Tart, autumnally darkened, neo-archaic, peculiar and idiosyncratic: the great "missa in simplicitate" by Jean Langlais - which, of course, only pretends to be "simple" - in a very artful, sometimes surprising way.
When the Credo in the pseudo-Gregorian recitative tone has laved its way through all modulations, one actually feels like after a voyage on the high seas: somewhat seasick.
How Jean Langlais quotes and amalgamates the "valeurs", actually characteristic colors of his French composer colleagues, lets them shine and then transforms them, can be perceived very well especially in the Sanctus and Benedictus.
In the swinging, metrically suddenly quite regular Agnus Dei, the piece enters the calm harbor.
A musical journey that is well worth taking. Also one that will show off the more unusual registers of the still relatively newly renovated Klais organ.
#missainsimplicitate#jeanlanglais. #mezzo soprano #organ#klais organ#johannasoller #french mixtur#onthehighseas
Recycled: the month of the dead - et lux perpetua
29 Oct. 2023
Already November is upon us again- we have entered the winter season, fog in the early morning and the memorial days for the dead. At this time of year I become more aware of the cycles that all life is subject to.
Coming to completion, saying goodbye, falling into the earth and there "like all grass" passing away, rotting, transforming.
This year I am even allowed to perform the Mozart Requiem twice as a soloist. It is an eternal, completely timeless piece because it seems to come directly from another dimension.
When I thought about what it means to me, it occurred to me that I had already written a text about it ... 4 years ago. Only a fraction of a nanosecond ago, compared to eternity. And still valid.
et lux perpetua- Mozart Requiem in Icking
19 Nov. 2019
My adopted Bavarian home also deserves to be perceived again and again with wondering, loving eyes.... so in a break between dress rehearsal and concert in Ebenhausen/Isartal I came across this Madonna carrying the world leader on her arm and whose rays seem to extend into the evening sky.
I don't know how many times I have sung the Mozart Requiem. But no matter how and where I come from, whether I feel like it or not, from the first bar I am drawn into the depth, the beauty and the perfection of this music.
And it makes sense to perform this work ritually in the month of the dead, November. The path through which Mozart Genius leads us from darkness into light becomes more powerful and radiant for me each time. Even though over the years there are more and more loved ones who are no longer with us and to whom I dedicate my singing at such moments.
When it is possible to enter into this connection - to feel the delicate fabric that connects us the living with the dead, all of us and everything with each other - it also becomes apparent that it is not a mere reproduction of compositions created long ago that is at stake. The forces and the dimension from which Mozart's work sprang and was created are called up in the moment of making music, become powerful, alive and palpable.
We create and we die in every inhale and exhale. Whoever is lucky enough to sing or play a fugue by Mozart or Bach can really physically experience this process of creation and death and this unbelievable simultaneity of all opposites - in oneself and in the sound that comes into being and instantly fades away.
Writing such a text is also just an attempt to capture these moments, for the sake of which we sing and make music, beyond the concert. And then we realise that the eternal, the everlasting light, of which Mozart's work is so permeated in every single note, shines not only on the deceased, but means all of us, here and now.
Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern..the whole world is a work of art..there is no Shakespeare...no Beethoven...no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself .(Virginia Woolf; in flower-garden)
This beautiful and mystical quote by Virginia Woolf made me suddenly realize that all that longing for beauty- to see, to hear, to touch it, to be part of its sound, to sing it, to feel it, to ponder about it - is a life's quest. An exploration and a search for a deeper sense of self, of the thing itself.
There is nothing like poetry, when it comes to weave together all these dimensions. Poetry pushes open the door to inner spaces that we would never have entered without its help. Thanks to Maria Popova for providing so much inspiration, poems, reads and gems of any kind on her blog themarginalian.org. Check her out!
Expedition to Utopia
How an ensemble is formed: Teodor Currentzis and the Utopia Choir. A travelogue from the Salzburg Festival
by Dominika Hirschler
23 August 2023
In 2022, Teodor Currentzis launched Utopia. The orchestra of the same name has already
given several concerts, and for the 2023 Salzburg Festival the Utopia Choir has been added to prepare and perform Purcell's semi-opera Indian Queen and Mozart's C minor Mass. The musicians from over
30 nations come together on a project-by-project basis and are supported by the Kunst und Kultur DM Privatstiftung and various European patrons.
