About Festival 2015
CONCEPT AND PROGRAMME 3rd EURASIA INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
Gyulara Sadykh-zade, Festival Programme Director
This is the third Eurasia International Music Festival. The festival is the largest in the region and is set up and organised by the Sverdlovsk State Philharmonic Hall. Festival events will take place between 6 – 16 October 2015 on the stage in the Philharmonic’s Great Hall. The festival will open and close with performances by the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra (UPO) led by Dmitry Liss, its chief conductor and artistic director.
It is no accident that a significant cultural institution like the Eurasia festival should be established in the capital of the Urals. Ekaterinburg is suited to an event like this due to its fortunate geopolitical position; the city straddles the invisible, yet culturally significant, border between Asia and Europe. The very location of the city, which acts as a hub for significant strands of cultural influence running from both east and west, defines the concept of the festival, the key aim of which is the fostering of intercultural dialogue between peoples and to bring to light the deep affinity of diverse cultural expressions. The study and representation of the multiple cultural and musical connections between east and west which take place within the festival context are the event’s inspiration and mission.
Lauso la mare e tente’n terro
‘Praise the sea and stay on land’
This year the festival programme focuses on the rich musical culture of the Mediterranean; given that the remote Urals are positioned at the intersection of routes from Russia and Europe, which reach as far as China and Japan, such a theme comes as no surprise. The clearest and most prolific examples of cultural dialogue in the Mediterranean lands can be detected right back to the earliest times. The Mediterranean region, a uniquely-structured civilisation which united land and sea, geography and politics, people and languages, became the inspiration for the majority of local cultures, and for a shared world view and perception of the world.
The motto of the third Eurasia festival is ‘Mediterranea’. The word is an amalgamation of echoes of ancient religions and civilisations which emerged in the region thousands of years ago. The Mediterranean basin is conventionally referred to as the ‘cradle of civilisation’. The definition is an apt one: the warm, ‘middle’ sea encompassing a multitude of smaller seas, which is dotted with islands, dissected by peninsulas and traced with the intricate outlines of the shore; a sea whose history is inextricably linked to that of the land, just as clay cannot be torn from the hand of the craftsman who shapes it. This sea, which today is surrounded by dozens of countries, in ancient times fed, warmed and nurtured Egyptian and other bygone civilisations; from the strata of ancient culture, from Aristotelian logic, from the dichotomy of Dionysian and Apollonian origins modern European civilisation emerged, and the fundamental patterns of European culture were formed.
Not far away, on the Arabian Peninsula, the three key monotheistic religions emerged: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, (now occupied by modern-day Iraq) saw the emergence of the great state of Mesopotamia and the ancient Sumerian civilisation.
Even today, however, the concept of ‘Mediterranean culture’ provides significant food both for thought and for the imagination. The concept includes Mediterranean cuisine and music, in all its various national guises. It also includes the Mediterranean way of life – that particular, unquenchable zest for life, healthy hedonism and happiness, which are as inextricably linked to our understanding of the region as its warm sun, its blue sea and sky, the yellow sands of its beaches and its green olive branches.
The Mediterranean is a crucible which has melded into an indivisible whole the patterns of Arabian music and Balkan folk tunes, in which the musical influences of Turkey are also clearly audible. Echoes of Mauritanian melodies are imprinted on archaic Provençal tunes, and in jaunty tarantellas and melancholy sicilianas the whispers of distant crusades may be heard. The wealth and variety of Mediterranean folk melodies have been the inspiration for a wide range of Italian, French, Spanish and Greek composers. In the music of Debussy and Ravel, in the symphonic extravagances of Ottorino Respighi, we sense the same unfettered, buoyant, Mediterranean spirit.
THE MEDITERRANEAN ETHNIC AND CULTURAL MOSAIC
The best musical illustration of the Mediterranean discourse are the folk tunes of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Turkey which have been lovingly selected for the exuberant musical collection presented by Christina Pluhar, leader of renowned ensemble L’Arpeggiata. The ensemble’s offering coordinates perfectly with the festival’s ‘Mediterranea’ motto. L’Arpeggiata will perform in conjunction with Cairo-based Sufi ensemble Al-Tariqa Al-Gazoulia. The performance will include authentic renditions of ancient Arab religious hymns and rhythmic songs of praise to Allah. However, the ensemble will be performing not only religious songs but Arab Nubian pieces: these are secular vocal and instrumental musical items performed in what is known as the ‘Andalusian style’, which emerged during the time of Mauritanian rule and which is still widespread throughout the southern Arab-African region of the Mediterranean (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt).
Two of these concerts appear in the festival programme under a single world music project entitled ‘From the Levant to Maghreb’. These terms were, and still are, used to refer to the countries of the Judeo-Islamic world, which surround the non-European side of the Mediterranean: the countries of the Levant (countries of the rising sun) – Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt and Turkey. The countries of the Maghreb: (countries of the setting sun) – Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania – in short, the Arab countries situated in north Africa.
Our special project, ‘From the Levant to Maghreb’ presents a collection of the ethnic music of both the European and non-European sides of the Mediterranean basin.
THE SYMPHONIC MAINSTREAM
The exotic subject material of the previous project is, however, no more than a vibrant interlude, a tribute to the popular world music movement. The mainstream festival programme is, of course, all about the symphonies.
