Monday, October 31, 2001:Culture Convergence

Czech oboist Vilém Veverka performs Wednesday at the Berg Orchestra's concert on Eastern influences (see box)

Culture Convergence

What does a haiku, the enigmatic Japanese poetry form, have to do with a musical instrument made from a plastic tube?

You can find out Wednesday at the Prague Conservatory’s new concert hall. The Berg Orchestra will present three premieres in its “Foreigners from the East” concert.

Cultural influences from both the East and West will be showcased in the music of highly acclaimed contemporary composer Jana Vöröšová, and the celebrated Isang Yun of Korean origin. A concerto for harpsichord and string orchestra by the young Czech composer Jiří Kabát, another name that is making waves in the musical world, rounds out the program.

Mrs Vöröšová’s 4 Haiku for Orchestra will begin the concert, four movements of music inspired by poems of Japanese origin, translated into Czech. Mrs Vöröšová resolutely believes “music in general speaks for itself.” But here, she tells Opus Osm, the “text and music are so closely related,” and the poems are “so very beautiful,” that the listener’s experience will only be elevated with a reading of the poems. Appearing from non-Western orchestral influences will be the cimbalom and that instrument made of a plastic tube, nicknamed the goose’s neck. Neither of these should prove too difficult to see, and definitely not to hear!

‘Wish Me Luck!’

Isang Yun, whose Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Orchestra will be presented, is a composer whose cross-cultural explorations were a key aspect of his work. Writing mainly in the latter half of the 20th century, Yun was of Korean-German nationality. He was deeply moved by the political events of his home country during his lifetime; his artistic aim was the development of Korea’s traditional music through the use of Western instruments.

Looks like a piano, but it's really a cimbalom, a fancy kind of hammered dulcimer

It seems that Yun did not mind challenging the instruments of the West. As Jiří Kabát, the concert’s third composer and also orchestra member, says, “Wish me luck, the music is really not so easy!” Make sure you find the time to hear this rare performance.

Mr Kabát’s own Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings will explore a different influence, that of the harpsichord. As the composer explains to Opus Osm, “I used this composition as an opportunity to relax a bit from the big symphonic score of my first symphony that I was working on at the time, to work on a little chamber music.”

It’s no surprise that he chose the harpsichord, an instrument prominent in the Baroque era before the idea of large symphonic works was even imagined.

Though he in fact tried to suppress the Baroque influence of the harpsichord, Mr Kabát admits he couldn’t shake the instrument’s strong attachments and “soon gave up resisting and accepted the Baroque footprint.” Listen out for the influence of the harpsichord – is the rest of the orchestra influenced by this Baroque icon? You can decide. – oo

— Samuel Goldscheider

About the Soloists
Performing with the Berg Orchestra will be three fabulous young Czech musicians – Kateřina Englichová on the harp, Vilém Veverka on the oboe, and Edita Keglerová on the harpsichord. Earlier this year Mrs Englichová and Mr Veverka gave a world premiere of A Small Double Concerto (the predecessor to the concerto to be performed) by Yun for the Isang Yun Society in Berlin.

Photo Credits: Top: Berg Orchestra; bottom: Jozsef V Schunda

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