It’s a fearless composer who takes on explicit comparison with a major masterwork of the past. There’s the case of Brahms, who worried about the shadow of Beethoven when he came to write his own First Symphony. There’s a swathe of composers who seem to fret at the burden of history when they write their first string quartet.
And then there are the brave ones, such as Frederic Rzewski, who took on a commission to write a companion piece to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and in 1975 produced The People United Will Never Be Defeated!, a set of 36 variations on the Chilean protest song ¡El Pueblo Unido Jameas Será Vencido!.
In 2005, Russian composer Alexander Raskatov wrote a successor to the string quartet version of the sequence of seven slow movements which make up Haydn’s Seven Last Words. In Ireland, this work has taken on an extraordinary life since Francis Humphrys programmed it at the first West Cork Chamber Music Festival in 1996, when the Parisii Quartet’s performance also featured readings by the late Michael Hartnett from his Mountains fall on us.
Raskatov’s Monk’s Music uses texts by St Silouan the Athonite, setting them for solo bass voice, and following them with meditations for string quartet, only joining voice and instruments briefly at the very end. The music is written in a style that’s easy to describe but hard to pin down. It’s a style that effectively eschews style, or, rather, that feels free to draw on any and every style.
The ambition to rove freely through musical history is one that many composers seem ready to indulge in. Composers of film music do it all the time, and the adoption of old musical clothes has resulted in a wide range of pieces that audiences still love, from Grieg’s Holberg Suite, to Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, to Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite (which is getting performances from the Irish Chamber Orchestra this month, in Limerick and Dublin, on Thursday 21st and Saturday 23rd).
Grieg, Stravinsky and Shchedrin give the impression of having a foot in two worlds, the world of their chosen past and the world of their actual present. Raskatov’s work is more like the music of an imagined future, where disparate elements and gestures from musical history have become blended into a new lingua franca. He emulates the meditative, time-stilling quality of Haydn’s music by going back to basics, to a world in which a simple pulsation, a flutter, a slide, a shift from consonance to dissonance, or even a silence can become an all-consuming event.
Monk’s Music was written for Valentin Berlinsky, founding cellist of the great Borodin Quartet (who sadly didn’t live to play it). The music waited eight years before its mesmerising premiere last Friday at St Nicholas Church of Ireland in Dundalk, by Gordon Jones and the Carducci Quartet.
Louth Contemporary Music Society, who promoted the concert, are also recording it for release on CD.
Louth Contemporary Music Society presents the world premiere performance of a fantastic new spiritual work Monk’s Music by the Russian Composer Alexander Raskatov. Monk’s Music will be performed by the Carducci Quartet and Gordon Jones of the Hilliard Ensemble.The performance will take place on Friday 8 February 2013 in St. Nicholas’ Church of Ireland Dundalk (The Green Church).
Raskatov’s composition Monks Music is based on seven brief texts by the Russian Orthodox monk Elder (“Starets”) Silouan, who was described by Thomas Merton as the “most authentic monk of the 20th century”, and declared a saint in 1987. Loosely modelled on Hadyn’s Seven Last Words from the Cross, Raskatov has scored the work, by turns mystical and dramatic, for solo bass and string quartet. It was written in memoriam Alfred Schnittke.
By inviting international composers and musicians to perform and educate in Louth, Louth Contemporary Music Society (LCMS) has been at the forefront of contemporary music in Ireland. The long list of composers including Arvo Pärt, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, John Zorn to Sofia Gubaidulina and Valentyn Silvestrov demonstrates the quality and stature of LCMS events. LCMS has exposed Irish audiences to unfamiliar yet current music and composers in a manner that is universally praised by audiences and critics alike.
Monk’s Music will be the first time the music of Alexander Raskatov has been presented in Ireland. The composer, fresh from his success with the opera A Dog’s Heart, a De Nederlandse Opera/ENO production, which will be presented in La Scala del Milano in March 2013 conducted by Valerie Gergiev, will come to Ireland for the premiere of his beautiful mystical work Monk’s Music.
Raskatov whom Alfred Schnittke once called “one of the most interesting composers of his generation” has received commissions for new works from Gidon Kremer, the Sabine Meyer Wind Ensemble, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Hilliard Ensemble and the Schoenberg Ensemble, among others. He received the composition prize of the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1998. Raskatov was born in Moscow in 1953 and finished his studies at Moscow Conservatory in 1978. In 1990 he joined the Russian Contemporary Music Association. His interests centre especially on vocal and instrumental chamber music and symphonic sonorities.
The Carducci Quartet is recognised as one of today’s most successful young string quartets. Based in the UK, the quartet holds residencies at Cardiff University and Dean Close School and is visiting quartet in residence at Trinity Laban in London, Repton School and the Cork School of Music in Ireland. Regulars at London’s Wigmore Hall, they perform throughout the UK, including their own festival in Highnam, Glos.
Monk’s Music is funded by the Arts Council and financially supported by Create Louth.
Further Information & listings see below or log onto: www.louthcms.org
St. Nicholas Church of Ireland Dundalk
Friday 8 February 2013 | 8.00pm | €10(includes a glass of wine in the Wellington Hall)
Tickets – 0818 205 205 | www.centralticketbureau.com
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Eamonn Quinn T: +353 86 2632408 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Louth Contemporary Music Society in association with Temple Bar Trad Festival and Cois Cladaigh present a new arrangement of Seán Ó Riada’s Mass by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky performed by the EQ Singers with Zoe Conway on fiddle, Siobhan Armstrong on harp and Robbie Harris on bodhrán, conducted by Eamonn Dougan in St.Werburgh’s Dublin on Thursday 24 January 2013 and St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church Galway, on Friday 25 January 2013. Iarla Ó Lionáird will appear as a special guest for the Dublin performance.
The music of composer Seán Ó Riada, who is credited with re-igniting the popularity of Irish traditional music, is celebrated by Louth Contemporary Music Society (LCMS) in these unique performances of a new arrangement of his Mass in January 2013.
The new arrangement was completed by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, a composer of international fame. A native of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, he most recently has been a composer-in-residence at Harvard University and Dartmouth College. Yanov-Yanovsky has received commissions from celebrated musicians including the renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet and Hilliard Ensemble. Yanov-Yanovsky’s music was first performed in Ireland at LCMS’s Sounds of the Silk Road Concert at Drogheda Arts Festival in 2011. Yanov-Yanovsky has arranged the mass for 16 voices, fiddle, harp and bodhrán.
The mass will be performed by the finest Irish professional singers in the newly formed EQ Singers, with Zoe Conway on fiddle, Siobhan Armstrong on harp and Robbie Harris on bodhrán. The choir and players will be conducted by Eamonn Dougan Associate Conductor of internationally renowned ensemble The Sixteen.
The performances will take place in St.Werburgh’s Dublin at 8pm on Thursday 24 January 2013 and St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church Galway, at 8pm on Friday 25 January 2013 . Iarla Ó Lionáird will appear as a special guest for the Dublin performance.
The Ó Riada Mass has been funded by the Arts Council’s Traditional Arts Touring Programme scheme and is financially supported by Foras na Gaeilge.
Further Information & listings see below or log onto: www.louthcms.org
St. Werburgh’s, Werburgh St, Dublin 2
Thursday 24 January 2013 | 8.00pm | €15(including booking fee)
Tickets – 01 7030709 | www.templebartrad.com
St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway
Friday 25 January 2013 | 8.00pm | €15 & €12 Concession
Tickets: 091 756812 | www.coiscladaigh.net
Louth Contemporary Music Society is financially supported by the Arts Council and Create Louth