A Puzzle Shrouded in a Cloud of Sound

The mountains have inspired composers as much as the sea. © Charles Thibo
The mountains have inspired composers as much as the sea. © Charles Thibo

Shocked, No. Amused? Definitely. Yesterday evening the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst performed Olivier Messiaen’s piece “Chronochromie” in Luxembourg. Those 25 minutes were an interesting sound experiment and an excellent prelude to Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem op. 64 “Alpensinfonie” that was to follow after the pause.
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Illuminated by Shooting Stars and Light Beams

A chandelier in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam - prelude to Adès' Op. 28. © Charles Thibo
A chandelier in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – prelude to Adès’ Op. 28. © Charles Thibo

Luck was on my side yesterday evening: First, the Doric String Quartet introduced me to Thomas Adès, a contemporary composer, and to “The Four Quarters”, a highly interesting piece. Second, the cellist John Myerscough explained in a few, well-chosen words the structure of that work in order to pave the way for a greater acceptance and a better understanding of this example of Neue Musik. He succeeded on both accounts. The setting of that enriching experience: the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – my first ever visit in that prestigious concert hall.

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A Majestic Tower in the Midst of Turmoil

The gate of the Schirmerturm, one of the nine fortified towers in Lucerne. © Charles Thibo
The gate of the Schirmerturm, one of the nine fortified towers in Lucerne. © Charles Thibo

When I close my eyes, I can see the stone tower. The first of Cécile Marti’s “Seven Towers”. It is not very tall, but the double bass suggest it has a massive rectangular shape. Reassuring for those who find shelter in it, but a provocation for anyone else. A strident violin evokes an imminent danger, and sure enough invaders try their luck. Timpani thunder through the Berne casino, and yes, I see waves of soldiers clashing against the tower. But the building resists, it stands majestically, calm in the middle of the turmoil. Nevertheless the next wave of attackers rolls on: crescendo! It get’s really loud, and then: change of tempi, change of style!

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Seven Towers – Diversity in Unity

Cécile Marti is not only a composer, but also a gifted sculptor. © Cécile Marti
Cécile Marti is not only a composer, but also a gifted sculptor. © Cécile Marti

Tonight and tomorrow night, I will have the privilege to assist to performances of “Seven Towers” – a new piece written by the Swiss composer Cécile Marti. Part 1 will be played on two evenings at the casino in Berne by the Berner Symphonieorchester. Part 6 has premiered in Geneva on September 17 performed by the Geneva Camerata. “Seven Towers” is an 80 minutes long concert cycle and the result of Cécile Marti’s composing research project at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. It started in September 2012 and is about to come to its end. I interviewed Cécile Marti about her work, about contemporary classical music and how to make it accessible to a broader public. Continue reading!