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The Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas composed the remarkable music accompanying the autobiographical story told by his American wife, the writer and storyteller Mollena Lee Williams-Haas. She was an alcoholic for years, and wrote a searing story about her long journey to sobriety, which she reads at this concert. The music reinforces the narrative’s hallucinatory qualities. HYENA is a concerto for orchestra and narrator, with the role of the orchestra being fulfilled by the unsurpassed Viennese ensemble for contemporary music, klangforum Wien, with the Dutch conductor Bas Wiegers. The hyena is Mollena Lee Williams-Haas’s inner demon, which encouraged her to drink and which she is now settling scores with for once and for all.
Georg Friedrich Haas (1953)
Georg Friedrich Haas
de terrae fine (2001)
Georg Friedrich Haashye
'Around two or three in the morning, I turned over. I really had to pee and was bathed in sweat. I wanted to get out of bed when I noticed there was a bulge in the floor that had not been there before.[…] After a while it started to crack open from the top,
like a ball of dirt, and the crumbling revealed a large hairy something. The slope of the neck, the arch of the back, those tiny, black, glittering eyes and the oddly shaped ears that twitched to shake off the clumps of dirt. As the muzzle turned towards me, I was face to face with a hyena.'
In HYENA, Mollena Lee Williams-Haas has discovered a vivid way to describe the inner devil that drove her repeatedly to the bottle, and her uphill battle to recover from alcoholism. 'In fact, I never wanted to talk about my recovery from alcohol addiction at all', explains the American writer and storyteller, who married composer Georg Friedrich Haas in September 2015. 'It felt too personal and, in a way, the story had already been explored in every medium, ad nauseam. But then I was invited to perform at the prestigious Porchlight Storytelling event in San Francisco. And when they asked me what I wanted to talk about, my first thought was: ‘Definitely NOT about going into rehab’. Of course I was terrified, and so, naturally, I had to do it.'
HYENA was an enormous success and was subsequently broadcast on the National Public Radio programme, Snap Judgement. Eventually, it was Lee Williams' husband, the composer Georg Friedrich Haas, who suggested incorporating her story into a composition for ensemble and live narrator, a role which Lee Williams-Haas will play herself. 'My wife is a professional storyteller', says Haas. 'I know better than anyone how capable she is of communicating content, and I know how strong the impact of her artistic personality can be. It seemed natural to make use of our personal closeness to create a joint artistic project.'
Spoken language has always played a significant role in Haas' work: from his Fragment for 29 Speaking Voices (1979) to the complex speech rhythms in his Hölderlin opera Nacht (Night, 1995-96; 1998) or his 2015 opera, Morgen und Abend (Morning and Evening), in which an actor plays one of the leading roles. The composer is continually searching for new ways of integrating spoken language into his music, which is characterised by hallucinatory sound experiments and employs microtonality and alternative tuning systems.
Haas: 'In HYENA I tried to find a musical framework suitable to the borderline situation of the text. In doing so, a flexible relationship between music and speech was of vital importance: 'In Morgen und Abend and in das kleine ICH BIN ICH (the little I AM ME), there are extended passages in which longer sentences should be spoken within a certain fixed period. I have taken this further in HYENA: extended text passages will be spoken freely. The voice can react spontaneously to the sound of the ensemble, becoming slower, faster, louder or softer.’
The work of Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas (Graz, 1953) is known for its original and sensitive approach to sound. He uses microtonality, alternative tuning systems and natural overtones
in many of his pieces, including Dark Dream for Orchestra (2013) and Concerto grosso no.1 for four alphorns and orchestra (2014). Concerning the overwhelmingly sombre nature of his oeuvre, Haas says: ‘I composed an extensive repertoire of darkness during several decades.' The titles of such operas as Nacht (1995; 1998), Die schöne Wunde (The Beautiful Wound, 2003), Melancholia (2006-07) and Bluthaus (Blood-House, 2010-11) speak volumes, although in his orchestral work Hyperion (2000) he made use of composed lighting effects, and in his piano trio Ins Licht (2007) he explored what he describes as a more cheerful median of sound for the first time.
