2011-02-14: Artur Avanesov

Voices from the East:  Reminiscence and Romance

"Music is still song, even if one cannot literally sing it: it is not a philosophy, not a world-view. It is, above all, a chant, a song the world sings about itself, it is the musical testimony to life." -- Valentin Silvestrov

The Seattle Chamber Players will present a concert featuring Armenian pianist/composer Artur Avanesov on Wednesday, February 2, at 8pm, at Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center.

Program includes: music by Avanesov’s mentor, the great Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian, Ukrainian master Valentin Silvestrov, the SCP commission Linee e Contorni by the brilliant Lithuanian composerOnute Narbutaite as well as music by Alban Berg and piano works by Avanesov himself.

Chapel Performance Space
Good Shepherd Center
4649 Sunnyside Ave North
Seattle, Washington

$5-$15 sliding scale
Available at the door, cash or checks only

Artur Avanesov was born in Moscow. He began his formal music studies in composition and piano at the Yerevan State Conservatory, graduating with a doctorate degree in 2005, and later joining the faculty of the conservatory as an assistant professor of composition. He is the composer of numerous chamber, piano and vocal works and has participated in several contemporary festivals, including the ISCM World Music Days in Switzerland.
Avanesov’s list of awards include the first prize at the Britten Chamber Composition in 2003 and the Sarian Vocal Composition Competition in 2004, both held in Armenia. As a pianist, his repertory spans from the late Renaissance to the contemporary. He has performed some 70 world premieres of piano works by composers from Armenia, Georgia, Germany, Finland and Portugal. In 2003 and 2004, Avanesov participated in the famed Lucerne Summer Music Festival and performed with an ensemble led by Pierre Boulez. Avanesov is also the co-founder of the AUS Contemporary Music Ensemble (formed in 2001), which performs works of emerging as well as established composers from Armenia and abroad.
As a musicologist, Avanesov is the co-editor of the Musical Armenia journal, in which he has published articles on the music of Stockhausen and several fellow Armenian composers of today.

Tigran Mansurian was born in Beirut in 1939. In 1947 his family moved to Armenia, finally settling in the capital Yerevan in 1956. Mansurian studied at the Yerevan Music Academy and completed his PhD at the Komitas State Conservatory where he later taught contemporary music analysis. In a short time he became one of Armenia's leading composers, establishing strong creative relationships with international performers and composers such as Valentin Silvestrov, Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, André Volkonsky and Edison Denisov as well as Kim Kashkashian, Jan Garbarek, and the Hilliard Ensemble. Mansurian was the director of the Komitas Conservatory in the 1990s. He has recently retired as an administrator and teacher, and concentrates exclusively on composition. Mansurian's musical style is characterized mainly by the organic synthesis of ancient Armenian musical traditions and contemporary European composition methods. His oeuvre comprises orchestral works, seven concerti for strings and orchestra, sonatas for cello and piano, three string quartets, madrigals, chamber music and works for solo instruments.

Onutė Narbutaitė is one of the rather few contemporary composers, whose music bears a mark of extraordinary individuality and remains recognisable from the very first bars of each composition. Like many compositions created by the generation of Lithuanian 'neo-romanticist' composers, the composer's early opuses abounded in images of 'night', 'silence', 'oblivion', unhurried flow, transparent textures and nostalgic moods. However, from the outset Narbutaitė's music was noted for certain features that distinguished her from contemporary fellow composers. Along with a wide range of various states, moods and emotions, Narbutaitė's entire work is noted for a sense of aristocratic measure and strong compositional discipline, which only enhances the emotional impact of her music. The rationality of composition here is expressed by meticulously detailed textures, exact proportions of smaller and larger sections and the overall form, and understated interplay of minute details. The abstract musical narrative is extremely expressive, prominent and often reminiscent of 'something familiar'.

Valentin Silvestrov was born on 30 September 1937 in Kiev. He came to music relatively late, at the age of fifteen, and was initially selftaught. From 1955 to 1958 he took courses at an evening music school while training to become a civil engineer: from 1958 to 1964 he studied composition and counterpoint, respectively, with Boris Lyatoshinsky and Lev Revutsky at Kiev Conservatory.

