Bernhard Lang premiered at Beethovenfest and Warsaw Autumn

Bernhard Lang premiered at Beethovenfest and Warsaw Autumn

Bernhard Lang three times in September – or is it four? Let’s do the math: The incredible Marino Formenti, “a Glenn Gould for the 21st Century” (LA Times), not only performed twice the piano concerto Monadologie XXXIV ‘...Loops for Ludvik’, but also in between Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto to which Lang refers. Bonn Beethovenfest commissioned the work and Formenti and the MDR Sinfonieorchester, conducted by Stefan Asbury, won over both audience and press, who called it “without a doubt, an original metamorphosis” (Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger). 
Warsaw Autumn opened with the Polish premiere of DW 28 – Loops for Davis, for bass clarinet and orchestra. Gareth Davis, exceptional artist on the bass clarinet, pushed boundaries together with Johannes Kalitzke and the Warsaw Philharmonic. It was followed a day later by Lang’s accordion duo DW 29 – Loops for Paweł Szymański, another Warsaw premiere. The Polish composer, long regarded by Lang as one of the leading figures in contemporary music, has significantly influenced his work since the 1980s.

Monadologie XXXIV ‘…Loops for Ludvik’ (2017)

for piano and orchestra
pf - - - 6perc.timp - hp -
Duration: 30'
WP: 6.9.2018, Bonn

Picture of Bernhard Lang Monadologie XXXIV at Beethovenfest Bonn
World premiere of Monadologie XXXIV, Beethovenfest Bonn 2018

Press quotes

Over long stretches Lang’s Monadologie XXXIV, performed by the MDR Sinfonie-Orchester under Stefan Asbury with Mario Formenti at the piano, presents a completely deconstructed Beethoven. Yet the musical substance and the essential core elements of his composition, alchemistically transformed into an opulent, multilayered sound image, remain intact. The loops, repeated half- and full-bar motifs, which contract the music and occasionally stop it altogether, are also ingenious, though they require some getting used to. But Lang isn’t interested only in technical matters. At the beginning of the third movement there are longer written-out sequences – arpeggios which recalled a dark late work by Dmitri Shostakovich or a crazed dance rhythm.
General-Anzeiger-Bonn, 8.9.2018

It would be hard to find a more compelling entry in Nike Wagner’s collection of commissioned works with music based on Beethoven... Even though the beginning recalls the sound of a gamelan, the drum set lends the work a jazz note in brief passages, and the music is overlaid by a microtonal veil, “Ludwig” remains present at all times. It is by no means the most important themes from the C minor Concerto that feature here. Little transitional formulas run through the loop can grow into principal players. The effects that Lang is seeking here are colourful and exciting, occasionally irritating, sometimes even quite amusing, like the beginning of the third movement, where Lang shifts the dancelike rondo theme of the original completely out of step. Formenti is audibly enjoying this virtuosic stumbling game and throwing himself completely into its demanding solo part, while Asbury and the orchestra let the score gleam and glisten.
Bonner Rundschau, 8.9.2018

About the work

Monadologie XXXIV ‘...Loops for Ludvik’ is the third Beethoven adaptation in the Monadologie series. The first one references the Seventh Symphony, while the second references the “Hammerklavier” Sonata, which I had previously quoted in DW 12 for piano solo (2004). The new piece comprises three movements, each corresponding to a central structural unit of the original and further developing these “initial cells”. As in the other recent pieces in the Monadologie series, I didn’t use any algorhythms for the composition, but rather introduced the quasi-internalized results of prior computer processing freely into loop and cut-up processes. The source material is Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in C minor, whose original shape and layout are largely retained in the overwriting. Harmonically speaking, I have employed the difference-tone harmonies that I first expounded in ParZeFool, generating out of Beethoven’s four-part writing a twelve-voice, microtonal one, which lies like a veil over the old harmonies. In order to realize this, there is a second piano in the orchestra, tuned a quarter-tone lower. A drum set is added to the percussion section. This piece, like all the Monadologies, works with cellular-monadic source materials, which are converted into chaotic systems by means of Granulators and cellular automata. The result is a kind of hyper-virtuosic clockwork texture that owes a debt to the video works of Raffael Montañez Ortiz. 
—Bernhard Lang

DW 28 Loops for Davis (2017)

for bass clarinet, sampler und orchestra
bcl - - - perc.drumset - jazzbass.synth.sampler -
Duration: 30'
WP: 22.10.2016, Donaueschingen

Picture of Bernhard Lang DW28 at Warsaw Autumn
Polish premiere of DW 28, Warsaw Autumn 2018

About the work

DW28 is the continuation of the sample-based pieces DW 23 and DW 2, which thematised the bass clarinet and the saxophone respectively. Here the sample itself becomes the origin of the loop: not via simulation, transcription or recomposition, but with the aid of the sampler as an instrument in its own right. (See Tilman Baumgärtel’s book Schleifen: Zur Geschichte und Ästhetik des Loops).
In Loops for Davis, the samples are placed within an orchestral context on the one hand, and a small band context on the other hand. The orchestra is used as a macrosampler, a great loop machine; the solo clarinet confronts it with intricately notated solo lines, which sometimes open up to become improvised textures, but then joins in with the loop again. The piece was developed together with Gareth Davis, and the amplification and spatialisation technology at the SWR Experimental Studio in Freiburg (with Reinhold Braig). In my previous work with Davis, I had already developed what I called “Parkerphonics” as a new playing technique, one that is also used here. The ambiguity of the dedication also invokes Miles Davis, of course. He is joined by the phantoms of Eric Dolphy and other jazz greats, barely recognizable, but present nonetheless. And the last word goes to…
—Bernhard Lang

DW 29 Loops for Pawel Szymanski (2017)

for two accordions
Duration: 25'
WP: 2.6.2017, Graz

Picture of Bernhard Lang DW29 at Warsaw Autumn
Polish premiere of DW 29, Warsaw Autumn 2018

About the work

Loops for Szimansky originated from an idea of Mirko Jevtovic, who approached me with the concept of writing a piece for two akkordeons; I thought then about this, and, since my schedule was full, I decided to go into this a bit later. But at christmas 2016, at my house in Carinthia, I suddenly had the vision for the whole piece and wrote it down quickly. I had a close relationship to the accordeon since my youth, both my father and my mother playing the instrument, the latter virtuously. In the nineties I made the acquaintance of Krassimir Sterev, for whom I wrote Schrift 3 in 1997. After this, the accordeon appeared regularily in my pieces, for example DW3, Monadology XII and XXI, in the music theatre pieces Montezuma and ParZeFool. Here there were two additional influences: one of them was the work of Pawel Szymanski, whom I consider to be one of the most important contemporary composers and who has influenced my work since the eighties. The other was Sevdah-music, the finale of DW29 consisting in the transcription of an original Sevdah-piece. The technique used here is, as in most of my present pieces, differentiated loops of all kinds, reaching different plateaux of energy, here ending in a dark, melancholic meta-loop-melody.
—Bernhard Lang

Photos: Harald Hoffmann (Lang); Barbara Frommann (Beethovenfest); Warsaw Autumn