Luigi Nono's magnum opus, a tragedy for listening

Luigi Nono:
Prometeo. Tragedia dell’ascolto

Luigi Nono: Trilogy of the Sublime

Ingo Metzmacher, SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Experimental-studio des SWR, Schola Heidelberg

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For many music lovers there was life before Prometeo and there is life after Prometeo. It's difficult to overestimate the impact of Luigi Nono's masterpiece. The composer himself called this work which he based on the myth of Prometheus a ‘tragedia dell'ascolto’: a tragedy for listening. The whole piece is focused on the auditive experience. The soloists, choirs and orchestral groups perform on a specially built framework, positioned in different places and heights around the auditorium; their projected sounds are electronically manipulated live. The audience is enveloped in music which moves from bottomless depths to delicate heights, from soft, hesitant strings to deeply sonorous voices and overpowering harmonies, a unique world of sound in which an extraordinary, fascinating drama unfolds.
Programme Icoon


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Background information

In 2014 it will have been 90 years since the Italian Luigi Nono (1924-1990) was born. He was one of the greatest European composers of his time. Almost a quarter of a century after his death, his music is seldom performed. Having organised similar projects dedicated to the music of Varèse (2009), Xenakis (2011) and Cage (2012), this year the Holland Festival honours Luigi Nono with a mini festival featuring, over the course of a long weekend, highlights from his extensive and varied body of work. As well as three full-scale concerts, there will also be an intimate late-night performance of La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, a two-day conference entitled “… Hay que caminar …” - Luigi Nono’s musical paths between politics and art, and the exhibition Luigi Nono 1924–1990 - Maestro di suoni e silenzi, which will be accompanying the concerts held at the Gashouder. This year's annual free concerts in the underpass of the Rijksmuseum by conservatory students will be fully dedicated to Nono's music. Musical direction for the three central concerts at the Gashouder will be in the hands of the conductor and Nono expert Ingo Metzmacher. A very special highlight will be the contribution made by the Swiss composer, conductor and sound engineer André Richard, who worked in close collaboration with Nono for years and who gave his name to one of Nono's compositions, entitled André Richard.

One of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde, Nono, together with contemporaries such as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, for years spearheaded the New Music movement. He also married Nuria Schönberg, daughter of Arnold Schönberg, the founder of twelve tone music. Still, the historical inevitability of serialism as advocated by the avant-garde, was never sufficient for Nono. Viewing music as a system which was not self-contained, Nono wanted his music to be open to the world from the start, looking for ways to change political consciousness through sound. To Nono, radical music could never stand on its own, but is always the inevitable outcome of radical, political ideas.

The weekend will open with Nono's masterpiece Prometeo (1981-1985), which he himself called a 'tragedia dell'ascolto' – a tragedy for listening. According to musicologist Paul Griffiths, in his later years 'listening attentively' became more and more of a political act to Nono: listening attentively implies having a regard for the other, not only for the echoes of yourself. Prometeo is based on the myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods to give it to humanity and was sentenced to eternal torment for his deed. Using texts by Aeschylus, Walter Benjamin, Rilke and others, Nono combined various versions of the myth. The plot of the story is all but left out; all drama is contained in the interaction between sound and ear. For the original production, the Italian architect Renzo Piano designed a large space built of wood, reminiscent of an ark. For the Amsterdam event, the huge, round space of the Gashouder will be transformed into an auditorium where all the musicians and sound sources surrounding the audience can be placed exactly as the composer intended.


Luigi Nono (1924-1990) began taking lessons in composition from Gian Francesco Malipiero in 1941. Central to these lessons were works from the 16th and 17th century, which left him with a lifelong fascination for polyphony, and for the music of the Second Viennese School, which was banned in Fascist Italy. In acquiescence to the wishes of his family, he went to Padua to study law, graduating in 1946. Meeting Bruno Maderna and the conductor Hermann Scherchen only increased his fascination for the music of Webern and Schönberg, and in 1950 he participated for the first time in the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music. In the 1950s, he attended the courses in Darmstadt regularly, and between 1957 and 1960 also as a teacher; a number of his compositions had their premiere there. At a performance of Schönberg’s opera Moses und Aron in Hamburg, he met Schönberg’s daughter Nuria, whom he married in 1953. Nono joined the Communist Party in 1952 and a great many of his works have a political charge. As of 1960, he taught in Poland and the Soviet Union, among other places.