Silvestrov is considered one of the leading representatives of the „Kiev avant-garde," which came to public attention around 1960 and was violently criticized by the proponents of the conservative Soviet musical aesthetic. In the 1960s and 1970s his music was hardly played in his native city; premieres, if given at all, were heard only in Russia, primarily in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), or in the West. Despite these successful performances in the West (the composer himself was not allowed to attend them!), Silvestrov's music met with no response in his own country and tended to remain "sub rosa." This situation gradually changed with Silvestrov's growing international acclaim. One of his earliest champions was the American pianist and conductor Virko Baley, an aficionado and longtime advocate of contemporary Ukrainian music in general and Silvestrov's works in particular. It was Baley who brought about the Las Vegas performances of Postludium for piano and orchestra (1985) and the symphony Exegi monumentum (1988) as well as a Valentin Silvestrov 50th Birthday Concert in New York (1988). Silvestrov became a visiting composer at the Almeida Music Festival in London (1989), Gidon Kremer's Lockenhaus Festival in Austria (1990), and various festivals in Denmark, Finland, and Holland.

Since the end of the 1980s, the number of performances has increased, even in Russia and the Ukraine. Silvestrov's music was heard at the „Alternative" New Music Festival in Moscow (1989), „Five Evenings with the Music of Valentin Silvestrov" (Ekaterinburg, 1992), “Sofia Gubaidulina and Her Friends" (St. Petersburg, 1994), „Sofia Gubaidulina, Arvo Part, Valentin Silvestrov" (Moscow, 1995), and the Silvestrov 60th Birthday Festival (Kiev, 1998). At the latter event, a scholarly conference devoted to Silvestrov was held at the Tchaikovsky National Academy of Music of the Ukraine (formerly Kiev Conservatory). During the 1990s, Silvestrov's music was heard throughout Europe as well as in Japan and the United States. In 1998-9, he was a visiting fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin, where three of his works have been premiered to date: Metamusic (March 1993), Dedication for violin and orchestra (November 1993), and the Sixth Symphony (August 2002).

Both in his earlier avant-garde period and after his stylistic volte-face of 1970, Silvestrov has preserved his independence of outlook. In recent decades he has dispensed with the conventional compositional devices of the avant-garde and discovered a style comparable to western "post-modernism." The name he has given to this style is „metamusic," a shortened form of "metaphorical music." Of all the many translations of the Greek combinative particle meta (post-, supra-, ultra-, extra-, etc.) Silvestrov prefers "supra" or "ultra." He regards metamusic as "a semantic overtone on music." In a certain sense, "metamusic" is also a synonym for a universal style (a concept that Silvestrov has been using for some time) and a universal language. He understands it to mean "a general 'lexicon'that belongs to no one but can be used by anyone in his or her own way." His work has affinities with the age of the "classical" fin-de-siecle, especially Gustav Mahler, with whom Silvestrov is often compared. The difference is that the lexicon of today is unlimited. This limitlessness forces composers to search for the lost ontological meaning of music as art. In Silvestrov's view a view that reveals the lyric basis of his art regardless of the period in his career one of the crucial prerequisites for the continued existence of music resides in melody, which he also regards in an expanded sense of the term. This has found expression in the remarkable role that vocal music has played in his musical output. Silvestrov is the author of two large and many shorter song cycles in addition to isolated songs and cantatas, usually on poems by classical authors. In his relation to poetry, he avoids trying to disturb the music inherent in the poems themselves and attempts to subordinate himself to it. "Poetry ... is the salvaging of all that is most essential, namely, melody as a holistic and inalienable organism. Either this organism is there, or it is not. For it seems to me that music is song in spite of everything, even when it is unable to sing in a literal sense. Not a philosophy, not a system of beliefs, but the song of the world about itself, and at the same time a musical testament to existence." This same approach also governs Silvestrov's instrumental music, which is always richly infused with both logical and melodic tension.