Breaking musical ground

The Ascolta ensemble from Germany performs at the International Contemporary Music Festival

The Ascolta ensemble (photo credit: PR)
The Ascolta ensemble
(photo credit: PR)
The annual International Contemporary Music Festival of Hateiva, the home of the Israel Contemporary Players, one of the country’s best contemporary music ensembles, takes place in Jaffa on December 17 to 19, and contemporary music lovers will be thrilled with the program. As every year, the festival will host international ensembles such as Ascolta from Germany and Live Pixel from France, alongside local artists. This event is a must for music lovers who are looking for what is new and daring.
The festival’s program features Night Staged Music by Simon Steen-Anderson, performed by Ascolta, which will premiere in Israel on December 17 at 8:30 p.m.
Another interesting performance is the Composer – Choreographer project, the result of interaction among composers, dancers and choreographers such as Arik Shapira, Amnon Wolman, Tamar Borer and Maya Reshef (December 18 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.).
Israeli artists Yael Barolsky and Omri Telgam, known for their interpretations of contemporary music, will perform pieces by composers such as Yair Klartag and Mauricio Kagel (at 8 p.m.).
They will be followed by Live Pixel performing pieces by Mathieu Constans, Michele Tadini and others (9 p.m.).
Ascolta, based in Stuttgart, was founded in 2003 by seven musicians who had worked together in various chamber music groups. Over the years, some 200 new works were composed for Ascolta, and more are in the making. Their unusual lineup, concentrating on brass and percussion, breaks new ground compared to other ensembles.
They have been participating in many German and international new music festivals and now will be making their long-awaited Israeli debut.
“We are excited, but some of us are a bit nervous,” admits cellist Erik Borgir in a phone interview from Germany, referring to the current security situation in Israel.
“Well, not really. Nowadays, you can get killed in any city in the world. We are coming to bring culture, and that is what matters,” he says.
“The important thing to know about our ensemble is that there has never been an ensemble with such instrumentation before. It’s very usual to make instrumentation based on such pieces as Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with a flute and a clarinet and strings and a piano, but we wanted to make a new kind of sound, so we have two trumpet players with a trumpet and trombone, percussion, a pianist who also plays keyboard and a guitar, and a cello, which can be amplified or not, so a new repertoire was written for us.”
Speaking about Night Staged Music, Borgir says, “This is a conceptual piece, which is a big thing today. Actually, not a single new note was written in this piece – it’s just a treatment of older pieces. So we have Bach’s ‘Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen’ (from Cantata ‘Ich habe genug’ BWV 82), Schumann’s ‘Träumerei (from Kinderszenen), Mozart’s ‘Der Hölle Rache’ (from Die Zauberflöte) and Ravel’s ‘Scarbo’ (from Gaspard de la Nuit) – these are all well-known pieces that relate to night. The composer makes a very loose story out of the music,” he explains.
“We start with Bach’s aria, the title of which basically means ‘falling asleep,’ and perform it with a recording from the 1950s. Then the piece slows down and stops. This is the moment where the dream begins – ‘Träumerei.’ It is set in such a way that you can hardly recognize the piece, although not a single new note was written there. And then a disco party next door comes and turns into a part of a dream – a man singing Mozart’s ‘Queen of the Night,’ with a touch of techno beat. Finally, a terrifying nightmare – Ravel’s ‘Scarbo’ – enters the picture, and you don’t know what is real and what is not, whether the piano is playing or the music is coming from the tape. That is the highlight of the entire piece, but I will not reveal everything here. Finally the alarm clock rings, everybody wakes up, and the piece is over,” he says.
Borgir stresses that “The composer is not making fun of the well-known pieces but reinterprets them, sheds a new light on them, presenting what has always been there.”
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