As his career progressed, he became increasingly interested in electronic music. Along with Boulez and Stockhausen, Nono is considered one of the most important representatives of the Darmstadt School, but unlike his two colleagues, he always took a great deal of freedom in applying the principles of serialism.


Ingo Metzmacher studied the piano, music theory and conducting in his home town of Hannover as well as in Salzburg and Cologne. The initial stages of his professional career took him first to Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, then to the Frankfurt Opera under Michael Gielen. His international career began in 1988 at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels during the Mortier era.

In 1997 he was appointed general music director of the Hamburg State Opera, where he conducted numerous internationally acclaimed performances during his eight-year tenure. He then became principal conductor of De Nederlandse Opera (Dutch National Opera) and, from 2007 to 2010, principal conductor and artistic director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. 

 Highlights of recent years have included his performances at the Salzburg Festival (including a performance of Nono's Prometeo), as well as at the Vienna State Opera, London’s Royal Opera House, the Zurich Opera and the Berlin State Opera (performing Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore). He has also conducted concerts with leading orchestras that have included the Vienna, Berlin and Munich Philharmonics, the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
 Central to his commitments during the 2013-2014 season is a new production of Wagner's Ring Cycle in Geneva. Das Rheingold opened in March 2013 and will be followed by Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung and in May 2014 by two complete cycles. He is also continuing to work closely with the New Japan Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Bamberg and Vienna Symphony Orchestras and the Orchestre de Paris. At the Holland Festival Metzmacher was the musical director for Dionysos (2011), Lulu and Wozzeck (both in 2005). 


Matilda Hofman studied at Cambridge University, the Royal Academy of Music and the Eastman School of Music. She was also a conducting fellow in the Aspen Music Festival and the affiliated study programme. Her mentors include Martyn Brabbins, David Zinman, Ingo Metzmacher and Sir Colin Davis.
 Hofman currently lives in California, where she is music director of the Diablo Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the Empyrean Ensemble. In California, she has also been a guest director for the Sierra Summer Festival, Festival Opera and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Moreover, she regularly works with the Sacramento Opera. Outside the United States, she has performed with the Ensemble Modern, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Kammerakademie Potsdam, among others.
 In 2011, Hofman participated in productions of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo during the Salzburger Festspiele and the Berliner Festspiele. Her work with ensembles for contemporary music has been recorded on the labels Innova and Champs Hill. In 2001, she founded the Kreisler Ensemble, which has granted a number of commissions for compositions and received praise for its contribution to the St Magnus Festival in Orkney.                   


André Richard is a Swiss conductor, composer and performer of live electronic music. He studied singing, music theory and composition in Geneva, and later with Klaus Huber and Brian Ferneyhough in Freiburg. He advanced his studies in electronic music with Hans Peter Haller at the SWR Experimental Studios in Freiburg and at IRCAM in Paris. His works have been performed at international music festivals in Budapest, Frankfurt, Oslo, Essen and many more. As well as teaching in Geneva and Freiburg he was also for a long time the Head of the Freiburg Institute for New Music and the organiser of the concert series Horizonte. From 1984 until 2005 he was artistic leader of the Freiburg Solo Choir. In the 1980's Richard collaborated closely with Luigi Nono as a conductor and sound director on the performances of his later works. As a conductor Richard has performed at international festivals such as the Salzburger Festspiele, the Festival d’Avignon and the Holland Festival. From 1989 to 2005 he was the artistic director of the Experimentalstudio of the SWR's Heinrich-Strobel Foundation.

For the Salzburg Festival Richard has contributed to a great many legendary performances, including Nono's Prometeo in 1993, for which he realised the spatial sound concept and acted as sound director.

Later productions he was artistically involved in were Lachenmann's Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern (2002) and two works by Stockhausen. With Irvine Arditti he opened the Venice Biennial in October 2013 performing Stockhausen's Helikopter-Streichquartett, In the course of his career Richard has received many prizes.


Susanna Andersson has established herself among the top of Sweden’s young singers. Born in the Swedish city of Östersund her musical education began at Ljungskile College Institute before she began studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. While at the Guildhall she won the prestigious Gold Medal Competition, graduated with a First Class Honours degree and went on to win the coveted Song Prize at the annual Kathleen Ferrier Awards. In the 2006-2007 season Andersson gave recitals with pianist Eugene Asti in London, New York, Athens, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Brussels, Stockholm, Cologne and Vienna as part of the ECHO Rising Stars series in 2006-2007. She made her professional debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni at Grange Park. Thereafter followed debuts at Nürnberg Opera. Opera North, Covent Garden’s Linbury Studio Theatre and English National Opera. During the 2007-2009 season, Andersson was engaged by Oper Leipzig where her roles included Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Valencienne in Merry Widow and Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel.

