Music will remember the past

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One of the basic tenets of the "classical" avant-garde half a century ago was the rejection of everything former: no more old genres, no more gilded opera halls. No to the frowning Beethoven, quotations from the classics, and classical instruments! But along with the constant breaking of habits, the abolition of rules and the collapse of conventions, modern music seeks to work with the past.

Opera

Composers who compose the newest and most radical music willingly turn to older forms as well. 2017 saw the premiere of a violin concerto by one of Russia's most significant contemporary composers, Sergei Nevsky (b. 1972). The chiseled concerto form with classical hallmarks (solo violin and orchestra, three-part structure), which is about three hundred years old, was combined with features of graunda (see the chapter on clavier music of the 17th century in "A Brief History"), and modern acoustic experiments like the sound of a fork clanking on a plate.

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Opera continues to be written, staged, and discussed

This genre with a four-hundred-year history is alive and well, although it was prophesied to die in the 20th century. Wrong was one of the great opera masters of the last century, the Englishman Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), who said of himself: "I am probably an anachronism. I am an opera composer." Sensational opera premieres in recent years have been the works of the Briton George Benjamin (b. 1960), Written on Skin (2012) and Lessons in Love and Cruelty (2018), two operas that speak in thoughtfully subtle and harshly expressive language. The first is a sensual and macabre medieval tale of art, power, love, and cannibalism. The second is a fiercely sophisticated drama from the lives of fourteenth-century English kings.

One of the main protagonists of modern opera is Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952). Her work was greatly influenced by the findings of French spectralists - composers who constructed their sound palettes by analyzing certain timbres on a computer. Saariaho writes symphonic and choral music, makes sound installations, creates electronic and mixed electroacoustic compositions - but it is the opera genre she is most associated with. From her now classic work - the opera Distant Love (2000) about a twelfth-century troubadour who falls in love with a woman he has never seen - to the opera-diptych (that is, a two-part work) Only Sound Remains (2015), whose libretto is based on two strange and sad stories of Japanese theater No - the operas of Saariaho lead the listener into a phantasmagorical soundscape of slow vibrations, humming, sighs and chimes. It changes constantly, imperceptibly, like the real landscape under the influence of wind, sun, rain, and the movements of the earth's crust. Saariaho's music swells with sound, then mutates into noise, then goes "under water": it is an incredible experience that is very interesting to experience.

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Another contemporary opera master is the Briton Thomas Adès, whom we have already mentioned. He wrote his first opera at the age of 25, and it immediately bombarded audiences with a hellish mixture of expression, mad cabaret and quotations from masterpieces of the past, sneeringly winking at the listener from the text. His language strikingly does not give the impression of a collage. A million sound events occur simultaneously: an accordion, a child's piano, a frying pan and a fishing reel all coalesce into a finely patterned, vivid, instantly captivating language for the listener. Adès' latest operatic work, The Exterminating Angel (2016), is based on Luis Buñuel's funny and creepy black-and-white film (1962). Expensively dressed and socially chatting guests at a dinner party find that for some magical reason they cannot leave the confines of the room. They remain in the room for several days, gradually losing not only social, but human form.

 

By the way: anachronistic is something that is not modern, a relic of antiquity.

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