer games, all the while perfecting his personal inimitable style. He combines the repetitiveness of the minimalists in the spirit of Michael Nyman or Philip Glass with the striking dynamic contrasts and powerful performative expressiveness: at times, it is hard to comprehend how his instrument survives the various torments, to which it’s subjected both on stage and in the studio.

In 2015, Mario Batkovic was noticed by Geoff Barrow, whose principal claim to fame is his leadership in the classic trip hop project Portishead. First, the accordion player went on a tour with the neopsychodelic band Beak, led by Barrow, and then signed a contract with his label Invada Records. Two years later, the label released Batkovic’s album titled simply Mario Batkovic. The name seems to hint that at the moment, this is the artist’s magnum opus, the recording that opens a new page in his creative history. The record presents a number of spirit-lifting neoclassical compositions, but there are also some energetic rock performances where the single accordion successfully supplants a whole electric power trio. The Rolling Stone magazine put the record on its list of Top 10 avantgarde albums of 2017, while the geography of Batkovic’s concerts was expanded to Great Britain, Netherlands, South Africa, and now, Russia.

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