It is more than an event when the work performed is by Georg Friedrich Haas, one of the most important composers of our time. His Konzert für Klangwerk und Orchester was written for the fingers of Christoph Sietzen, who gave it its world premiere together with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and Ilan Volkov on November 29. Find the premiere as well as a conversation between the soloist and the composer on our blog.
Georg Friedrich Haas: Konzert für Klangwerk und Orchester
Uraufführung am 29.11.2019 in der Philharmonie Luxembourg im Rahmen von «less is more − rainy days 2019»
Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
Ilan Volkov Leitung
Christoph Sietzen Percussion
Kompositionsauftrag Philharmonie und Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Wiener Konzerthaus, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln und Casa da Música, Porto; Verlag Ricordi
From junk to sound | The making of the «Konzert für Klangwerk und Orchester»
A conversation between Christoph Sietzen and Georg Friedrich Haas
Christoph Sietzen: A very important element at this concert is the sound wall. Finding the right objects was of course a lengthy process in order to be able to play the work as I perceived it. Out of the first load of 300 kg of junk that I took from the junk yard about ten percent are now part of the sound wall. I was slowly approaching the sounds. There is this order from high to low and from rich to poor in overtones and it was incredibly hard to find objects of which the sound is high but poor in overtones, because it's metal after all. In the end, one can say it has almost become an instrument.
Georg Friedrich Haas: Not almost, it is an instrument! There is a certain ideology behind this. If you consider which instruments are played, there are some awfully expensive tam-tams but the most expensive thing about the sound wall is the rack which hold up the objects. This is not only a financial question, it also includes, if you like, the idea that everything becomes art, if we make art out of it.
The confidence that I need to have and that Christoph fulfilled altogether is first of all assuming a serious effort to understand the sense of the music that is written and first of all as well (laughs), that a person gets involved in this work with their entire artistic energy and skills.
CS: As performer, I am incredibly happy to be able to play a piece by a living composer. Despite the very detailed notation, one has questions. I'm always aiming at a result that is as close as possible to what the composer had in mind. And I am lucky enough to to only call Mr. Haas to get an answer.
It's of course a first for me to play on a sound wall. Until now, I only played on it in my practice room. It's the first time that I'm playing on a sound wall in a concert hall. I don't really need to hear how it sounds on stage, I need to know what it sounds like in the hall. When I know an instrument very well that's a lot easier than with an entirely new instrument.
GFH: Well, I can't help thinking from time to time «For God's sake, Georg, what have you done». Some things just don't work and then you have to find out why that is. I admit, in a way you always miscalculate. Being a composer means lifelong learning.
In this piece, I made a fundamental mistake. I thought that the collected objects couldn't come close to the professional instruments in terms of sound quality and volume. Thus at times I wrote the wrong dynamics. When I heard the piece for the first time in rehearsal, I heard incredibly beautiful percussions, and the orchestra was very interesting visually (laughs). But from an acoustic point of view, at some passages, we could have done without, and of course we immediately corrected this. That's quite easy, you only need to ask the percussionist to play more softly and the orchestra to play more loudly. And then, all of a sudden, I can hear what I had imagined.
Photos: Alfonso Salgueiro Lora