In concert Andersson has appeared with the Swedish Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Stockholm Sinfonietta, the Nordic Chamber Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra. She has worked with conductors such as Christopher Hogwood, Lawrence Foster, Roy Goodman and many others. In 2008 she made her BBC Proms debut singing the world premiere of Stuart Macrae’s Gaudete, which had been written especially for her. In January of this year, Andersson performed in the world premiere of the Swedish composer Albert Schnelzer's Animal Songs, which he had written especially for her and the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra.


Christina Daletska has appeared on many of the worlds most prestigious stages - at the Barbican, London with Hengelbrock and Langree, in Paris with Langree and Harding, in Zurich with Santi and Hogwood, at the Gewandhaus, Festspielhaus Baden Baden and at the Salzburg and Lucerne Festivals.
The artist made her stage debut as Rosina at the age of 23 at the Teatro Real, whereupon she was immediately invited to Lyon (Don Giovanni and Shostakovich / Moskau), Graz (Figaro) and the Lucerne Festival (Die Zauberflöte).
Daletska´s unusual musical abilities allow her to excel in works from the Renaissance to the 21st century, and from opera to oratorio to the intimacy of lieder. Her interest in contemporary music has grown since she sang her first world premiere in Strasbourg in 2007 – her unerring sense of pitch makes her a natural for this repertoire. She premiered Manoury’s Gesänge-Gedanken in Oslo with BIT 20 and performed the same work with the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris and Bordeaux. in 2014 she returned to Bergen for Romitelli´s An Index of Metals at Borealis Festival with BIT20 and Baldur Brönnimman.
Christina was born in Lviv, Ukraine and beagn studying the violin with her mother at an early age. She toured Europe as a member of various ensembles, and performed concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky in Ukraine and abroad. Coming to Switzerland in 2003 she eventually commenced vocal studies, and within a year won prizes at three international competitions. Christina Daletska speaks seven languages and is an Official Ambassador for Amnesty International.


After getting her certificate in speech therapy, the Belgian mezzo-soprano Els Janssens-Vanmunster studied jazz before training as a classical singer with Gréta De Reyghere at the Royal Conservatory of Liège. She went on to specialise in early music (Renaissance and Baroque) with Guillemette Laurens at the Conservatoire National de Région de Toulouse, in France, and in mediaeval music at the Swiss Scola Cantorum Basiliensis with Kathleen Dineen, Crawford Young, Dominique Vellard and Nicoletta Gossen. The mezzo-soprano is at home in a broad and versatile repertoire that includes oratorios, Renaissance polyphony, Baroque cantatas, mediaeval songs, chamber music, opera and contemporary creations, always with a focus on text awareness and impeccable diction. Contemporary music soon began to occupy an important place in her activities, and contemporary composers like Thierry Pécou, Boris Yoffe, Klaus Huber, Sophie Lacaze and Pierre-Adrien Charpy have had the pleasure of working with her for some years already. This is demonstrated in various recordings with Klara, Ramée and SWR, for example. Els Janssens-Vanmunster sings with internationally renowned and specialised ensembles from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and France, and is the leader of the French group of female solo voices, Mora Vocis, which specialises in both mediaeval and contemporary music. She teaches ‘Présences scéniques’ at the University of Montpellier, in France, and regularly gives masterclasses in singing and interpreting early and contemporary music. She travels the world to music events like the Festival of Flanders, the Festival of Wallonia, Music before 1800, Early Music Vancouver, the Boston Early Music Festival and the early music festivals in Utrecht, Ambronay, Royaumont and Montalbâne.




