Mahlerian allure and emotionality’ – de Volkskrant about Kate Moore

Holland Festival Proms - Sacred Environment

Steve Mackey, George Crumb, Kate Moore, Ruben van Leer, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Groot Omroepkoor

Sacred Environment is a ground-breaking new work by the Dutch-Australian composer Kate Moore and visual artist Ruben van Leer, commissioned by the Holland Festival and NTR Radio. The oratorio is being performed and sung by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Choir. The Australian singer Alex Oomens goes on a virtual reality dream-track towards the Hunter Valley in Australia, originally the territory of the Dharug, Darkinjung and Wonnarua people. The audience will follow her on a big screen in search of the stoneless temple. In this piece, the changing meaning of sacred ground in our demythologised society is being explored. A similar issue is touched upon in Haunted Landscape by George Crumb, the festival’s composer in focus this year. The concert opens with Steven Mackey’s energetic piece Lost and Found. Expect multi-layered soundscapes.

Programme

Steven Mackey (1956)
Lost and Found (1996)

George Crumb (1929)
A haunted landscape (1984)
Dutch premiere

Kate Moore (1979)
Sacred Environment (2017)
commissioned by Holland Festival, NTR Radio
world premiere

Holland Festival Proms

For a whole day, from noon until late at night, there will be a vibrant mini-festival in The Concertgebouw. The Holland Festival Proms consists of five concerts and an installation. From a concert with virtual reality to the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and the swinging music of The Nile Project

From the brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen playing Karlheinz Stockhausen to an opera-installation by the Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto. The day is being hosted by comedian and television presenter Klaas van der Eerden. In the intermissions there will be performances by conservatory students, as well as short introductions to the concerts. For only ten euros per concert – or less for those who buy a day pass – you can hear the latest and most adventurous music from around the world. There’s an afterparty that night for everyone who can’t get enough of it.

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Background information

Landscapes can conjure up intense experiences. Stunning panoramas have inspired many composers to produce great music, from Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony ‘Pastoral’ to the pulsating cityscapes in Steve Reich’s City Life. This concert during the Holland Festival Proms will present the 

soundscapes of contemporary composers Kate Moore and George Crumb.

Stephen Mackey starts with a short orchestral piece, Lost and Found (1996). ‘I find it fascinating how music can suggest movement’, writes the American composer about his own work. ‘The main thing I’m interested in is the medium in which the musical journey takes place, the auditory topography so to speak’. In Lost and Found, Mackey takes the listener on a road trip through sounds that constantly change their timbre, during which his rock background clearly shows through. This composition is an orchestral version of an earlier solo piece for electric guitar. 

In A Haunted Landscape (1984) - his latest orchestral work to date - George Crumb emphasises the idea that particular places on earth are steeped in mystery. The American wrote this work in 1984 for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and expanded the usual setup of the orchestra with exotic percussion and an electrically amplified piano that provides the percussion with extra nuances in timbre. Around a droning, unceasing bass, sounds and noises appear like ghosts out of the darkness. Crumb says himself of A Haunted Landscape: ‘the title reflects my feelings that certain places on planet Earth are imbued with an aura of mystery: I can vividly recall the “shock of recognition” I felt on seeing Andalusia for the first time. I felt a similar sense of déjà vu on visits to Jerusalem and to Delphos in Greece. Even in the West Virginia woods, one senses the ghosts of the vanished Indians’. 

Similar themes form the foundation of Sacred Environment (2017) by composer Kate Moore. The Australian-Dutch composer has written an oratory triptych for soprano, didgeridoo, choir, orchestra and a visual VR installation. In this work she places the spotlight on the Hunter Valley in Australia, territory of the Australian Dharug, Darkinjung and Wonnarua tribes and an area weighted with mythological and spiritual significance that holds special meaning for Moore. In Moore’s post-minimalist score the leading role is given to soprano Alex Oomens, who is immersed in the Australian landscape by means of a virtual reality headset. The audience follows the images, made by filmmaker Ruben van Leer, on a screen and is thus carried along in an audiovisual investigation into the changing meaning of once holy places in our de-mythologised society.

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Biographies

George Crumb (1929) studied at Mason College of Music in his home city of Charleston (West Virginia), where he received his bachelor's degree in 1950. He continued his training with Eugene Weigel at the University of Illinois and after receiving his master's degree, studied 

under Boris Blacher at Berlin's Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. In 1959, he received his Doctor of Musical Arts under Ross Lee Finney at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In the 1960s and 1970s, Crumb gained recognition with his compositions that were performed by prominent soloists and ensembles all over the world. These were mainly vocal compositions based on the poetry of Federico García Lorca, such as Ancient Voices of Children (1970), the four books with Madrigals (1965-69) and Night of the Four Moons (1969). Important instrumental compositions include Black Angels (1970) for electric string quartet, Vox Balaenae (1971) for electric flute, electric cello and amplified piano, the piano cycle Makrokosmos (1972–73) and his largest score until that point: Star-Child (1977) for soprano, solo trombone, children's voices, male choir, bells and large orchestra. His recent work includes Eine kleine Mitternachtmusik for solo piano (2001), the seven-part song cycle American Songbook (2001–2010) and Spanish Songbook (2009), for which he returned to the poetry of García Lorca.

