Chamber music explorations at Lysebu, January 2015

Posted on January 24th, 2015 by


Colour inspiration. First light on fresh snow. 25 1 15

Colour inspiration. First light on fresh snow. 25 1 15

Concert at Lysebu 24/1/15. Listening to Britten and Schubert

Concert at Lysebu 24/1/15. Listening to Britten and Schubert

I arrived at Lysebu late on Friday 23rd January, just as a light fall of snow was coming in.

First night at Lysebu 23 1 15

First night at Lysebu 23 1 15

This is the Norwegian arm of the Dansk Norsk Fondet, which has its Danish base at the beautiful Schaeffergaarden, north of Copenhagen. Here I met with my dear friend Anders Beyer, the director of the Bergen Festival, responsible for much  of my adventuring in the last two years. More on my other colleagues and the young musicians here will follow. My work here will focus on the ‘hunt for colour’, which has marked out so much of my work with composers over the years.

Conifer, lamplight, hillside, snow 23 1 15

Conifer, lamplight, hillside, snow 23 1 15

But a word of exploration about the morning workshop. It has always been clear to me, that one great challenge is to find the language which each composer, or group of composers needs. Of course, along with that, when there has been the opportunity to work, very long term, with a composer, comes the exciting possibility of forging a shared syntax, colour, even an imagined instrument. This all links to the possibility, that, as musicians, we have a chance to ‘open the workshop door’, and get inside the process of composition, and hopefully/maybe, be of some use. So workshops exploring colour, seem to be exciting, and I have pursued this, with colleagues of all ages, on three continents. But now, to work…

Opening the composers workshop. Carl Nielsen Conservatory, Odense, 2004 (composers Rasmus Zwicki and Lars Bagger at right) Photo Richard Bram

Opening the composers workshop. Carl Nielsen Conservatory, Odense, 2004 (composers Rasmus Zwicki and Lars Bagger at right) Photo Richard Bram

 

Later same day: This morning, I had the great pleasure of sitting down to work with the great young players here,  Edvard Erdal,Amalie Kjældgaard, Cecilie Emtoft,Minna Svedberg, Theodor Lyngstad, Brage Blix, Stinius Maurstad,  Bjørn Sanders, Theodor Lyngstad.

A cellist having a Walt Whitman moment. Bjørn Sanders and Theodor Lyngstad at Lysebu. 24 1 15

A cellist having a Walt Whitman moment. Bjørn Sanders and Theodor Lyngstad at Lysebu. 24 1 15

The morning session revolved around the question of compositional colour, and ended with a performance of a short piece build by the students, of colours and textures emerging from what I like to call the ‘omnichord’… We worked in some detail on issues of timbre, technique, and close listening. I am very aware that there is an important gap to be bridged between notation and precise control of expression and colour.

End of the morning colour workshop-with reference to Widmann, Sadie Harrison, Nigel Clarke (Nigel, look closely at the stand), Henze, Glass, Sculthorpe, Lachenmann..24 1 15

End of the morning colour workshop-with reference to Widmann, Sadie Harrison, Nigel Clarke (Nigel, look closely at the stand), Henze, Glass, Sculthorpe, Lachenmann.. 24 1 15

There’s no question that this was inspired by the extraordinary beauty around us-there was heavy snow over the last 12 hours, so the ploughs have been in today. It’s undeniable, that so much of this is the counterpoint between the natural beauty outside, and the atmosphere of the architecture of Lysebu, the art gathered in it’s walls, and most importantly of all, the sense of a haven for ideas, for thought, for the nourishing of the mind and body, which this extraordinary place achieves.

A place to work, to think

A place to work, to think

 

Snow, lichen, moss 24 1 15

Snow, lichen, moss 24 1 15

In the afternoon, Tim Fredriksen (the wonderful Copenhagen based violinist and viola player) and I alternated working with the separate quartets, on Haydn, Schubert and Britten. It has been fantastic to exchange ideas with this pioneering player for the first time. He was a student of Erling Bloch, and later, Max Rostal. I was so excited to meet him, and to talk to this musical idealist; and of course, to ask for the stories of his teachers and colleagues. If there is one thing performers love, it is to share stories, and these few days were full of them.

Viola virtuoso Tim Frederiksen listens 24 1 14

Viola virtuoso Tim Frederiksen listens 24 1 14

The workshop relies as much on the ideas which flow from my colleagues, and their responses to the materials I brought with me. The pieces which I pulled from the pile which I had in my suitcases included works by Nigel Clarke, Sadie Harrison, Hans Werner Henze, Philip Glass, Haflidi Hallgrimsson, Jorg Widmann and more. Later in the day, I was talking with the cellist Jakob Kullberg about the performer’s obligation to take a possibly ‘invasive’ approach to the score-reminding me that the border between the fields of activity of performer and composer is one which should shift, and often, be broken down!

Widmann-Etude for inspiration-colour workshop

Widmann-Etude for inspiration-colour workshop

In the afternoon, we worked with the young quartets, the Alba and Ergo groups. In my case, that meant Haydn and Britten 3; quite strange to be thinking about this piece, which is so much about Suffolk, and about Venice, on a mountainside in Norway, with the snow piled outside.

Night at Lysebu. 24 1 15

Night at Lysebu. 24 1 15

In the afternoon, I was honoured by a visit from the great scholar of Ole Bull and Nordic music making in the 1800s, Harald Herresthal. His work has been a great inspiration in my own rather idiosyncratic pursuit of Bull over the past two years. So it was fantastic to sit and talk, and to share ideas about this pioneering musician. Here’s a link to some of my work on the subject: LINK

Harl

Harald Herresthal 24 1 15

 

A place like this makes me reflect on the importance of the various counterpoints that we have to what we do as artists. This can be, obviously surroundings, food, conversation, the other arts, and of course, reading. Over the past three days, the Lysebu project put in high relief the impact of the books which I was reading. These were: Samuel Pepys-Letters, Rachel Hewitt’s history of the founding of the Ordnance Survey, and a book by the prodigious Robert Byron-‘First Russia, Then Tibet’. I realised that a line from this book became a ‘motto’ for my whole weekend, describing drawing on the Jong mountain in Tibet, in 1933:  ‘….this friendly, almost proprietary interest in my doing filled the afternnon with soothing and content, as the shadows drew out and I sat on the heights absorbing the remote and gorgeous beauty unfolded at my feet’ (P.219). This summed up the experience of being in the care of Dansk-Norsk Fondet this weekend.

 

Counterpoints-snow-sclupted light 25 1 15

Counterpoints-snow-sclupted light 25 1 15

Returning home, and back to practice for the upcoming concert of Beethoven and David Matthews LINK, I find that the impressions of this sojourn on the mountain, however short, are still with me. I am preparing for an exhibition in Cyprus in March LINK, and the watercolour that has emerged since returning from Norway is profoundly influenced by being there. To see more of this cycle, go to LINK

No 21 Morning Song-January 27 1

No 21 Morning Song-January 27 1

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