The second day of the Wandelweiser + Bozzini concerts was once again at Open Space in Victoria B.C. My report on the first day of concerts can be read here: Wandelweiser + Bozzini in Victoria, day 1 and my introduction to these concerts here: Wandelweiser in Victoria. Day 2 was another beautiful sunny day in Victoria which made for very pleasant concert environment with the sounds of the harbor – including some seriously baritone ship horns – and the pleasantly warm sunlight.
The afternoon concert featured two composers that I was completely unfamiliar with Thomas Stiegler from Germany and Daniel Brandes from right here in Victoria B.C.. Daniel, whom I talked to briefly before this concert (and also on Twitter) I would describe as a second generation Wandelweiser composer; a student of Antonie Beuger he definitely seems to be in that lineage. Of course this being the only piece of his I’ve heard can’t expound on his body of work, but from what I heard here I think that to be the case. Thomas Stieger, though his bio is rather brief on the Wandelweiser site, would seem to be an early member of the collective. He’s trained and works as a physician but his CV lists him winning a composition prize in 1997, not too long after the founding of Wandeweiser. It was nice to have an introduction to two new composers especially in a live context which seems to be the best way to experience this music.
Wandelweiser + Bozzini at Open Space, Victoria B.C.
Daniel Brandes, Jürg Frey (obscured) Thomas Stiegler, Stéphanie Bozzini, Clemens Merkel, Isabelle Bozzini & Mira Benjamin
Concert #3 Sunday, June 9, 2013, 2:30 p.m.
1) Daniel Brandes a tenuous “we” (2013)
performers: Jürg Frey (clarinet), Antoine Beuger (flute), Thomas Stiegler (viola), Stefan Maier (guitar), Quatuor Bozzini (Clemens Merkel (violin), Stéphanie Bozzini (viola), Isabelle Bozzini (cello), Mira Benjamin (violin))
This piece was for the largest ensemble of the series and included the entire Bozzini Quartet along with Stiegler, Beuger and Frey and for his only performance of the weekend Stefan Maier playing electric guitar. Maier played his guitar with eBow generating long, sustained low tones. Likewise for the other instruments, with long drawn out, barely affected tones. There was also a set of text fragments, which were included in the series program, that were read out by the performers. The vocal performances were akin to that of the Beuger piece from yesterday, all murmured and hummed and rather self-consciously performed. Considering that Brandes was a student of Beuger this seems a pretty direct influence here. It also makes me wonder how deliberate that vocal performance style is. As I noted in my thoughts on the Beuger piece I’m not very taken by this type of vocal performances and this held for this piece. Otherwise I found the long, shifting instrumental lines rather pleasant and I found the piece quite accommodating to the sounds of seagulls and several conversations from the mezzanine down below. Especially at the times when the piece was purely instrumental – which as I assume the material of the piece was gone through at the performers desecration was arbitrary – did it seem to almost provide a background “wash” for the compelling exterior sounds.
Here’s a selection of the text fragments used in the piece:
1. nobody else could hope, except for those who grieve
3. enter the silence again, in the midst of words
4. loss has made a tenuous “We” of us all
9. only a poem could bring the grief to notice. the poem, so urgent and so fragile
2) Thomas Stiegler
Gelbe Birne III (2008) (violin, clarinet, violoncello)
Treibgut 1/2 (2011) (violin, violoncello)
Gelbe Birne VI (2013) (string quartet, world premiere)
Und.Ging.Außen.Vorüber (I) – for 3 voices and 3 radios (2005)
Performers: The first three pieces performed by Quatuor Bozzini and subsets
Und.Ging,Außen.Vorüber (I) – for 3 voices and 3 radios (2005) performed by Jürg Frey (voice), Antoine Beuger (voice), Thomas Stiegler (voice)
The rest of the afternoon program was pieces by Thomas Stiegler. These were all very short except for the last two. I should note that the program lists these pieces in a different order (the string quartet first) but according to my recollection (and notes) the string quartet, which was the longest of all the pieces was final piece before the piece for 3 voices. My notes weren’t very good for this part of the concert, which I’ll replicate here:
I have to admit I wasn’t taken by the short pieces, or by the text piece. I did enjoy the longer string quartet quite a bit. It was rather drone-y with a single note played by the players in an unaffected style. This continued for a long time varied only by subtly beating tones until the last minute or so where they shifted to these rapid shorter attacks and it had the feeling of coming apart at the seems and then suddenly ending. Really interesting piece and one the fit into the space really well.
Clemens Merkel, Stéphanie Bozzini, Isabelle Bozzini & Mira Benjamin
Concert #4 Sunday, June 9, 2013, 8:00 p.m.