In accordance with festival tradition, the opening performance will be by the UPO led by the festival’s artistic director Dmitry Liss. The time frame of this 10-day musical marathon will be bookended by two concerts by UPO – at the opening of the festival on 6 October, and the closing performance on 16 October – providing metaphorical ‘Pillars of Hercules’ as powerful musical buttresses on which the rest of the festival programme rests.
The festival will see two premiers, both in world terms and in Russian terms, performed by UPO as part of the orchestra’s programme of symphonies. This is also a tradition: for every festival, new compositions are commissioned from two composers, one from Russia and one from Asia. In this way, the festival fulfils its function as a cultural medium, spurring composers to pursue new creative impulses and broadening the orchestra’s repertoire. This year a new composition by the Moscow-based composer and pianist Anton Batagov will be performed at the opening of the festival. Entitled ‘I See Your Dream, You See My Dream’, the piece is for a large symphony orchestra and solo pianist and will feature the composer on the piano.
The joyful, meditative nature of this minimalist opus draws the listener to thoughtful contemplation from the very first sounds – an effect created by the pianist holding down the piano pedals for long periods. The transparency and delicacy of the sound, the sparse orchestral style, the quiet violin pizzicato and the harp arpeggiato, the modulation of the tone which recalls the sea sparkling in the sun – all combine to produce the emotional mood of the piece which may, perhaps, be compared to modern version of Debussy’s ‘The Sea’. To close, Dmitry Liss has selected a piece by the Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis entitled ‘The Isle is Full of Noises’, which is inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’.
At the closing concert on 16 October, UPO will perform a new symphonic opus by veteran Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa entitled ‘Fluss’ (‘River’). In addition to this, two other compositions on the theme of rivers will be performed as part of the programme: Giya Kancheli’s sombre, solo viola piece ‘Styx’ and Smetana’s serene, radiant ‘Vltava.’
The world premiere of ‘Fluss’ took place in the autumn of 2014, but the piece will see its Russian premiere at the festival. The piece was composed especially for the anniversary of the Arditti Quartet, a group which specialises in landmark performances of the most complex and esoteric modern music. Suffice to say that composers such as Wolfgang Rihm and Salvatore Sciarrino have written pieces for the quartet. The quartet will act as a soloist for the performance of ‘Fluss’, as if it were four musicians in one body.
FROM RESPIGHI TO ROMITELLI
The concert by the RAI Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra sinfonica nazionale della RAI) led by Marco Angius promises to be a sensation. The orchestra will perform Ottorino Respighi’s seldom-heard, but extremely beautiful Gregorian music for violin and orchestra with Josef Špaček, as the soloist.
The Italian component of the programme is full of surprises and intriguing compositions. ‘Dead City Radio’, Fausto Romitelli’s mysterious opus, full of whispers and murmurs, has never before been performed in Russia. Romitelli is an important figure in the world of classical composers and is regarded as an absolute genius who largely defined the landscape of Italian music in the 20th century. Unfortunately Romitelli’s work is largely unknown within Russia, and it is only in the past 1-2 years that Russian musicians have begun to acquaint themselves with it.
The retrospective of 20th century Italian music will continue with Bruno Maderna’s ‘Composition No.1’, which has also never previously been performed in Russia.
Two days beforehand, on 14 October, as part of the chamber music programme the Arditti Quartet will present the key pieces from their repertoire which made them famous: Iannis Xenakis’ ‘Tetras’, string quartets by Bartok and Ligeti, Hokosawa’s ‘Silent Flowers’ and ‘Susma’ (‘Don’t be Silent’), a string miniature composed by young Turkish composer and Siemens Foundation laureate Zeynep Gedizlioğlu.
Another world first will be presented on October 9. ‘David’s River’, a new work by a Olga Viktorova, a resident of Ekaterinburg, will premier in the Big Hall of the Sverdlovsk Phylharmony. The piece – composed for a vocalist and two multi-instrumentalists – will be performed by counter-tenor Oleg Bezinskyh, flutist Edyta Fil and percussionist Pyotr Glavatskykh. A joint Russo-Polish project, this work is a mono-opera based on parables about the legendary King David, and on his psalms. They were first reversioned for the Slavonic world by Jan Kochanowski, a Polish Renaissance poet. At the end of the 16th century, his verses were put to music by Mikołaj Gomółka. The Slavonic phonetics of the psalms will be supplemented by a real poliphonic sound, combining Latin and English, German and French. These languages work together to transform David’s religious experience into a stream of prayers about God and Man.
The festival programme does not consist solely of a Mediterranean theme, however. Continuing the precedent established in previous festivals, the Sverdlovsk Philharmonic has once again included in its programme performances by a Chinese orchestra. On this occasion, the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra will be taking part. On 12 October the orchestra will perform a fully traditional programme, the central performance being a Dvořák symphony. On 15 October the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Ural Youth Symphony Orchestra will perform together as a single, international orchestra, illustrating in the best possible way the musical dialogue taking place on the border between Europe and Asia.
 Levant (from the ancient French ‘Soleil levant’-‘rising sun’) – a general term for the countries in the eastern part of the Mediterranean (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey etc.), or, in its narrower sense – Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. Arabs call this territory ash-Sham (Arabic الشام), Jews – Eretz-Yisrael (Hebrew ארץ ישראל) – the lands of Israel or Aretz Muvtakhat (Hebrew. ארץ מובטחת) – the Promised Land.