Notes from the 2011 Salzburg Festival ( 7 ) – The Fifth Continent: Continū + Salzburg Media Productions

AustriaAustria Sasha Waltz, “Continu”: Sasha Waltz & Guests (performers), Felsenreitschule Salzburg, Salzburg, 7.8.2011 (JFL)

I.Xenakis: Rebonds B, Concret PH
E.Varèse: Aracana, Dance for Burgess, Hyperprism, Ionisation
C.Vivier: Zipangu for 13 Strings

Logo "Notes from the Salzburg Festival 2011" jlaurson

The Fifth Continent • Continū

A very young and very international audience followed choreographer Sasha Waltz’s “Continu” in the Felsenreitschule, a modern dance performance to music by Iannis Xenakis, Edgard Varèse, and Claude Vivier. By far the most interesting physical imagery was found during Xenakis’ “Rebonds B”, largely because South Dakotan percussionist Robyn Schulowsky—all fierce determination, which contrasted curiously with her gray hair in a pony tail and the faded blue smock and sweatpants she donned—performed it live on stage, adding an energy that the works fed with music from the can (occasionally skipping) never attained.

The Felsenreitschule’s stage was reduced to a manageable fraction of the vast natural stage through a black enclosure covering the space above the orchestra pit. Concret PH—electronic drizzle made out of natural sounds (from 1958, similar to the kind that is used as intermission calls in the Oslo Philharmonic Halls or Bergen’s Grieg Hall), served as the not-danced-to intermezzo before the choreographed anarchy to “Arcana for large Orchestra” (Varèse) began. Flight and restraint, desire and denial, ticks and deterioration (mental, physical), rage and insanity, loss of natural innocence and urban Angst were all pressed into beautiful shapes and interesting forms, but all based on long established movement patterns from the modern dance vocabulary that offered nothing new. At some point the most interesting aspect became watching different dancers in almost identical material giving off completely different impressions: One like a chicken on crack, another like an achingly sincere, embittered manifestation of modern dance, another like the gracious apotheosis of movement itself.

The idea of including this in the Kontinente series—since it used music that had been part of some of previous installments and combined it with a different, non-concert context—was perhaps more pleasing than the result innovative. Sasha Waltz’s next music project, meanwhile, can also be experienced in Salzburg when she brings a collaborative work (with composer Mark Andre) titled “gefaltet” (“folded”) to the 2012 Mozart Week. It will be her first time working with Mozart and her first time dancing in one of her own projects since 1995.

On the CD-side, more my cup of tea, new releases include interesting archival material like a 1960 Berlin Philharmonic concert with Joseph Keilberth conducting Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony and the Alban Berg Violin Concerto with Christian Ferras. (Orfeo C838). Another, more recent historical event, is captured on Orfeo C837, catching James Levine in his 1989 concert of Mahler’s Second Symphony with Kathleen Battle and Christa Ludwig. Truly new are Dvořák’s Rusalka (review from the 2008 premiere here) with the astonishing Cleveland Orchestra under Welser-Möst (Camilla Nylund, Piotr Beczala in the leads) giving the Vienna Philharmonic a lesson in opera performance excellence that year. (Orfeo C792) The reason that it took nearly four years to bring the CD to the market (nearly not making it at all) was the typical, prolonged, eventually overcome obstruction of the Cleveland Orchestra union, the type of which have contributed more to the predicaments in the American orchestral landscape than any other factor.“Salzburg Festival Documents” is the series of CDs, DVDs, and BluRays that the Salzburg Festival has been issuing with various partners since 1992. An effort is, and has been, under way to present a more unified front for the series, which started out as little more than the Salzburg Festival logo pasted on a few CDs released by Orfeo and Deutsche Grammophon. Among the latest releases are several gems, including the re-issues of Claus Guth’s ingenious DaPonte cycle now entirely on EuroArts in a box. [Unfortunately in each case with the least successful conducting of the several runs since then.] Also released on a new imprint is Martin Kušej’s brilliant La clemenza di Tito from 2003, formerly on TDK (reviewed here). Last year’s fiercely dark Lehnhoff-Elektra (live review here) with Daniele Gatti, Iréne Theorin, Waltraud Meier, René Pape et al. was released on DVD (soon also on Blu-ray), and the same is true for the Festival’s opening concert with Barenboim (review here) which might be worth having for seeing (and hearing) the Vienna Philharmonic (!) in Pierre Boulez’ Notations I-IV & VII, and Bruckner’s Te Deum in a unusually coherent performance, but not the shoddy Fourth Beethoven Concerto with the conductor moonlighting as soloist. The “Three Lectures ‘On Music’” of Alfred Brendel, available in German or English are a wonderful idea that, upon watching them, I found tedious but well suited to turn a sleepless night into sound slumber. This high priest of subtle humor and tasteful intelligence is beyond reproach, but too subtle and tasteful for me to stay awake for more than 20 minutes.

Two more current releases of interest to me are the CD featuring David Afkham, 2010 Nestlé & Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award Winner (perhaps the Nasafycaw, for short, or better yet: “2011 Kit Kat Conductor”), leading the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Ligeti’s Atmosphères and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony (Orfeo C797)… and Jörg (clarinet) and Carolin Widmann (violin, interview here), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello), and Alexander Lonquich (piano) performing Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps in 2008 (Orfeo C840). The eclectic label col legno (“new colors of music”) released a selection of the 2009 Kontinent Varèse performances from the 2009 Salzburg Festival. Having missed the festival that season, I was able to hear some of those gems just now on CD, and enjoyed every bit of it, from two different performances of Ionisation (the first work just for percussion) via Intègrales for 11 winds & 8 percussionists to Amèriques with Bertrand de Billy and the ORF RSO. (col legno 20295) From 2008 Kontinente series, the label has also released the world premiere performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s 12 Madrigali (col legno 20287). It stretches the ears, and the audience is limited, but that makes the fact that this music is so easily available now only more exciting… a sign of the truly golden age of classical recordings (always) being now.

Jens F. Laurson