According to pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, ‘Becoming is the substance of the Being as each thing is subject to time and transformation: everything changes and transforms itself (‘panta rei’, that is, ‘everything flows’). All that sensorial perception identifies as being static is, in fact, dynamic and undergoing constant change. ‘Becoming’ is also the driving principle behind the DNA that will ultimately give rise to the upcoming International Contemporary Music Festival, promoted by Venice’s Biennale. Mutanti or Mutants was the name chosen as title for the festival’s fifty-fifth edition. For director Luca Francesconi, it responds to a basic need: ‘Perhaps, we are witnessing a genetic mutation of western culture and of our traditions. We live in a world that’s apt to make things appear out-of-date. And this goes for lots of things, not just thought. In-depth study, effort—even simply pen and paper—or practice and craftsmanship, all these elements are becoming a thing of the past. Today, everything is just a click away and, the temptation to free ourselves from the realm of memory is increasingly apparent, as we dream of becoming less bogged down. Biennale Musica 2011 speaks of ‘Mutants’—of something ending, at least as we know it and becoming another thing entirely.’
It’s necessary to go beyond mere exhibition and explore terrain linked to investigation and experimentation: a diktat motivated by the need to find one’s direction in a world and society where 2.0, social networks and multi-tasking risk hindering this sense of becoming. According to the event’s director, musicians with their notes and instruments take on a demiurge-like role aimed at understanding just what can be gained from society and the musical proposals it has advanced until now. With a program that showcases 76 composers and 80 scores (76 of which are world-premiers), this packed calendar includes 20 events ranging from concerts, installations, audio-visual performances, workshops and meetings. The Venice Biennale’s Music section will be open to the public from September 24 to October 1. ‘This year, the contributions of young people are even more in the forefront,’ explains president Paolo Baratta, ‘reconfirming the Biennale’s will to familiarize the world with some of the key experiences generated by single composters and ensembles as they successfully begin their journey inside the world of contemporary music.’
The festival’s inaugural concert is scheduled for September 24 at the Teatro alle Tese and it renders homage to Peter Eötvös, flanked by the orchestra SWR Sinfonieorchester Bade-Baden und Freiburg. During the evening, this celebrated composer and orchestra director will be awarded an enviable Golden Lion for his career. ‘Eötvös is an orchestra director who showed enormous precocious talent. He was an assistant composer to Karlheinz Stockhausen and acted as director for many of the latter’s works, including the great operas Stockhausen created three decades ago at La Scala (including Donnerstag aus Licht, 1981). As far back as the ‘70s, even Boulez entrusted Eötvös with the position of musical director for the newly created Ensemble Intercontemporain. These extraordinary experiences, carried out alongside some of the world’s greatest composers, introduced Eötvös into an overflowing river of music-based ideas and practices, transforming him into an all-around musician and master of his craft. Over the last 20 years, he has shown his extremely prolific creative strength as a composer. In both of his roles, Eötvös is known for his notable knowledge and the rare refinement of his ear. To this combination, he adds an iconoclastic experimental brand of joy.’
This concert is meant as a rightful tribute to the Bartòkian ancestry of Eötvös’s music, with a rendition of Tanz-Suite; a score rarely performed today, it gained acclaim thanks to Bartòk. In addition, audiences will appreciate Konzert für zwei Klaviere and Replica by Eötvös, which shows his connections to the past as well as his more advanced developments. The concert will reach its noteworthy conclusion with the notes of Stravinkij’s Agon, a score for dance—an art that gave rise to some of the Russian composer’s most significant musical innovations.
The event stresses the training of young people, with a focus on novelties generated by research and upheld by new names on the international music scene. Thanks to the Silver Lion award, the Biennale recognizes new generations; this year, organizers will be presenting the award to the Milanese ensemble, RepertorioZero.
RepertorioZero (September 27, Sala delle Colonne – Ca’ Giustinian) will make their Venetian appearance with an organic electric string quartet, accompanied by a sound director—an indispensible figure for a program intent on illustrating the developments and potential of electronics when applied to string instruments. They will be performing new pieces, alternated with scores that are already part of their contemporary repertoire. Novelties by Jean François Laporte and thirty-something composers Carlo Ciceri and Andrea Agostini will flank the Orchester-Finalisten of Stockhausen and Reich’s Different Trains.
Likewise, the Studio for New Music, Moscow (September 29, Teatro Malibran) is a newly formed group, created within Moscow’s conservatory to cater to young orchestra members and composers. In Venice, the ensemble will be showcasing a glimpse of the little-known Russian music scene. Expect top names like Vladimir Tarnopolski, a veteran guest of the Music Biennale, and Fajaj Karaev. Additionally, audiences will discover under-30 up-and-coming talents like Olga Bochihina, Alexej Sioumak, Nikolaj Khrust and Vladimir Gorlinski.
Then take a look at the younger generations, especially those dedicated to electronic and computer research, as they take a top spot at the 55th Festival. Expect two concerts developed in the world’s largest sound research center, IRCAM in Paris, on show at Venice’s Conservatory on September 28 and 30. And don’t miss a week-full of workshops designed to show young Italian composers how to use special working methods applied to new technologies such as advanced writing programs like Max, Max4Live, Open Music, etc. These two concerts will present composers that are particularly representative of this research, such as Franck Bedrossian, Yan Maresz, Yann Robin and Roque Rivas – as well as showcasing Italian composers who took specialized courses at the IRCAM: Francesca Verunelli, Andrea Agostini, Daniele Ghisi and Eric Maestri, all of whom are in their thirties.
