Clubbing with The Berg
The main instruments of the evening were strings, backed by an occasional keyboard, and percussion instruments, whose layered textures made tonal collages that thrilled and excited.
The highlight of the evening was the premiere of Miloš Orsoň Štědroň’s Rock for Guitar and Strings. The young Czech composer has a prolific music record and the core of his work is theatre music.
The new Štědroň composition was originally written only for a guitar and a quartet and was then extended for orchestra setting. David Holý’s masterful handling of the guitar allowed his instrument to dance with the more traditional string instruments, weaving tension with unity.
What drove the piece was the contrast between the guitar and the violins, whose interplay over four movements was like a gorgeous lecture on the blending of different sounds and traditions.
After the first half, Opus Osm had a chance to speak with Mr. Štědroň, who pointed out that he’s always looking for new sounds. “I wanted to pay homage to rock’n’roll,” he said.
“This composition allowed me to experiment with that in an interesting way.”
Pierced by Music
Another composition which featured strong string presence was Pierced by contemporary American composer David Lang, who teaches at Yale University.
A sharp, almost crystalline piece, its high register pierced the air with eruptions of furious energy followed by a sound described best as cascades of falling glass.
A short blurb by Lang in the programme notes explains that this piece was intended as a play on the idea of opposition between two parts of the orchestra. At one end of the spectrum there are the strings, and then at the other there are the incessant rhythms of xylophone and drums.
Pulling it all together in a kind of emotional unity was the cello, wonderfully played by Tomáš Urban, whose long, plaintive wail cut from high register to low, bridging the distance between the shrillest violin and the deepest drum. It was a truly thrilling, and deeply affecting, piece.
The evening finished with Orawa, a composition by the late Polish composer Wojciech Kilar who became renown for his music film scores, among them the soundtrack for Schindler’s List. It was a lightly melancholic piece buoyed by a kind of optimism that finally elevated the evening to its apex: the final hurrah of the orchestra as they finished the last note of the evening with their own voices, collectively yelling “Hey!”
The final 2014 concert of the Berg orchestra series, called The Lightning Speed of the Past, will take place in Divadlo Archa Dec 7 & 8 and will feature a new composition by Michal Nejtek performed by the Baroque opera singer Hana Blažíková. You can win 2 free tickets to this concert – see box, above.
–Zuzana Sklenková, Opus Osm assistant editor, and Joshua Mensch, guest writer
Photo Credits: The Berg Orchestra