Péter Eötvös Concertos (Seven / Levitation / CAP-KO)
Since the beginning, Péter Eötvös’s musical thinking has been characterized by a strong affinity for the stage. Although this is apparent in his instrumental works, perhaps the most dramatic instrumental genre, the concerto, did not occupy an important place in his early creative period. But in the period from his first large opera, Three Sisters (finished in 1997) up to the present, the concerto is perhaps the most important and most characteristic of his genres.
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (Göteborgs Symfoniker) (1-5, 11-15)
BBC Symphony Orchestra (6-10)
Conducted by Péter Eötvös
Soloists: Akiko Suwanai - violin (1-5)
Richard Hosford, John Bradbury - clarinet (6-10)
Pierre-Laurent Aimard - piano (11-15)
About the album
Tracks 1-5 recorded at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall of the Palace of Arts Budapest, as part of the Budapest Spring Festival, on 30 March, 2008; produced with kind permission of Budapest Spring Festival and MTVA
Tracks 6-10 recorded at the Barbican Hall London on 14 May, 2011 as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Barbican season; produced in association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with thanks to the Barbican Centre and the City of London
Tracks 11-15 recorded by the Swedish Radio at the Gothenburg Concert Hall on 2 and 3 February, 2006
Mixed and mastered by Péter Eötvös and Péter Dorozsmai at Tom-Tom Studio, Budapest on 22 May, 2013
Music publisher: Schott Musik International GmbH & Co. KG, Mainz
Pierre-Laurent Aimard appears courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft mbH
Artwork: László Huszár / Greenroom
Producer: László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Arnold Whittall - Gramophone (en)
Patrick Klingenschmitt - Neue Zeitschrift für Musik **** (de)
Laurent Bergnach - Anaclase.com (fr)
Franpi Barriaux - Sun Ship (fr)
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Paco Yáñez - Mundoclasico.com (es)
Gianluigi Mattietti - Classic Voice ***** (it)
Paolo Tarsi - excerpt from the book "L'algebra delle lampade" (it)
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Tadashi Yamanouchi - The Record Geijuts (日本語 - ja)
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Z.K. Slabý - His Voice (cz)
Robert Kolář - Hudobny Zivot (sk)
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Németh Attila - ekultura.hu (hu)
Trencsényi Zoltán - NOL (hu)
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Márton Attila - Demokrata (hu)
Czékus Mihály - HFP online (hu)
Péter Eötvös: Seven (2006) Memorial for the Columbia Astronautsfor violin and orchestra
Péter Eötvös: Levitation (2007) for two clarinets, string orchestra and accordion
Péter Eötvös: CAP-KO (2007) dedicated to Béla Bartók, Concerto for Acoustic Piano, Keyboard and Orchestra
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
The three concerti on this disc were written in three consecutive years, all to commission. Another point they have in common is that each work takes as its starting point some kind of programme, which significantly determined both the method of composition and the sound. Eötvös also drew freely on his own musical and extra-musical experiences in depicting the dramatic situations, and presenting emotional states, using even illustrative musical elements.
Seven, a violin concerto written in 2006, is in memory to the seven astronauts who died in the tragic accident of space shuttle Columbia on 1 February 2003. Eötvös was deeply affected by the catastrophe, and the video reports made after it, which were shown on almost every TV channel in the world. Because the seven astronauts were selected so as to represent the cultural diversity of the world, Eötvös saw their death as the tragedy of an ideal. On the basis of the biographical data available he imagined the personality of the astronauts, and sketched their musical portrait in the four cadenzas at the beginning of the work. The atmosphere of space travel and the tense psychological state preceding the pre-landing catastrophe is conjured up by many means, mostly through orchestration: such is the sound imitating the acoustic of the space shuttle’s cabin, or the rising, threatening boom at the end of the first movement. At the end of the piece, the alto flute joins the solo violin and as a kind of “Earthmother” mourns and receives the martyrs’ earthly remains.
The number seven appears in many forms in the work: the orchestra comprises 49 musicians divided into seven groups, with the soloist complemented by a further six violins, whom Eötvös places on a balcony, and who symbolize the floating, spatial after-images of the astronauts. The number seven also plays a leading role in the work’s rhythmic and metrical structure, with bars of seven beats and the frequent appearance of quick septuplets. Seven was written to a commission from the Lucerne Festival and the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo, and was premiered on 6 September 2007 at the Lucerne Festival, with the soloist Akiko Suwanai, conducted by Pierre Boulez.
By then the score of Levitation, for two clarinets, strings and harmonica, was probably finished. (After the premiere Eötvös made some alterations, and the final version is dated 2010.) It was commissioned by the Canary Islands Music Festival, and at the premiere the two clarinettists were Sabine and Wolfgang Meyer (to whom it is dedicated), with the Finnish Radio Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo on 13 February in Tenerife. Eötvös himself has said that he had a recurrent childhood dream of rising up in a kneeling position, gliding through the air, over the objects on the ground, and as far as he remembers in the dream this experience seemed perfectly natural. To this memory are added the memories of levitation scenes familiar from sci-fi movies, and the closing scene of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, where the figure of Petrushka floats over the roof.
Eötvös’s conviction is that music is naturally able to give a suggestive representation of abstract situations, and so is able to give a sense of floating or even weightlessness. In this four-movement work the markedly gesticulatory, block-like homophony of the strings, sometimes coloured by the harmonica, is counterposed to the airy “levitational” movement of the two clarinets. Because the two soloists play on clarinets in A and B-flat respectively, the natural abrasion created by the multiphonics using the same fingering, and the resulting floating of sound increases the sense of “weightlessness” significantly. The brilliant and humorous last movement, the “resurrection of Petrushka” leads into a fairy-tale atmosphere to the work’s close.
Of these three concertos CAP-KO was written the earliest, in 2005. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra jointly commissioned a work to commemorate Béla Bartók, for the 125th anniversary of his birth.
A natural starting point seemed to Eötvös to be Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, which also exists as a concerto for two pianos and orchestra. In CAP-KO however one pianist plays two concert grands, of which one is a traditional piano, the other a MIDI instrument. This explains the work’s title, which is an abbreviation of Concerto for Acoustic Piano, Keyboard and Orchestra. The basic idea for the work was a texture Bartók was fond of and often used in his piano concertos, in which the two hands of the pianist move in parallel in fast tempo, but at varying intervals. In CAP-KO the soloist can accomplish this with one hand with the help of the MIDI piano and a technician, whose task is to vary the intervals coupled with the played part. Thus the audience sees one soloist, but actually hears the playing of two soloists: the illusion of a kind of “hypervirtuosity”.
The compositional problem was that when the work was written the tone of the MIDI piano was not yet satisfactory, which is why Eötvös decided on the “two pianos, one player” arrangement. The five-movement work has no actual quotations from Bartók, yet almost every sound somehow reflects Bartók’s music. Eötvös’s theatrical, or rather filmic way of thinking is most evident in the fourth movement. The programme of the movement is “Bartók crosses the ocean”, and here alongside the “ocean drum” conjuring up the murmuring of the sea, the sounds of two cymbals evoke the sounds of the receding war. The closing movement demands extreme virtuosity from all performers, and the audience can enjoy redoubled virtuosity, thanks to the special techniques mentioned above. The premiere was held in the Herkulessaal in Munich on 26 January 2006, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard on the piano, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer.
Translated by Richard Robinson