As a choral singer, I took part in this first phase of the Utopia Choir's work. A research journey in a double role as participant and observer. Not only does the observer change what is being observed (see Heisenberg's uncertainty principle), but what is observed and experienced also affects the field researcher - a transformative experience.
Purcell's unique semi-opera Indian Queen (arranged by Teodor Currentzis and Peter Sellars) is a tableau of tender, melancholic, erotic and Dionysian musical moments. Mozart's Mass in C minor traverses darkness and light, the absolute and the human in the finest of shades, as only Mozart could compose and as Currentzis now rigorously chisels out of us and the musical torso. (Mozart's C minor Mass remained unfinished, we sing the addition of the Sanctus by Ulrich Leisinger).
Affectionate and passionate, relentlessness and meticulousness run through the entire, unusually detailed rehearsal process: every musical unit, no matter how small, is given a colour, a direction, a form, an emotional and expressive quality. And not one after the other or side by side, but always simultaneously on all levels.
With the first score page of the Kyrie from Mozart's Mass in C minor, for example, we spend all the time in the world. Until the agogic, articulation, the colours are right, the levels adjusted, until the ductus changes seamlessly, the phrase organically expands, unfolds and relaxes. The "Ky" marcato and mezzoforte, the "ri" marcato, punctual but not sharply dotted, then a flowing "eleison", sul fiato, misterioso. Kyrie objective, eleison pleading. E-le-i-son. (Clear, almost double l). Crescendo from middle to low register - and so on.
It takes many repetitions until 40 singers who have never sung together before are in sync and on board. Time in which the music seeps into the nervous system and the body's memory. With each successive round capacities are released to perceive oneself, to hear the neighbour, to feel and anticipate the overall sound.
Passionately motivating, friendly, patient to stoic, the choir directors Vitaly Polonsky and Evgeny Vorobyov report back "not yet": the gaps between what is demanded - uncompromisingly in the matter - what we believe to have implemented of it and what is actually realised musically-sound-wise, close only slowly at first.
Singing on autopilot, unconscious, imprecise, rather random shaping is not tolerated. We are inspired to let the sound emerge from the body and the heart, not from any kind of control unit between our ears. This takes courage to be vulnerable and growing trust that only comes over time.
The path is also the goal. And the path takes time. Repetition after repetition welds together our colourful, very lively bunch of different nationalities, sensibilities and horizons of experience, cast from all corners of Europe. In the end, we sound like a choir that has been singing together for years.
In the further working process, now with Teodor Currentzis, we dig deeper and deeper, more and more detailed into the musical text. It is looked at from all sides, turned over, taken apart and put back together again, knocked off, examined, our imperfect execution is discarded. More than once I marvel at how willing I am to be swept along and carried away into ceaselessly working against gravity, inertia, swimming against the current of standard interpretation. How the inner critic, nagging efficiency-driven and result-oriented, simply runs into the void.
After a draining stretch, the runner's high sets in, we enter a next space. Where something in us breaks through to alertness, to mindful music-making, to full presence. To truly breathing, listening, phrasing together. Where repetition is not just repetition, but ever deeper anchoring in the body and the mind. Maximum immersion in the musical text produces maximum freedom in dealing with it.
On the Felsenreitschule stage, the chorus for Indian Queen is placed in a star shape within the orchestral parts. So we sit next to and behind the instrumentalists, who play colla parte with us. The phrasing of each voice in the movement is aligned, coordinated, amalgamated between singers and instrumentalists. The piece, a strophic song in the middle of the semi-opera, is actually simple. The action sounds banal. The effect when the movement is reassembled is fantastic and surprising.
The cum sancto fugue from the Sanctus of Mozart's Mass in C minor is balanced out in dynamics at great length: "Strings less! Even less! Stay mp!" Finally, all voices are indeed audible. A very sparkling, dance-like version. After two fun runs in which the strings rap their voices and we speak in a rhythmically accentuated way, the vertical is also right, the groove sets in and never leaves us. In these moments, the journey is the reward and the destination magically comes to us.