The German-Austrian music tradition also forms a recurring theme in Haas’ work, as can be heard in his Torso (2001), an orchestration of Schubert's unfinished piano sonata in C major (D. 840), and Sieben Klangräume (2005), a companion piece to theMozart Requiem. Haas is the recipient of the Großer Österreichischer Staatspreis, the 2012 Music Award of the City of Vienna 2012, and the 2013 Musikpreis Salzburg, among others. A former member of the faculty of the Hochschule für Musik Basel, he has taught at Columbia University, New York, since 2013.
Mollena Lee Williams-Haas is a writer, actress and storyteller. She is also a Bondage and S&M educator and lives with her husband, composer Georg Friedrich Haas, in New York, the city of her birth. Lee Williams-Haas has been an active performing artist throughout her life, engaging in everything from spoken word to classical theatre and from dance to performance art. She has sung on the soundtracks of such films as The Wiz and appeared with TV personality Danny Bonaduce in the cult classic, America's Deadliest Home Video. Her first solo show, 69 Stories: One Pervert's Tale, was a huge hit in Vancouver in the autumn of 2010. Lee Williams-Haas has appeared as a storyteller during Dixie De La Tour's Bawdy Storytelling, Porchlight Storytelling and on the National Public Radio Programme, Snap Judgement.
Lee Williams-Haas has been active in the world of BDSM and Leather since 1996. She regularly gives talks at kink events in the United States, Europe and Canada, and has presented lectures covering related issues at Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her essays have appeared in two anthologies: Best Sex Writing 2010 and The Lust Chronicles, both compiled by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Mollena Lee Williams-Haas was chosen International Miss Leather in 2010 and has also appeared at Leather Pride Amsterdam. In December 2007 she founded Safeword, a support group for fetishists.
Dutch conductor Bas Wiegers (1974) began his career as a violinist, but now primarily devotes his time to conducting, focusing on contemporary repertoire. He studied violin and orchestral conducting at the conservatories in Amsterdam and Freiburg. In addition to collaborating with Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Ensemble Modern and ASKO|Schönberg, Wiegers has regularly worked with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Residentie Orkest/The Hague Philharmonic, the WDR Symphony Orchestra and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Wiegers often appears at various international festivals, and he conducts the works of such living composers as Harrison Birtwistle, Louis Andriessen, George Benjamin, Oliver Knussen, Georg Friedrich Haas and Helmut Lachenmann.
In 2009, Wiegers received a conducting grant from the Kersjes Foundation, and a ‘Momentum’ grant from the Performing Arts Fund NL to explore the contemporary concert experience. During the 2017-18 season, Wiegers will again lead numerous projects with Klangforum Wien in Austria, Italy, Mexico, the Czech Republic and Germany. He will make his debut at the Kölner Oper with an opera by Helmut Oehring, and will also debut with the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart. During the Munich Biennale, he is slated to conduct the world premiere of Third Space, a work by the Flemish composer Stefan Prins, whose Mirror Box Extensions was on the programme of the 2016 Holland Festival.
Gunde Jäch-Micko was born in Vienna, where she grew up with her six siblings. Her interest in music developed very early on; she studied the violin, folk-harp and piano, focussing on folk music in particular. From 1978 to 1991 she trained at the University of Music in Vienna with Michael Frischenschlager, Ernst Kovacic and Gerhard Schulz. In particular she is interested in chamber music, playing in various small ensembles up to chamber orchestra size. For several years she studied the baroque violin as well as baroque playing techniques. She was awarded several prizes at the Austrian “National Competition Jugend musiziert” as well as at various international violin competitions. Gunde Jäch-Micko has performed as a soloist as well as with chamber music ensembles both within Austria and internationally and has recorded variously for the radio and on CD throughout the last 25 years. She became a member of Klangforum Wien in 1990.
