Under the Sign of Berio
The climax of the 5th Qara Qarayev International Contemporary Music Festival is surely its Closing Procedure. The Luciano Berio's Symphony of 1968, a cult opus of an Italian composer was a premiere performance in non-Soviet Russia at the final concert of the Festival. Two significant compositions of the European avant-garde of the XX century "Lontano" (1967) by György Ligeti and the Piano Concerto (1942) by Arnold Schönberg were performed in the first part of the concert.
This rare concert has managed to provide a vast palette of composition techniques of the previous century: late dodecaphony with its strictly verified parts; sonority with its micro-polyphonic nuances and, finally, the technique of collage and the interaction of self-sufficient sound layers. According to the artistic director of the Festival Faradzh Karayev, "The three compositions represent completely different styles and genres of music of the XX century, "three cross-roads" of modern music". The honor of closing the Festival was given to the Uzeyir Hajibeyli Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra under the direction of maestro Rauf Abdullayev. The orchestra brilliantly coped with difficult tasks or the Festival's program.
"Lontano" is one of the most famous works by György Ligeti. A short piece of some ten minutes duration always sounds fascinating. Its leisured sound space flows, changes its shape and modulates by a gray glare as huge drop of mercury in state of weightlessness. Even today we admire the composer who has become one of the avant-garde classics of the second half of the XX century, having heard and noted this surreal sonic universe.
The orchestra has perfectly tuned the waves of subtle vibrations of the play. It seemed as if the whole concert hall was filled with sonic plasma, producing a faint glow and shimmering due to subtle timbre transitions.
After Ligeti the Schönberg's Piano Concerto, Op. 42 sounded somewhat anachronistic. Pianist from Austria Kaori Nishii technically flawlessly voiced a complicated serial composition. The orchestra has also worked perfectly: it completely switched both stylistically and structurally to a bare, well-coordinated score.
This tough dodecaphonic composition was ambiguously perceived by the public after it had been composed. The Festival's performance caused also quite a calm public response, which was very interesting from a historical perspective.
The intermission was full of suspense, if they were going to succeed in Berio's symphony, for it was the score of enormous complexity. But from the first minutes of playing this five-part musical "monster" for eight voices and orchestra all doubts disappeared and it became clear that the public had worried in vain.
The Berio's Symphony went down in culture history as the manifesto of musical post-modernism and became a marker which identified many ways of musical avant-garde of the second half of the XX century. It often so happened that a work of art being declared a "manifesto" of this or that artistic school gradually lost its meaning. But the Berio's symphony was the composition of a different grade. It was so epochal and multidimensional, that discussions about it do not cease up till now. A Baku musicologist Jakhangir Selimkhanov made a report at the Festival conference called "Luciano Berio's Sinfonia and manifestations of multiple cultural identity in modernity", which emphasized that the Berio's masterpiece was also relevant nowadays, as well as half a century ago, and might have played a significant role in "preparation" of the current cultural situation. The live performance confirmed this theoretical thesis.
The symphony produced a huge impact. Particularly strong influence made the third part, a classical "In ruhig fliender Bewegung", which was based on the "St. Anthony of Padua's Sermon to the Fishes" from the Second Symphony of Mahler. Its complex dynamic collage of music and lyrics, the center of postmodernism within the symphony, had so much electrified and agitated the audience that the hall burst into applause directly after it, without waiting for the completion of the whole composition.
The musicians of the Moscow ensemble "Questa Musica" under the direction of Philip Chizhevsky were invited to the Festival for the performance of the Symphony.
Maestro Abdullayev and artistic director of the Festival Faradzh Karaev noted professionalism of young musicians already in rehearsals. The high professional performance of the Symphony could happen due to outstanding artistic experience.
The efforts of the musicians of the epochal concert were highly appreciated. The ovations lasted more than ten minutes after the Symphony and musicians both on stage and among the audience congratulated each other on this historical event.
The Luciano Berio's symphony was the "Music of Musics", it put a huge exclamation mark in the rich and versatile program of the Festival. The performance of all three compositions demonstrated the high technical and artistic potential of the Uzeyir Hajibeyli Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra, both skills of its chief conductor and artistic director Rauf Abdullayev, a musician of a European scale, and soloists of the Questa Musica Ensemble.
We hope that each further festival will bring new artistic experience that can rival with the final concert in power and importance.
Prepared by Natalia Surnina, Press-Center of the Festival