Wed, September 7, 2011:Berg at Roxy

This is classic: Gabriela Vermelho performs Tuesday with the Berg Orchestra

Berg at Roxy

With a repertoire as unique as the spaces they choose for their performances, the Berg Orchestra challenges traditional expectations of classical music. The past few months have found the Berg Orchestra performing in a number of unconventional venues, such as a water-treatment plant and in the former transportation office at Vltavská.

Next Tuesday they will make a second visit to the hard-rock Roxy club (where they already tested the acoustics in a concert last year) with Index, whose subheading “psychedelic video opera” suggests a ride through the sounds of contemporary classical music. The provocative choice of venue seems fitting as all three pieces of modern classical music in Index work with rare sound, and they all revolve around deeply psychological topics: human consciousness and dream states.

“The evening takes its name from the centerpiece of the performance, the video opera Index of Metals by Italian composer Fausto Romitelli,” explains Eva Kesslová, the Berg Orchestra’s managing director. “It’s his last work and it will be performed as a Czech premiere.” Romitelli (1963-2004) was a music composer and experimenter, who incorporated new impulses into music, including modern electronic genre as well as multimedia technology.
 
In case you are at a loss what a video opera entails, it’s not just about adding new multimedia technology to an otherwise traditional production. Rather, Romitelli’s experiment attempts to transform music into a more physical experience by fusing music and visuals (in this case three films), where music is the extension of the sound and visa versa.

In line with the central piece, two more compositions, of Czech origin, will permeate the soundproof walls of the Roxy: Dreams by Josef Berg, and the premiere of a new composition, Heart in Darkness, by Michal Nejtek.

Josef Berg (1927-1971) was a Brno-based composer, writer, playwright, and organizer of cultural events. Dreaming is his last completed opus and employs four violins, piano, synthesizer, two guitars, and drums, tuned in micro-intervals to create a special dreamy mood.

Video, voice, experimental instruments and unconventional tones comprise the video opera

Multi-genrist Michal Nejtek’s Heart in Darkness is a piece commissioned by the Berg Orchestra specifically for this event and for the singer-performer Gabriela Vermelho. (Mr Nejtek is also the 2008 winner of the orchestra’s Nuberg Award for original compositions.)

This composition partly draws on the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, which recounts the terrifying psychological and physical journey of Captain Marlowe as he sails up a river into the heart of Africa where he encounters the nightmare of colonialism taken to an extreme.

Musically, the composition dwells on melody, with a single voice, Gabriela Vermelho, that dramatically mutates as the piece progresses. Mrs Vermelho is a Czech vocalist who studied the violin, has formed several bands, and plays an instrument called the kvinton, a violin with one extra deep string, similar to the viola.

The Sept 13 program of unconventional classical music starts with the unique orchestra’s traditional tour, behind the scenes of the Roxy club, at 6:30 pm. – oo

– Zuzana Sklenková

Photo Credits: Top, (c) Jan Slavíček; bottom, Eva Kesslová

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