The opera repertoire of the Israeli alto Noa Frenkel includes Stockhausen’s Sonntag aus Licht, Pnima by Chaya Czernowin, Tod eines Bankers by Andreas Kersting and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. She also sang in Arie Shapira’s The Kastner Trial (Tel Aviv), Philip Glass’ Achnaton (Rotterdam) and Luigi Nono’s Prometeo (La Scala, Festival d’Automne, Lucerne Festival and with the Berliner Philharmonie). Her concert repertoire spans music from the Renaissance to contemporary works. Her recent appearances have included performances of Handel’s Dixit Dominus with the Flemish Radio Choir, Donatoni’s Abyss in Casa da Música in Porto, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse, Verdi’s Requiem at the Festival of Ljubljana and Mahler’s Symphony Nr. 2 with the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion. Frenkel regularly performs with renowned ensembles like the Ensemble Modern, The Israel Contemporary Players, Asko|Schönberg, Klangforum Wien and the Experimentalstudio Freiburg. Many composers have written works especially for her. For a long time, she was a soloist with the Maarten Altena Ensemble, with whom she gave many performances, recorded several CDs and toured Europe, Japan and North America. Noa Frenkel has worked with conductors such as Steven Sloane, Ingo Metzmacher, Kenneth Weiss, Kenneth Montgomery, Ivor Bolton, Dan Ettinger, Ilan Volkov, Friedemann Layer, Gabriel Garrido, Peter Dijkstra, Otto Tausk and Reinbert de Leeuw. She has recorded all Gesualdo’s madrigals on six CDs with the Kassiopeia Quintet. On her latest recording, she is singing in Artur Schnabel’s Notturno and in the Te Deum by the Portuguese Baroque composer Francisco António de Almeida.




The tenor Markus Francke was born in Freiburg, Germany. At the age of eight he started his piano studies and made his debut as a boy soprano in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Stadttheater Freiburg. After leaving secondary school, he studied Musicology before transferring to the Music Academy in Cologne (Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln), where he studied singing with Professor Arthur Janzen and conducting with Professor Johannes Hömberg. After graduating he also successfully completed his concert exam for Singing. He has received further vocal tuition from Berthold Schmid, Diane Forlano, Francisco Araiza and Stewart Emerson. Since the 2012-2013 season Francke is a member of the ensemble of the Staatstheater Wiesbaden. He has also built a long-term working relationship with the Stadttheater Pforzheim and has performed on numerous stages, including the Bregenzer Festspiele. During his studies, Markus Francke began his successful career as a concert artist. He has developed into a highly respected and in-demand interpreter of baroque oratorios, specialising in the ‘evangelist’ roles in the works of J.S. Bach. He boasts a vast repertoire of works that span from the renaissance period through to contemporary music. Francke has performed in some of the most prized venues in Europe, including the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the Cathedral of Reims, the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Philharmonie in Cologne, St. Michaelis and St. Nikolai in Hamburg, the Liederhalle Stuttgart, the Frauenkirche in Dresden and Cologne Cathedral. Francke has sung with orchestras such as L’arpa festante and Concerto Köln, and under the direction of conductors such as Steuart Bedford, Helmut Rilling and Marcus Creed. Francke's work is available on numerous radio and CD recordings.




Ever since its founding, the vocal ensemble Schola Heidelberg, conducted by Walter Nußbaum, has bridged the gap between early and new vocal music. Up to 16 soloists constituting the ensemble command highly varied styles and vocal techniques, including microtonal intonation, vocal and breathing noises. Crossing sixteenth and seventeenth century works with material from the twentieth and twenty-first century - always outside of the standard repertoire - they create an intense relationship between historically informed performance practice and contemporary music, leading to new forms of interpretation. In close contact with leading composers of our times, including Heinz Holliger, Helmut Lachenmann, Caspar Johannes Walter, Jan Kopp, Hans Zender, Carola Bauckholt and Erik Oña, Schola Heidelberg has a broad repertoire and regularly commissions new work.


Since 1993, Schola Heidelberg has had a close working relationship with the instrumental ensemble Aisthesis. As well as in its own concert series in Heidelberg, Schola Heidelberg also regularly appears at festivals such as the Lucerne Festival, Venice Biennial, the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik and the Tongyeong International Music Festival in Korea. The ensemble works with the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Ensemble Modern and many other leading orchestras.


Schola Heidelberg has recorded many award winning CDs, including recordings with works by Helmut Lachenmann. Recent albums include Gérard Grisey's Les chants de l’amour on KAIROS and Lachenmann's NUN on Ensemble Modern Media. The recording of Helmut Lachenmann’s Les Consolations was voted on the German Record Critics' best-of list in 2009. A CD with works by René Leibowitz has been released recently.