The reverberation in the church of St. Peter, where Mozart himself premiered the mass with the participation of his wife Constanze, is five to six seconds. In the dress rehearsal, we find the articulation of the syllables in the 6th run of the Credo so dry and so short that it virtually cancels out the over-acoustics. A very rewarding and impressive moment after three and a half hours of dress rehearsal. In concert, the acoustic conditions are changed again by the presence of the audience, unfortunately we do not quite manage a repeat performance.
This has little in common with the professional delivery of a well-crafted interpretation at a high level, as is usual in many professional choirs and orchestras. In the "concert business", one is usually ready for a concert after one run-through and dress rehearsal. With Currentzis, there are three more days of rehearsal in between. Until the very end and before every further performance, there is constant adjustment, recalibration and fine-tuning.
Part of the truth is that I reach my limits more than once. The disassembling sometimes has an atomising effect. Every once in a while things overshoot the mark. The meticulousness tips over into the pedantic, the leash is short. The more unleashed it sounds in concert.
Utopia as a temporary utopian project has fulfilled its promise. Through the music in the centre, we have made new connections, explored our similarities and differences, met respectfully and at eye level in a very enriching creative exchange. The colleagues, Russians, British, Irish, Italians, Spanish, Hungarians, Slovaks, Japanese, Koreans, Germans, Austrians have grown close to my heart. To be continued.
Grateful for an artistically and humanly valuable experience, I speak here as a musician about working with Teodor Currentzis, the colleagues and the whole utopia team. Others, such as Christine Lemke-Matwey , Bernhard Neuhoff and Hartmut Welscher , have already expressed differentiated views on the political debate surrounding Teodor Currentzis.
Explore first and foremost your knowledge, not your conscience
May 23, 2023
psychology of division Sebastian Herrmann in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of 12.05.23.
It is not the search for truth that drives people, but the need to belong.
A finding from cognitive psychology that has far-reaching consequences. Our present is full of complex topics and highly charged debates - I give most of them a wide berth. I don't feel competent. It overwhelms me, makes me tired, beats me down, or doesn't touch me vital.
The crises of the present seem to be getting more and more urgent and apocalyptic. Proportionally to this, the bad conscience grows that I am not dealing with it in sufficient depth. Like many people, I am concerned first of all with my own life, even survival, with my marginal existence, of which I am the center.
Being me is a burden. Responsibility is a burden, having to make decisions is a daily burden, I save my opinions now and then. Let others have them. The aggravation and polarization of political debates bores me and triggers a tiredly twitching defensive reflex that drives me further into the ivory tower.
I'd rather make beautiful music, I'd rather write, write poetry, I'd rather choose the lesser evil than the greater evil in everyday life. Is that cowardly? Clear answer: YesandNO.
At the intersection of world politics (Ukraine war) and my professional existence a confusing terrain is opening up.
Without really choosing it, I auditioned for utopia choir, Teodor Currentzis' festival ensemble for the Salzburg Festival. (Whether I really want to, I'll decide when I'm in, I thought to myself at the time). Now I'm in, the decision has actually already been made, but I'm dithering.
Many things raise disturbing questions: who are we actually dealing with? Which side are "they" on? Which side am I on? Is it legitimate to take part in this project "only" for the sake of making music and money and to ignore everything else? Do I have to be on one side?
The fronts seem to be clear. Those who are with the good guys don't take bad money of unclear provenance and don't perform with a controversial conductor who is persistently silent about Putin and Putin's war.
The reality, as always, is much more complicated. There are Russian musicians whom Putin's war has driven into exile and for whom an appearance at the Salzburg Festival might ensure their survival for a short time. There are Russian musicians who have spoken out pro-Putin on social media and who have been suspended from concerts because of it.
It may be suggested that Currentzis' silence and the fact that he continues to work in Russia and take money from the state bank speaks eloquently of his sympathy and support for the war and the Russian president. It may also be that Currentzis is protecting his musicians by not taking a stand and thus ensuring that they can continue to work despite everything. Perhaps both are true, perhaps neither.
While this usually affects us more theoretically than practically-pecuniary, we have time to explore our conscience. Herrmann says: explore your knowledge first and foremost, not your conscience. Facts usually serve to provide argumentative support for a decision that has already been made. Selective facts, that is.
The funnel of our perception is narrowing before we even realize that it does, that we do not have the whole picture on the screen. To free ourselves from this distortion is difficult and only partially successful. Does that relieve us of the duty to reflect upon it?
