The Grand Tour – CD launch concerts

The Nordic Brass Ensemble marks the launch of the album ‘European Tour’ with a concert tour in Germany, Austria and the Czech republic.

Concerts

17. October : Pölsen (AUS)

18. October : Landshut (DE)

19. October : Prag (CZ)

21. October : Sauerland-Herbst Festival (DE)

About the CD : See this post

About the program – “The Grand Tour”

As well as music from the CD, the concerts will feature music from a big variery of styles and genres.

We have named this program ‘The Grand Tour’. This has no connection to Jeremy Clarkson, but rather is inspired by the 17th century tradition of young men from wealthy families, trekking the continent over months or years to experience the art, music, and cultural roots of the so called Western civilization. However, this evening’s musical tour is for everyone to enjoy, and extended – spanning from the renaissance up to our own time. We have even added an exotic detour, and an unexpected finish. A Grand Tour indeed.

We start in Spain around the year 1500 with music by the mathematician and composer Bartolomé R. de Pareja. We criss-cross renaissance Europe, before making a big detour, following the Jesuit missionaries all the way to beautiful and – to us – exotic Bolivia. Nordic Brass Ensemble are very happy to present some of this country’s proud musical heritage, written by indigenous composers of the 16th and 17th century.

Returning to Europe, we enjoy Adriano Banchieri and his fascination for creating small dramatic works using the madrigal style, but with characters and a storyline (the madrigal comedy). His Contrapunctus Bestialis was revolutionary in its time, and still today it is an absolutely crazy piece of music, involving the sounds of cats, dogs, sheep and cuckoos.

Our Grand Tour is going to move towards our own time in the second half of the concert. Anticipating more modern times and styles, we finish our first half in 18th century Germany, with three movements from J. S. Bach’s famous and fabulous Brandenburg Concertos.

The second half cannot be summarized in an easy, linear, or logical way – just as the history and of present and recent past Europe can (and should) not. The 20th century was shaped by powerful political and economical turmoils, technical and scientific revolutions, all in all making the world both bigger and smaller; more complex and more tied together. Culture, arts and music responded to this, in all various ways, creating a myriad of new directions and ideas, seeking unheard-of ways of expression. We present a selection of music to reflect this tumultuous diversity.

Political turmoils made Hanns Eisler a 20th century Europe refugee. He was a front-line soldier of the Austro-Hungarian army, later an American political immigrant, later still an American political emmigrant, forced to a restless return to East Berlin. Eisler was one of Arnold Schönberg’s most acclaimed students. His tutor, however, was dismissive of Eisler’s preoccupation with ‘popular’ music genres. But Eisler had a devotion, a message to deliver, and he became one of the most iconic artists of the socialist movement. He is most known for his fighting songs and for the many stage works made in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht. Tonight, however, we celebrate the instrumental, concertante Eisler, with a movement from one of his Orchestral Suites.

Fighting songs and marches have been a ‘cultural aspect’ of warfare since the invention of the drum (which is long ago). It is of course debatable if war has anything to do with culture, and vice versa. But this debate, alas, is too big to fit into a humble concert program. Mauricio Kagel was, like Eisler, devoted to exploring the crossing-points between music and theatre, often taking ‘theatrical’ elements into his music. His marvelous10 Märsche um den Sieg zu verfehlen is a satirical commentary to – or even a protest against – the tradition of military marches. Marches were used to heighten the spirits of the troops, and written within strict boundaries of style, form and structure. Kagel’s marches, bending and breaking these boundaries and stylistic rules, may well have the opposite effect.

The third modern German composer we present is Hans Werner Henze. He wrote within a very wide range of styles and genres, and – like Eisler and Kagel – was much devoted to music for, and in interaction with, theatre. His Ragtimes & Habaneras is a truly joyful and very humouristic piece, spoken with a 20th century dialect.

Eisler was a communist, persecuted and frequently on the move throughout his life. Kagel was jewish, his parents fleeing from Russia to Argentina in the 1920’s. Henze was an avowed Marxist and a homosexual, and moved to Italy partly to avoid critical confrontation. Witold Lutoslawski met no less hardship, his life intercepting with modern Europe’s most barbaric and unjust circumstances. Aged 2, after the outbreak of WWI, his family fled their home in Warsaw and settled in Moscow. Aged 5, after the Russian revolution, both parents were executed by the Bolshevik government. During WWII he was captured by German soldiers, but escaped and walked 400km back to Warsaw. He lost his brother, who was not successful in escaping Russian captivity, and later died in a Siberian work camp. Lutoslawski earned a living performing in cafés with fellow pianist and composer Andrzej Panufnik, in a time where organized gatherings (like concerts) and any performance of Polish music was forbidden by the Nazi regime. Of the 200 unique arrangements the composer-duo created, only one piece survived the Nazi’s destruction of the city following the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 – The Paganini Variations.

No small number of European musicians, composers or other artists went to Northern- or Southern America during the last century. Many, like Eisler, to avoid persecution, some just for inspiration (and some maybe even both). We therefore end our musical Grand Tour in ‘The new World’. We finish our display of variety in expression and style with Joe Zawignul’s fireworks tune ‘Birdland’ and Charles Ives’ Variations on “America”.

 

 

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