The Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas, one of the most renowned composers of his generation and currently residing in the US, is attracting attention this summer not only at the Bavarian State Opera, whose Ja, Mai (Yes, May) festival has been dedicated to him, but also with a new orchestral work unveiled in Vienna by Marin Alsop. In addition, as composer-in-residence at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria, Haas will push the envelope of the classical concert format with a spectacular outdoor attraction.
World premiere of ungefähr ganz genau
In his new orchestral work commissioned by the Vienna Musikverein, Georg Friedrich Haas’s subject is the conference organized by the Musikverein in 1885 to determine a standard pitch. Its participants compared the tuning forks that had been produced to correspond with the concert pitch of their respective orchestras. The work’s first performance was given in Vienna by the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop.
Haas im Gespräch mit Marin Alsop
Haas on ungefähr ganz genau
“This music is a kind of freedom ritual. Freedom here means responsibility:
Not just to play “out of tune”, but to sense the deviation from the other instruments, to feel the tension between the pitches, in the interpretation process to consciously optimize the vibrations being produced. Not simply to play with rhythmic imprecision at a given point, but to choose the metre so one can precisely find that moment in which the desired sound is optimally and most securely realized. And to savour how joining forces with many others (all making music in the same way) generates an organic ensemble that constructs something different in detail every time – and yet, in principle, is always the same.”
"The state of tense stillness is constantly (and, at times, dynamically) breached. Tonal reminiscences crop up, as do striking collective glissandi. [...] The work is expressively multilayered. Orchestral crescendi and decrescendi gradually produce an impression of convergence and divergence, compression and relaxation. The richly coloured field of suspended energy is incisively managed by conductor Marin Alsop [...]."
Der Standard, 06.06.2022
Score of ungefähr ganz genau
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Haas focus in Munich
Serge Dorny, the Bavarian State Opera’s new general director, has re-launched the Munich house’s festival. Its first instalment under new direction focussed on Georg Friedrich Haas, among others, whose music-theatre works Bluthaus
as well the instrumental work Solstices
– played entirely in darkness – were presented to great audience and press acclaim. Festival visitors were also able to experience the composer in person at a lecture-concert and to view his two films The Artist & The Pervert
at the historic Theatiner cinema.
Bluthaus, Thomas and Solstices in the press
"Georg Friedrich Haas’s music can become addictive, as it has in Munich. Coma is postponed to 2024. How in the world is this city supposed to face this period of presumably Haas-less drought?"
"This music-theatre composition [Thomas] touches on basic questions of existence as few pieces today have managed to do."
Thomas an der Bayerischen Staatsoper
"The opera’s [Thomas] microtonal melodic arcs often sound like high Romantic arias boiled down to the densest concentration. It reaches its climax in this duet where, in close parallel motion over entrancing overtone harmonies, Haas writes his very own Puccini.
Haas has eerily illuminated the dramatic inner world [in Bluthaus] by utterly individual means. His music articulates a large-scale structure for the dramatic events, while the kinetic spectral sounds, microtonal clusters and serpentine melodies create an atmosphere of permanent tension... Speaking roles and singing roles mesh virtuosically, and one highlight is the trio he has brilliantly composed for the Tolz Boys Choir. A high point that is elevated into an athletic feat, not only by the actors and director but also by the chamber orchestra under Titus Engel. This alone would have warranted the hefty final applause, directed without exception to all the participants, the authors included."
"Musically, the performance [Solstices] was on a mind-boggling level. One hesitates to imagine what a tour de force it must be even to perform this elaborate piece at all – and then to bring it off onstage with such creative aplomb."
Composer in Residence in Grafenegg
At the Grafenegg Festival it is customary for each composer-in-residence to plant a tree of his or her choice in Grafenegg’s historic landscape garden. For 2022, Georg Friedrich Haas picked the Cornelian cherry, a hardwood whose fruit, flowers and leaves have been used in remedies. An outdoor event will take place with five brass bands marching in the Grafenegg castle grounds.
“They will play while scattered throughout the park, coming together into groups, then separating again. They will march imprecisely in slow motion. Or march to shifting irregular beats. Or not march at all. Everyone in the audience will hear the piece differently – depending on where one happens to be standing or going.”
Georg Friedrich Haas
In addition, Haas’s second violin concerto
will be performed in Grafenegg’s spectacular open-air Wolkenturm by its dedicatee Miranda Cuckson and the Tonkünstler Orchestra conducted by Baldur Brönimann. And at the INK STILL WET closing concert, Haas and Brönimann will present the participants of the composer-conductor workshops Haas has been coaching and leading in workshops as composer-in-residence since March 2022.
Photos: Dieter Nagl for Musikverein (ungefähr ganz genau), W. Hoesl (Thomas)