The only certainty is that there is much about utopia that we do not know. It remains to be seen whether it is only a construct that actually contains musicaaeterna, with all the distortions that entails.
It is also certain that it is cheap to show attitude when it actually costs you nothing. And worse: to demand it from others who risk their existence for it. First and foremost, every musician wants to make music, even under an authoritarian regime. Is that reprehensible?
Whether music is allowed to be with itself in the midst of all these tensions is uncertain. Would that be morally good and right? I do not know.
What I do wish is that in august the good and the bad, the big-headed and the petit-bourgeois, the chic and the aficionados, the Austrians and the Piefkes, the Russians, the Ukrainians and all other colleagues from all corners of the world can sit in the C minor Mass, make music, sing, listen, and meet in this space, in this bracket, in the shattering depth of Mozart's music.
Before it continues outside St. Peter's with the tensions of the present.
Creation is the only outcome of conflict that can truly satisfy the soul. (William Blake)
May 17, 2023
I like the word conflict in Blake's line of profound wisdom. It teaches me to accept. My discomfort with the world as it is drives me to be creative.
Sometimes it's brighter and more harmonious inside than outside. Or vice versa. When 80% of our lives are in balance, in homeostasis, it is the dynamic unfinished remainder of 20% that drives us into development.
Singing, speaking, writing. Creative acts. One brings forth the other. First and foremost, I am a singer- AND I could not be without the word.
My inside rubs against the outside, struggles with reality, gets stranded, negotiates, wants to embellish and fails. But right there, at the border, into the form, IT is creating. In the essay it proliferates from the cracks, in poetry it unfolds in interstices.
Imagination overpowers reality. Not so rarely. Or reality shrinks imagination. More often. Mostly it happens in between, in balancing itself.
So many shades of gray, when black and white flow into each other. Gray is the most peaceful color I know. Even though I love bright sky blue the most.
Creating, we are free to design, to play with who we are and want to become. Perhaps we often want to be too comfortable.
post production - 26.4.2023
One day after our recording in Blaibach, I was congratulated on the result by a lady who wanted to take a friendly share with the question: did the CD turn out beautifully? I had to smile..and a
little later sighed deeply.
That's it, I thought: pull the finished recording with the memory card out of the camera like a Polaroid or the famous rabbit out of the hat: voilà! Magic!
The post-production, i.e. the processing of the audio and video material, takes place in many individual steps: the sound engineer makes a first version, the rough cut. To do this, he chooses the best/most beautiful version of each piece from the multiple versions and puts it together from several shorter snippets of sound. I listen to it, give back my correction wishes and from this, after a further dialogue, the final version is created.
It's puzzle work and an art in itself. What do we decide for? For many cuts, a thoroughly perfect but possibly sterile result? Or for a lively version with minor weaving flaws? The truth lies somewhere in the middle and always on the way, emerging in the working process.
The material seems to lead a certain life of its own. At the first hearing, the comparison takes place in my head: what did I have in mind? What did I want to achieve? And how does it actually sound?
When I have processed this little reality shock, I can increasingly engage with what is and how it is on the second and third listens. How it can perhaps be brought out more beautifully. A "Gestalt" appears. There is something mysterious about this, because for all its technical control and artistry, the music emerges in a different place. A far more instinctive, unconscious place than we often like.
There is no such thing as truly objective hearing, least of all when I listen to myself sing. The microphone is only a technical vehicle, but the music inside me, in my imagination, lives on and never quite coincides with what comes out of the speakers. It can also never be completely faded out. Where is the distance supposed to be?
Nonetheless, at some point I reach the point where I let go. That's how I can stand by it, that's how it's good enough, that's how it's allowed to go out into the world.
The very first listening to the raw material is always associated with nervousness and an impulse prayer - the moment of publication even more so. In the 48 hours that follow, my mood changes from pride, joy, satisfaction, relief, happy anticipation to apprehension and back again.
I am afraid of scathing, unspoken criticism, of being misunderstood, of being ignored. The worst thing would be: no one cares. Was there something?
Every result - immovable and irrevocable on a storage medium - is first of all : SoSein. That's how I felt about the piece, that's how I was able to sing it that day. That's how I worked it out, some things we succeeded in, others we didn't.