The ensemble recherche makes music history: with over 500 world premieres to its name since its founding in 1985, the group has played a major role in the shaping and development of contemporary chamber and ensemble music. The group provides stimulation through concerts, music theatre productions, courses for composers and instrumentalists, productions with a visual and auditory component, sound projects for children and young people, the ‘Klangpost’ (Sound Post) and the Ensemble Academy Freiburg, organized jointly with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.


With its distinctive dramaturgical ideas, the nine-member ensemble of soloists has created a niche of its own in the international music scene. Its repertoire includes classics of the late 19th century, Impressionists and Expressionists, composers from the Second Viennese School and the Darmstadt School, spectralists and experimental avant-gardists of contemporary music. The ensemble recherche has released some 50 CDs, many of which have received international awards, including the German Critics’ Prize and the Diapason d’Or.




The SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra always makes room for new movements, guests and pieces of music – in their own hometowns, as well as in cities like Berlin, Lucerne and Madrid. Conducted by François-Xavier Roth, the orchestra toured Japan in 2012 with great success. The starting signal for Roth’s appointment as principal conductor was given at the final concert of the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2011. Since the foundation of the Donaueschinger Musiktage in 1950, this event has been inextricably linked to the SWR Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra has premiered around four hundred compositions at the event, and the musicians have written music history with works by composers like Hans Werner Henze, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Helmut Lachenmann and Wolfgang Rihm. But the orchestra does not only focus on contemporary music. Its repertoire includes over six hundred works spanning three centuries. The SWR Symphony Orchestra has worked with international conductors and soloists ever since its foundation in 1946. The driving forces behind the orchestra’s various activities have been, and still are the remarkable principal conductors Hans Rosbaud, Ernest Bour, Michael Gielen and Sylvain Cambreling. They have led and formed an orchestra that, through sixty years of exceptional challenges, has achieved a flexibility seldom seen anywhere else. These exceptional challenges include numerous projects for children and young people. The summer of 2013 revolved around a music theatre production that formed the closing highlight of a three-year collaboration with three schools in Freiburg. For its services to ‘a lively contemporary music culture’, the SWR Symphony Orchestra was awarded the Ehrenpreis 2013 der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. The orchestra also received the award for ‘the best concert programme of 2013/2014’ from the Deutscher Musikverlegerverband.




The Experimentalstudio of the SWR (Southwest Radio) in Freiburg was founded in 1971, and in the meantime it has become so famous that it would be impossible to imagine the contemporary music scene without it. The aim of the studio is to unite art and technology in a continual interplay, with electronic compositions been realized by the collaborative efforts of composers and technicians. The Experimentalstudio is therefore fully manned by a permanent team of technical specialists, while the Heinrich Strobel Foundation offers grants to composers who want to either broaden their artistic and technological horizons in general or work on a compositional project in particular.


The Experimentalstudio has its own ensemble, which regularly gives concerts in major festivals like those of Berlin, Vienna and Salzburg, the Festival d’Automne in Paris and the Venice Biennale and in famous music theatres like the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Carnegie Hall in New York and De Munt in Brussels.


Pioneering works in the history of electronic music have been realized in the Experimentalstudio by composers like Boulez, Stockhausen, Ferneyhough, Globokar and Nono. A younger generation of composers is represented by Mark Andre, Chaya Czernowin, José María Sánchez-Verdú, Johannes Maria Staud, among others. Musicians who have worked at length in the Experimentalstudio include Maurizio Pollini, Claudio Abbado, Gidon Kremer, Irvine Arditti and Roberto Fabbriciani. In 1999, a box of CDs was published in honour of the Experimentalstudio’s 25th anniversary, providing an overview of the most important works, old and new, that have been realized there.



Luigi Nono
Ingo Metzmacher
Matilda Hofman
spatial sound concept, creative coordination, head of sound direction
André Richard
Susanna Andersson
Christina Daletska
Els Janssens-Vanmunster
Noa Frenkel
Markus Francke
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg
Experimentalstudio des SWR
Schola Heidelberg (chorus master: Walter Nußbaum)
ensemble recherche (solomusici)
Martin Fahlenbock
Shizuyo Oka
Barbara Maurer
Åsa Akerberg
double bass
Ulrich Schneider
Andreas Roth
tuba, eufonium
József Bazsinka
Christian Dierstein
Jens Ruland
Anna Tuena
Caroline Chaniolleau
Mathias Jung
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg
Experimentalstudio des SWR

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