Thursday, March 31, 2011: Drums ‘n Space

Percussion compositions by young composers will be spotlighted Monday

If you’ve ever wanted to pound a drum, tap a wood block, or express your inner rhythms, you might have a chance to try, this Monday evening at 6:30.

That’s when the fun created by the Berg Orchestra and guests will begin. Their evening performance at the Lichtenstein Palace, in cooperation with the Academy of Music’s percussion department, is called “ClappINg,” and presents original percussion works by young composers.

But first, the audience will be divided into two groups, Eva Kesslová, public relations manager for the orchestra, tells Opus Osm.

The first group will be invited on stage to “meet” the wide variety of percussion instruments that will perform in concert starting at 7:30. The second group will be introduced to 48 bird songs. And then the groups will switch.

The Berg Orchestra performs The Exotic Birds, containing 48 bird songs

But wait — 48 bird songs? Yes. That’s because two of the concert pieces focus on birds.

Latvian composer Peteris Vasks’ Music for Fleeting Birds uses five woodwind instruments and percussion to evoke the question, ‘will the spring birds really return to us after a long, cold winter?’ Olivier Messiaen’s complex composition The Exotic Birds uses woodwinds, percussion, and piano to imitate 48 birdsongs.

“As with almost everything the Berg Orchestra does,” explains Mrs Kesslová, “this concert uses contemporary and 20th century music to attract ‘ordinary’ people to music, not only specialists or fans of classical.”

Thus, even fans who think contemporary music only means drums ‘n bass, house, or hip-hop will find something exciting for their ears.

The Berg Orchestra’s ‘My’ Space

The orchestra typically also introduces new music to people in unexpected, interesting places or in non-traditional ways. Previous concerts have been held in the industrial section of the Holešovice district, inside the famous Žižkov Monument, and at an old sewer plant; and included behind-the-scenes tours of more traditional concert stages such as of the storage space at St Agnes’ Convent.

“We want to create a symbiosis among the program, the content, and the space,” she says, and to show how music can fit into a space at the same time the space enhances the music.

In addition, the series gives a platform to young Czech composers, because each concert season includes at least six world premieres commissioned by the orchestra. They are only presented one time, at one concert. After that, they’re available on CD or by downloading from the orchestra’s website.

Monday’s world premiere is called Welcome Waltz, for woodwinds and percussion, by Czech composer Roman Pallas. Mr Pallas is a HAMU graduate who studied with Prof Ivana Loudová; he has written chamber, vocal, and orchestral works, and currently teaches music theory at the Teplice Conservatory and is on the pedagogical faculty at the University of J.E. Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem.

A composition called The Sun Gate, by Czech composer Vít Zouhar, will also be performed at Monday’s concert. The piece, originally written in 1989 and revised this year, was inspired by a gate at Lake Titicaca, which the sun shines through every day precisely at noon. oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Top, BigFoto; bottom, Berg Orchestra

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