When the song then goes out into the world, it is exposed to other judgements, certain listening habits, likes and dislikes. Keeping all this at a healthy distance and always being able to return to being one's own and singing one's own takes practice. If I can't do that, I won't have the courage for the next utterance, the next song, the next concert.
In that sense, all singing and writing is an exercise in SoSein. Sometimes you do it with an audience, under observation and productive tension. Often enough, you do it for yourself, in a quiet chamber. From which I am driven out again after a while. I want to be among people, on stage or at least with other musicians, to be in an ensemble, to enter into dialogue with my pianist again.
Apples are not usually accused of not being pears. But we ourselves-artists or not-are almost constantly in a kind of self-talk in which what we are and how we are is the subject of discussion and judgement.
We struggle to come to terms with ourselves, and then there are the others whose approval, affection, even applause we think we need. No one is an island. The energy to overcome my inner resistance, doubts and fears is fed by the joy of making music itself, but also by the fact that my singing gives something to others.
Back in the editing room. The sound track is recorded, corrected, mastered, now comes the picture. Severin filmed all of the 5 or so runs of "Ariadne", the last run was only for the camera, without microphones.
And since I'm not a machine, every run is a bit different. A break is sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, the recitatives rush forward, in a very intimate version the music needs more time. As a result, there are gaps in places: the image, my lip movements and the sound.
Severin adjusts it by the millimetre, like a tailor making a garment to measure: here it has to be shortened, there it has to be sewn down, gathered or left out a little. As far as possible in such a way that you don't even notice that there have been cuts and where. In the end, it should look as if it could only have been like that and no other way.
In fact: it can only be like that and no other. Because that is how it has turned out to be. And not differently. Oh, and if this all comes across as very brooding: I think it has turned out really well! Listen!
The Praise of the TonMeister
18 Apr. 2023
What actually makes a good sound engineer? And what distinguishes a very good one from a good one?
First of all, sound engineers sit in the control centre, with their EAR in the heart of the music: in the sound. This requires a lot of overview, technical know-how and equipment.
Minimal changes in the placement of the microphones in the room, their height, their orientation, their distance to the musicians have a big impact - it's always about a balance that in the end results in a balanced AND multi-faceted sound.
As a singer, I am even more dependent on this external EAR than any instrumentalist or conductor - I never hear myself as I sound on the outside. So I place the sound in the hands of the sound engineer, trusting and willing to take risks, because I know: he understands what I want, what is important to me, what this music means to me and what I want to express with it.
Good sound engineers take care of the technical and tonal aspects, including the correct reproduction of the composition in all its subtleties: Note text, intonation, rhythm, tempo, diction. A very good sound engineer gets more out of me, even more than I would have thought possible.
It's a fragile process of correcting, improving, encouraging, praising, challenging and structuring. Something for people with sensitivity. Technically excellent sound engineers can achieve disastrous results if they psychologically and humanly fail to hit the "note" in communication.
As a singer, I am under stress, which directly affects my sound production via the nervous system. Too much pressure is counterproductive. If the sound engineer is too careful or too neutral, I remain below my potential.
The time factor plays a huge role: how much do we have planned? what can we realistically achieve in that time? And where do we leave a passage as it is because the 5th repetition is no longer better, but worse?
While I am gathering energy for a final take, the sound master has all the previous takes and the neuralgic points in the back of his head - he listens and at the same time has the 5 previous takes in his ear - a gigantic achievement of the brain (if you were to depict the brain of a sound master, you would certainly find a strikingly strong interconnection of the right and left hemispheres of the brain).
So if you have found a TonMeister who deserves his name, who is on the same musical wavelength, with whom you can work hard but also laugh and have fun, you will treat him or her with esteem and love: that is a treasure.
Andreas Betrram has all the qualities mentioned and many more - THANK YOU, Andi! His contribution to the production of "Der Himmel gehört allen" is equal to all other aspects - the singing, the piano, the picture - and cannot be valued highly enough.
Andreas has created the setting in which the music can unfold, sound and vibrate.
Seit 2017 betreibe ich diese Seite als Ein-Frau-Werkstatt für Gesang, Essay und Poesie. Seit 2022 engagiere ich mich als Produzentin für Der Himmel gehört allen.
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