Crumb's music is characterised by the mixing and contrasting effects of different musical styles: from western art music to hymns, folk music and music from non-western cultures. Many of his compositions also include symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which can also be seen in the unorthodox notation of his scores.  Crumb taught at the University of Pennsylvania for over thirty years. His work has been awarded various prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize (1968) and a Grammy Award (2001).

 

Stephen Mackey (1956) began his musical career as an electric guitarist in various rock bands. His pop-orientated roots can clearly be heard in his much-discussed concert music from the 1980s and 1990s. Since then he has been widely regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation. His oeuvre ranges from opera and orchestral music to chamber repertoires and dance music and has often been recorded. His CDs Dreamhouse (2010) and Lonely Motel: Music From Slide (2011) were each nominated for four Grammy Awards. Mackey’s work is played throughout the world by leading companies like the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Netherlands. As a guitarist he’s performed his own work with the Kronos Quartet, the Arditti Quartet and London Sinfonietta. His monodrama Ravenshead has been performed more than a hundred times to date. Among Mackey’s recent works are One Red Rose, for the Brentano String Quartet, Stumble to Grace (a piano concerto for Orli Shaham), Tonic (for the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia) and Mnemosyne’s Pool (a large-scale work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic). Mackey’s music has regularly received awards, including a Grammy, a Guggenheim grant and a Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Centre. He is also been composer in residence at leading festivals such as the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, the Aspen Music Festival and the Holland Festival.

 

The Australian composer Kate Moore (1979) was born in England, grew up in Australia and has been living and working in the Netherlands for many years. She majored in composition at The Australian National University, studying composition (BMUS Honours) at The Canberra School of Music and Electroacoustic Composition at The Australian Centre for Arts and Technology. She also studied cello at The Canberra School of Music. For her Master’s, Moore came to The Hague, where she studied under Louis Andriessen, Martijn Padding, Diderik Wagenaar and Gilius van Bergelijk. In 2012 she also received her doctorate, from the University of Sydney. Moore composes both acoustic and electronic music, writes chamber as well as concert pieces and makes sound installations. She has a great interest in the history of music and instruments and is fascinated by the architectural, biological and psychoacoustic properties of sound. She recently wrote an ensemble piece, Fern (2016), for the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and Slagwerk Den Haag. Moore has also composed for Asko|Schönberg, including Synaesthesia Suite (2015), Cello Concerto (2014) and the ensemble piece Days and Nature (2012). Her work is performed worldwide and has been heard in Carnegie Hall, Het Concertsgebouw and Sydney Opera House among others. She has also appeared at festivals like Bang on a Can, the ISCM World Music Days, Sonic Festival in New York, the Gaudeamus Music Week and November Music. Recordings of her music have appeared with labels such as ECM (Dances and Cannons). She is also produced various CDs independently with Ensemble Klang and cellist Ashley Bathgate. In 2010 she received De Komeet Culture Prize and won the composition prize of the Carlsbad Music Festival (California).

 

Brad Lubman is a preeminent conductor of contemporary music. He has conducted many world premieres, including of Steve Reich’s Three Tales, Daniel Variations, Radio Rewrite and Variations for Vibes, Pianos and Strings. He has also conducted the first performances of work by Helmut Lachenmann, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Philip Glass and John Zorn. Lubman has conducted many orchestras including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also often works with the most important European and American ensembles for new music, such as the Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Klangforum Vienna, Asko|Schönberg, Ensemble Resonanz and Steve Reich and Musicians. Lubman is the co-founder and artistic and musical director of the New York-based Ensemble Signal. Since their debut show in 2008 the company has given more than 150 concerts and collaborated on nine recordings. Lubman is also active as a composer. His work is regularly performed throughout Europe and the United States, and can be heard on the album Insomniac (Tzadik).

 

Daniel Reuss (1961) studied choral direction at the Rotterdam Conservatory under Barend Schuurman. In 1990 he became the artistic director of Cappella Amsterdam, which developed under his leadership into a prominent company in the fields of both early and contemporary music. Reuss and the choir brought out a series of very positively-received CDs, including Lux Aeterna (awarded the Diapason d’Or in 2009) and Janáček: Choral Works (awarded a Diapason d’Or and an Edison Classic in 2013). The recording of Arvo Pärts Kanon Pokajanen the Cappella Amsterdam made in 2016 received glowing reviews both in the Netherlands and abroad. In 2015 Reuss was made chief conductor of Ensemble Vocale Lausanne. He also regularly works with ensembles and orchestras from all over Europe, including the Academy of Classical Music in Berlin, MusikFabrik, the Scharoun Ensemble and the Radio Chamber Philharmonic. In 2016 Reuss was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion for his services to Dutch choral music.