Music lovers are gearing up for Sarò del cielo e dell’inferno – A patchwork opera (September 29, Conservatory), written, arranged and created entirely by students from the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory. This show will be flanked by Privo and an original rendition of Fluxus by Giuseppe Chiari and Giancarlo Cardini, based on Riccardo Vaglini’s Collective Ritual (September 26, Conservatory). This happy collaborative project was brainchild of Venice’s Biennale and the Venetian Conservatory; it was born from the will to support and uphold outstanding new creative energies.
In addition to prominent performances by the Teatro La Fenice’s Orchestra, an official partner of the Festival, audiences will be delighted by the National Symphonic Orchestra della Rai (September 27, Teatro Malibran) with its chamber music ensemble which will be interpreting music by Giorgio Colombo Taccani, Massimo Botter, Unsuk Chin, Staffan Storm and Thomas Adés. The Biennale will also see the return of the ultra-versatile FVG Mitteleuropa Orchestra (September 25, Teatro delle Tese). Directed by Andrea Pestalozza, the orchestra will be presenting a concert including scores by Kent Olofsson, Vittorio Zago, Pasquale Corrado combined with compositions by Aldo Clementi and Giacinto Scelsi.
The 55th Festival will also be presenting dynamic ensembles that are sure to shake up its concert calendar. The Italian group Sentieri Selvaggi will be presenting a music program by Steve Martland, Christina Athinodorou, Carlo Boccadoro, Giovanni Verrando, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Steve Reich (September 28, Teatro Malibran). Said performers will be flanked by the Ictus Ensemble of Brussels, featuring scores by rarely performed artists like Harry Patch or atypical authors like Kurt Schwitters, together with Iannis Xenakis, Fausto Romitelli and thirty-something talents Eva Reiter and Hikari Kiyama (October 1, Teatro alle Tese). Another Flemish ensemble bears witness to the area’s vitality: the Hermesensemble will be interpreting Medea’s Lament (September 26, Teatro Piccolo Arsenale), a concert-style musical performance that will bring together composer Wim Henderickx and poet/writer Peter Verhelst. Geblendet (September 30, Teatro Piccolo Arsenale), on the other hand, is a work of experimental musical theater which the Biennale will be sharing with Musik der Jahrhunderte of Stuttgart and Madrid’s Musicadhoy as part of the European Union’s Cultural Program. The brief works of Thoms Bernhard give rise to four different stories depicted in scores by Michael Beil, Mischa Käser, Manuel Hidalgo and Filippo Perocco. The performance will be led by French-German director Thierry Bruehl and executed by Paris’s Quatuor Diotima.
Expect a solo concert featuring Michaël Levinas, an outstanding pianist and composer who’s scheduled to present Beethoven’s music including an integrated cut of Sonatas and Ligeti as well as his own compositions (September 26 in Ca’ Giustinian’s Sala delle Colonne); meanwhile, there’s the Teatro La Fenice’s string quartet (September 25, Teatro Piccolo, Arsenale) which will perform music by George Crumb, Dmitri Shostakovich and Claude Lenners, a composer from Luxemburg.
On September 25 at Fondazione G. Cini’s Sala degli Arazzi, don’t miss the truly unique premier performance of Luigi Nono’s eight-performer A floresta é jovem e cheja de vida. It was philologically reconstructed by Veniero Rizzardi using part of the materials employed for the work’s 1966 recording. In the first two days of the festival, Teatro alle Tese will be transformed into a large-scale musical extravaganza with Arpa di Luce by musician and performer Pietro Pirelli: a visual and sound installation will extend its laser-chords in and out of Sansovino’s sixteenth-century columns. While passing through the area, the public will generate sound and visual effects. Ca’ Giustinian’s Portego will be hosting another installation for the whole duration of the festival; this notable work called Aura in Visibile.2 was created by composer Luigi Ceccarelli. At the center of the venue, there’ll be a grand piano that’s rigorously lacking a pianist. Thanks to mechanical exciters planned by the composer and regulated by a computer-controlled system, it will offer a slant that’s never been presented before. Mutanti, the festival’s title generates a whole series of themes and issues; mid-way through the Festival, don’t miss an exhilarating event (September 29 at Ca’ Giustinian’s Sala delle Colonne), featuring a meeting of the minds between writer Alessandro Baricco and sociologist Mauro Magatti, professor at Milan’s Università Cattolica, and author of the book Libertà immaginaria (Feltrinelli, 2009).
The 55th International Contemporary Music Festival will end with a bang on October 1, with a ‘theatrical gesture’ called Vogata rituale – cultura in memoriam, orchestrated by director Luca Francesconi. This ultra-original itinerary will depart from the Arsenal and lead the public along Venice’s waterways to the Island of San Michele which hosts the remains of various artists including Stravinskij.
Spend an evening enjoying music by Igor Stravinskij and Guillaume de Mauchaut, Luigi Nono and Gesualdo da Venosa, Claudio Monteverdi and Arvo Pärt, Verdi and Mozart. Throughout the centuries, all of these composers have succeeded in representing the living memory reflecting our music history. This event also represents a symbolic tribute, expressing the need to cultivate memory, which is being consistently moved to the back burner by the revolution of ‘data transmission’ and the take-over of the world-wide web. This cultural event was strongly promoted by Francesconi who reflects upon the changes that this revolution has generated within our lives, effecting our mentality and our futures.
The international nature of the festival, in terms of the program proposed and the artists involved, enhances the local territory’s efforts, thanks to a collaborative project that foresees the collaboration of the Veneto’s orchestras and ensembles, spotlighting institutions like Teatro La Fenice, the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory, the Archivio Nono and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. From this point of view, the Veneto Region should be highly commended for its programs linked to the live performance segment of Venice’s Biennale.
Rai Radio 3, on the other hand, will be responsible for leading Biennale Musica beyond Venice’s borders, gathering together a wider audience by spotlighting the festival’s key moments, either through live broadcasts or pre-recordings.