Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Drowned Cathedral": The Piano Music of Anton Batagov, Philip Glass,
Claude Debussy & J.S. Bach at Chapel Performance Space: Mar 29 - 31

It's been a number of seasons now since the Seattle Symphony hosted/performed any works that demanded my attendance... the cessation of the Music of Our Time series has really been felt in this town, or at least it has by me. We can hope that the symphony's new conductor, Ludovic Morlot and his proposed late-night [untitled] Modern Composer chamber series endeavors to fill that void. So, performances of the works of Philip Glass, Claude Debussy ..and yes, even 'ol Johann Sebastian Bach, now stands as a rare treat, especially as a three day series hosted in the acoustically-primed environs of the Chapel Performance Space. And if you're going to have a series of nights of modern classical pieces for piano titled "Drowned Cathedral", that is exactly how one designs a poster for the event. The three nights broken up thematically, with Thursday featuring the compositions of Philip Glass and Claude Debussy, Friday being entirely of award-winning pianist Anton Batagov's own work, and Saturday interpretations/variations on J.S. Bach. From the DoubleSharp program guide:
Program 1, performed on Thursday, March 29: includes piano works by Philip Glass and opera fragments by Glass arranged for piano solo by Batagov (interpretations and transcriptions are authorized by Glass) and Twelve Preludes by Claude Debussy: "What do Glass and Debussy have in common? Sonic magic. Pure power of sound. From the very first note, they immerse you in deep contemplation. They don't leave you any chance to engage in rational analysis while you are listening. And no room for 19th-century emotions. Both composers bring you directly to the blissful nature of sound. All your existence turns into sound, and through this breathtaking trip you experience Reality. And there is one more detail I'd like to mention. I clearly hear Russian influence in Glass' and Debussy's music. Some episodes of Debussy's works could have been written by Mussorgsky or Rimsky-Korsakov. A scent of Rachmaninov and distant echoes of Russian folk music are present in Glass' sound canvases. However, I am not inviting you to engage in musicological research. I am inviting you to hear wind and bells, hills and ocean, stars and galaxies. Glass and Debussy are experienced captains."
Program 2, performed on Friday, March 30: showcases Anton Batagov the composer. He explains: “In the mid-90's I stopped playing classical music. At that moment it was really important to say to myself: I am not a performer, I am a composer. It was much more interesting to create "new" sounds instead of playing "used" ones. However, it's clear that there is nothing completely new under the sun, and I never had such an illusion. It doesn't matter when this or that sequence of notes was written down or who did it. What really matters is what's behind these notes, what's inside them. What is critically important is your inner intention and motivation: why I am doing this now, and what I want to say by producing these sounds. A composer's ego thinks of a composer as a true creator. That's certainly wrong. There are NO creators.”
Program 3, performed on Saturday, March 31: is a 21st-century adaptation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s piano works. Batagov says: “It looks really strange when 21st-century musicians claim they know how to play Bach in an authentic manner. An attempt to recreate a playing style which we never heard by studying musicological books is a self-deception. My version doesn't have any historical authenticity. I simply want to remain where I am – here and now – and try to hear the sounds which have lost their meaning in the endless stream of consumption and turned into a decorative background noise in the trash can of modern culture. Each episode in this music is to be repeated twice, and I play them in different tempos with different articulation, like contemplating a crystal from different points of view or living a life twice choosing different scenarios. The tempos are mostly slow, the sounds follow each other spontaneously, in a quasi-improvisational manner. Each sound has its own meaning, its own expressivity. This meditative concentration has its inner non-linear flow of time.”