 

The Radio Filharmonic Orchestra (RFO) occupies a prominent position in the musical life of the Netherlands. The RFO was set up in 1945 by Albert van Raaltie and has been led since then by Bernard Haitink, Jean Fournet, Willem van Otterloo, Hans Vonk, Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden among others. Markus Stenz was appointed chief conductor in 2012. Since August 2013 the RFO has been part of the Foundation for Broadcast Music (Stichting Omroep Muziek), along with the Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor) and the production department of the concert series on Radio 4 (NTR and AVROTROS). The majority of its concerts take place as part of the radio series NTR Saturday Matinee, the AVROTROS Friday Concert and the Sunday Evening Concert. The RFO collaborates with renowned guest conductors like Antal Doráti, Riccardo Muti, Mariss Jansons, Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Jurowski. American James Gaffigan has been a principal guest conductor since 2011 and recently signed on for the 2017-18 season. The orchestra plays a great deal of contemporary music, often premieres – by Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Harrison Birtwistle and Richard Rijnvos among others – written on commission for the NTR Saturday Matinee and the AVROTROS Friday Concert. The RFO appeared during the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 and during the Holland Festival Proms.

 

With sixty vocalists, the Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor) is the largest professional choir in the Netherlands. Since its foundation in 1945 the choir has delivered a broad repertoire. It sings chorus parts in operas, oratoria and cantatas but also gives a-cappella concerts. The choir has close ties to Dutch Public Broadcasting (Nederlandse Publieke Omroep). The majority of its concerts take place as part of the radio series NTR Saturday Matinee, the AVROTROS Friday Concert and the Sunday Evening Concert. The repertoire in this series ranges from classical to contemporary, including newly commissioned pieces from Dutch composers like Peter-Jan Wagemans, DIderik Wagenaar, Daan Manneke and Giel Vleggar, as well as premieres of foreign composers such as James MacMillan, Hans Werner Henze and John Adams. The programme also contains twentieth-century classics by Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mauricio Kagel, György Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen among others. For the radio series, the Netherlands Radio Choir often works with the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest. The company is also regularly invited to work with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Berlin Philharmonic. The first official chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir was Kenneth Montgomery. After him came Robin Gritton, Martin Wright, Simon Halsey, Celso Antunes and Gijs Leenaars respectively. Klaas Stok has been the choirmaster of the Netherlands Radio Choir since 1 March 2016. Michael Gläser has been the principal guest conductor since September 2010.

 

Ruben van Leer (1984) is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker. He studied film at the San Francisco Art Institute, design at the Sandberg Instituut and direction at the Nederlandse Filmacademie. He recently made Symmetry, a dance-opera filmed in CERN, the particle accelerator in Switzerland. Symmetry starred choreographer Lukas Timulak, soprano Claron McFadden, composer Joep Franssens and physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf and recently won a Golden Prague award for ‘Best Performance Art’. He directed the film campaign You Don’t Know Opera (2016) commissioned by The Dutch National Opera, created the live visual installation Shadow Theater (Jazz a la Villette 2014) with jazzcomposer Tigran Hamasyan and directed the award winning short film Instrument (2013). Van Leer assisted composer Michel van der Aa in the worlds’ first 3D-film opera Sunken Garden (Holland Festival 2013) and did the creative production of the online song cycle The Book of Sand (2015). He animated paintings for the installation Writing on Water (2005) with film maker Peter Greenway and composer David Langh. Van Leer also directed music videos and visual installations for The Black Eyed Peas (2010), Coldplay (2007) and Yeasayer (2013) amongst other pop-music formations. His work has been screened on television: Uur van de Wolf, SkyArts, ARTE, HBO and Nowness, exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Museum Würth, and presented at festivals, such as the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, Barcelona Choreoscope, the Los Angeles RAW Science Film Festival, the India All Lights Festival and the Sydney World Film Festival, and praised by critical international media VICE, The Huffington Post and De Volkskrant.

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Focus: George Crumb

The American composer George Crumb (1929) is considered to be one of the most important musical innovators of our time. He creates distinctive soundscapes through novel playing techniques,

and the integration of non-Western elements while his exquisite calligraphic scores introduce unusual musical notations. 

His music is atmospheric, mysterious and sometimes gripping, but the descriptive imagery surrounding the works provides accessibility. While embodying the American experimental tradition, Crumb nevertheless cites Bartók, Debussy and Mahler as major influences.


George Crumb is composer in focus at this year’s festival. A series of concerts cover different facets of his work: from his most famous composition, the spectacular ‘electric string quartet’ Black Angels (1970) with its evocative themes, to the recent and masterly American Songbook arrangements, which put familiar melodies in alienating soundscapes. From his kaleidoscopic orchestral work A Haunted Landscape (1984) to his brand new piano cycle Metamorphoses (2017). 

Crumb shows he is still one of the most distinctive voices in the contemporary musical landscape.

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Credits

music
Steve Mackey, George Crumb, Kate Moore
libretto
Kate Moore (Sacred Environment)
conductor
Brad Lubman
choral conductor
Daniel Reuss
didgeridoo
Lies Beijerinck
soprano
Alex Oomens
visual installation
Ruben van Leer (Sacred Environment)
coproduction
Holland Festival, NTR Radio

This performance was made possible with support by