Monday, May 21, 2018

Hans Thomalla: Critical Engagements with History

The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome Hans Thomalla as senior composer at this year’s June in Buffalo festival. Currently Associate Professor of Composition at Northwestern University, he also founded and directs the university’s Institute for New Music, Northwestern’s counterpart to UB’s Center for 21st Century Music. Thomalla’s work has been widely performed in North America, Europe, and beyond, by ensembles Ensemble Recherche, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Musikfabrik, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble Ascolta, Spektral Quartet, and Trio Accanto, and soloists Nicolas Hodges, Lucas Fels, Marcus Weiss, Sarah-Maria Sun, and Yukiko Sugawara. Awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer Prize, the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis, the Christoph-Delz-Prize, and a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Remarkably for a mid-career composer, two of his operas have been produced in high profile settings: Fremd at the main stage of the Stuttgart Opera in 2011, Kaspar Hauser at the Freiburg Opera in 2016; a third opera Dark Spring will be produced by the Mannheim Opera in Spring 2019.

While Thomalla is highly regarded as a composer, he is also in demand as a lecturer, writer, and pedagogue. Thomalla’s invitation to this year’s festival follows his guest artist residency at the Center in spring 2017, where he gave a masterclass to graduate students as well as a particularly well-received talk on how his compositions converse with historical musical conventions. Additional teaching and lecturing, for instance, at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and the SWR Experimentalstudio’s MATRIX course, has also been highly regarded.

At this year’s June in Buffalo festival, he will give a public lecture on his work on Tuesday, June 5, at 10am in Baird Hall, as well as multiple masterclasses to the festival’s participant composers. Thomalla’s discourse about music is an unusually sophisticated one, informed not only by a knowledge of musical histories, but also by knowledge of non-musical fields like philosophy, cultural theory, and semiotics; these diverse knowledges are then synthesized into a highly original critical perspective on music making. The composer has posted numerous texts on his website; the recent “Traces of Meaning” makes a particularly consequential intervention in discussions about text-music relationships in recent opera.

This year’s festival features performances of three Thomalla works, including a relatively new one. Chamber music is perhaps the core of his work, and Buffalo audiences are fortunate to have opportunities to hear two of the composer’s challenging chamber works. On Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet performs Albumblatt, Thomalla’s deconstruction of the “album leaf,” the diaristic 19th-century music genre. On Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En presents the commposer’s Momentsmusicaux for mixed chamber ensemble, a work that negotiates between aesthetic extremes of 19th century Western art music: the technocratic aesthetics of Theobald Boehm and the lyric aesthetics of Johannes Brahms, each embodied in fragments sampled to generate the music’s surface.

The festival will also present a performance of a relatively new Thomalla work—Air for solo violin, performed by violin soloist extraordinaire and long-term Thomalla collaborator Irvine Arditti. This piece is the latest in the composer’s increasingly concrete, and yet critical, engagement with the materials of historical tonality. Thomalla writes that in recent years he has become

…more and more interested in the formal possibilities of tonality. Less because of what I increasingly experienced as a staleness of a certain “jargon of New Music,” but rather for my personal rediscovery of tonality’s syntactic semantic potential, a discovery I made through a re-engagement with music of composers such as Eisler and Sondheim. It is less the “development music” tonality of the classic romantic period, but that of song…its melodies hardly ever consolidate in tonal cadences, but are characterized by a tonality of constant modulatory drift.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.