1) Antoine Beuger little more than a whisper (2010)
Performers: Jürg Frey (Clarinet) & Antoine Beuger (flute)
A primarily soft, gentle piece that structurally seemed rather call and response, that is they seemed to play in reaction to each other. In this it seemed like some Christian Wolff pieces I’m familiar with where the instructions are that your options are informed by what you are hearing from your partners in the performance. The sounds were mostly rather short tones with the occasional scales and a small amount of extended technique – tongue clicks and over-breathing and the like. There was one or two slightly loud bits, that is to say louder than the overall softness, that seemed to be in reaction to something the other had done. There’d be something from say Jürg and you’d see a slightly quizzical expression from Antoine which he’d respond with something that would slip into slightly louder territory. Really engaging and charming piece.
Antoine Beuger little more than a whisper score
After the concerts I took a peek at the score and it did seem to have the elements of interaction that I sensed there. I took a (bad) cameraphone picture of it which if you squint hard enough you might be able to make out some of. But the instructions are that the performers alternate sounds, they should be uniformly soft and the that alternated sounds should constitute a phrase. I like the instruction that between the phrases there should be “some silence to allowing the previous phrase to resonate in memory“.
2) Jürg Frey Streichquartett 3 (2010-12)
Performers: Quatuor Bozzini (Clemens Merkel (violin), Stéphanie Bozzini (viola), Isabelle Bozzini (cello), Mira Benjamin(violin))
The final piece of the concert series was a string quartet from Jürg Frey. Now I should note that in my initial introduction to the Wandelweiser Ensemble one of the recordings I listened to was Frey’s String Quartet Disc on Edition Wandelweiser Records and I didn’t care for it at all. While I have gotten into the works of many other Wandelweiser composers (Pisaro and Beuger especially) I’d really not delved much further into Frey’s works. In this concert series it was his pieces that I enjoyed the most (along with the Pisaro) and was the most revelatory to me. So I was quite interested to hear this String Quartet – would it be how I recalled his earlier ones, or more in line with the piece of his I’d heard the day before? The piece was rather Feldman-like sharing his penchant for beginning and ending abruptly, utilizing lots of unison playing and was of course overall soft but not extremely so. I found this to be a nice piece and found it to be another highlight of the weekend. While not as long as a late Feldman piece – it was around 30 minutes perhaps – it did have several different sections to it. Along with the aforementioned unison play there was some solo violin from Clemens Merkel and some very dry rustling playing from the whole group. There were some sections that had a melancholy melodic feel, reminding me a bit of Mihaly Vig’s Werckmeister Harmonies score. I felt it was of a nice length, deliberately paced throughout with no real dramatic moments. I wouldn’t have complained if it had been a longer even.
And that was that. Another weekend of music done and as with all concert series it had pieces I enjoyed more than others. But it is always welcome to get to hear new pieces from new composers especially in a live situation. Nothing I felt was horrible or hard to sit through or anything like that – some things were just more to my taste than others. With the nature of the entire series even for pieces that didn’t grab me it was was pleasant in context to the surroundings and environmental sounds. It was a lovely weekend in Victoria and it was great to be introduced to Open Space, which I am sure I will be attending concerts at again.
Christopher Reiche, Daniel Brandes & Thomas Stiegler
There was again a Q&A following the afternoon concert this time with Daniel Brandes and Thomas Stiegler again hosted by Christopher Reiche of Open Space. It was again mostly questions from the audience with a few from Reiche. I had a harder time transcribing this one but I’ll again paste in what I was able to jot down again with a few corrections, clarifications and not much commentary.
Day 2 Q & A
? About the radio
Stiegler – Talked about the text, but I missed most of it. From artists with disabilities.
? about the durations
Stiegler – First couple pieces short and commissions, The quartet was written fast about a woman who died at 40. Put together with other short pieces.
Brandes – His piece not of fixed duration includes the instruction ‘duration: ends somehow’ he works with Beuger and he also had a piece with that direction. This Music is supposed to be immersive and a duration would impose he felt.
Clemens Merkel (Bozzini violinist) – mentioned they just recently replaced two short pieces with the long Stiegler quartet which begins with sustained Es.
? a subversive performer could refuse to let the peice end, would at not be in the spirit of the music?
Brandes – I find this peculiar notion of the subversive performer; would have to dislike me a lot to go to all the trouble. It’s about creating a sense of community of navigating this space together. Questions arise of how to begin, how to end how to play together. If players love the piece thy will find a way to end. (Long pause)
? why do you choose the specific material?
Stiegler – A piece without pitches (the long quartet IIRC) this was inspired by seeing a similar piece at a festival.
? community keeps coming up. How to foster that beyond the concert space
It’s music playing or listening teaches us something if you are sensitive to the situation, about gentleness, caring and such.
All my photos from the concerts can be found here: Wandelweiser + Bozzini photoset on Flickr