Learning to love New Creations: Familiarity breeds content

I mentioned in my post yesterday how the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s eighth New Creations festival, which kicks off tomorrow night at Roy Thomson Hall, promises to be the most challenging yet.

Music director Peter Oundjian and composer-advisor Gary Kulesha have had a habit of selecting accessible new music for the annual festival, which made it easier for audiences to appreciate what is going on without prior listening and reading.

This year’s festival has some accessible fare, but a lot of the music, especially that of Peter Eötvös, the featured composer and conductor, benefits from a bit of prior exposure.

So, here’s a chance to get a foretaste some of tomorrow night’s music ahead of time.

(For full New Creations festival details and tickets, click here.)

Like Eötvös, Torontonian Brian Current is building a career as both a composer and conductor.

The New Creations festival opens with This Isn’t Silence, a 10-minute piece Current wrote in 1998 and revised in 2001. He has an audio clip of the piece on his website, here.

Pre-dating the piece by a couple of years in Quintet, which had a performance in Chicago in December:

The adventurous Montrealer was murdered in Paris in 1983, six weeks before his 35th birthday. He could be one of the most exotic composers this country has ever produced. He created his own language, both musically and vocally — both of which we get to hear in Lonely Child, which dates from 1980.

Here is tomorrow’s soloist, soprano Barbara Hannigan, speaking about the piece, followed by the first half of Lonely Child (I think this is from a 1996 Philips recording featuring soprano Susan Narucki):

Much of the music of Eötvös that I have heard expresses intense emotion, but in juxtapositions of sound built from Eötvös’ own take on the modernist tone row.

On Thursday, the TSO performs Seven, a 20-minute violin concerto that the composer wrote in response to the Columbia space shuttle tragedy nine years ago. The title of the concerto comes from the number of crew members killed in the accident. The number also figures prominently in the musical patterns, as well as in the way musicians are arranged on stage.

Here is violinist Akiko Suwanai, who we will hear in Toronto, in a fragment of Seven:

The dean of contemporary Hungarian composers (he turned 86 this month) contributes the first instalment of six movements from Messages, an ongoing orchestral suite. It opens with an homage to Peter Eötvös, and continues with musical ruminations on people and impressions dear to Kurtág’s heart. The initial six episodes date from the early- and mid-1990s.

There isn’t a YouTube clip available from Messages, so here are a couple of minutes from Stele, a piece composed at the same time. Bernard Haitink conducts the Berlin Philharmonic:

John Terauds


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