Krassimir Sterev was born in Bulgaria where he started his musical education in Plovdiv. He continued his studies at the University of Music, Graz, as well as in Denmark where he held a scholarship from the Royal Danish Academy of Music, graduating as accordion soloist. His musical development was strongly influenced by teachers like Mogens Ellegaard, James Crabb and Georg Schulz. Krassimir Sterev performs internationally as a soloist and member of chamber music formations, ensembles and orchestras and plays at many renowned festivals. His engagements include appearances in various theatre and dance theatre productions and projects specifically developed for children. Krassimir Sterev became a member of Klangforum Wien in 2003. He has also worked with the Vienna Philharmonic (under Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim), the London Philharmonia Orchestra and the RSO Wien, with the ensembles Kontrapunkte, musikFabrik and Ensemble Phace and he is part of the Amos Trio. In addition, Krassimir Sterev focusses his attention on the development of a special repertoire for accordion. Many composers have written new pieces for him – amongst them Bernhard Lang, Pierluigi Billone, Bernhard Gander, Olga Neuwirth and Aureliano Cattaneo – which he premièred.
Lukas Schiske was born in Vienna in 1962. He trained both as a classical and as a jazz percussionist at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Following his studies, Lukas Schiske worked with classical symphony orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the RSO Sinfonieorchester and the Wiener Symphoniker as well as with several baroque orchestras. In addition, he has performed with various chamber music ensembles covering a wide range of musical styles, and collaborated with artistic personalities such as Michael Heltau and Claude Bolling. Over the years he has increasingly specialised in new music. Both as soloist and as ensemble player, Lukas Schiske is a regular guest at the most renowned international music festivals including Wien Modern, Wiener Festwochen, Bregenzer Festspiele, Lucerne Festival, Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Biennale Venedig, Huddersfield Contemporary, Sacrum Profanum Cracow and Ultima Oslo. Over the years he has forged close artistic relationships with composers such as Georg Friedrich Haas, Beat Furrer, Salvatore Sciarrino, Georges Aperghis, Olga Neuwirth, Rebecca Saunders, Mauricio Kagel and Luciano Berio. Since 2013 he holds a teaching position as professor for new playing techniques at the University of Music and Performing Arts (mdw), Vienna. Lukas Schiske has been a permanent member of Klangforum Wien since its inception in 1985.
In Klangforum Wien 24 musicians from ten different countries represent an artistic idea and a personal approach that aims to restore to their art something that seems to have been lost, gradually, almost inadvertently, during the course of the 20th century: music which has a place in the present, in the community for which it was written and that wants to hear it. Ever since its first concert, which the ensemble played under its former name, the Societé de l’Art Acoustique, at the Palais Liechtenstein under the baton of its founder Beat Furrer, Klangforum Wien has made musical history. The ensemble has premiered roughly 500 new pieces by composers from three continents. Klangforum Wien can look back on a discography of over 70 CDs, a series of honours and prizes and around 2,000 appearances at renowned festivals and in the premiere concert and opera venues in Europe, the Americas and Japan, as well as various youthful and original initiatives. The members of Klangforum Wien come from Australia, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. Sylvain Cambreling, Friedrich Cerha and Beat Furrer are three outstanding musicians who have been awarded an honorary membership of Klangforum Wien through an unanimous decision by the ensemble. Sylvain Cambreling has been principal guest conductor since 1997.
- Georg Friedrich Haa
- narrator, soloist
- Mollena Lee Williams-Haas
- Bas Wiegers
- performed by
- Klangforum Wien
- Olivier Vivarès, clarinet
Bernhard Zachhuber, clarinet
Lorelei Dowling, bassoon, contraforte
Gerald Preinfalk, saxophone
Mikael Rudolfsson, trombone
Krassimir Sterev, accordion
Lukas Schicke, percussion
Gunde Jäch-Micko, violin
Dimitrios Polisoidis, viola
Andreas Lindenbaum, cello
Benedikt Leitner, cello
Myriam Garcia Fidalgo, cello
Peter Schlier, bass
Beltana Ruiz, bass
- Sayaka, de terrae fine
- Gunde Jäch-Micko, violin
Krassimir Sterev, accordion
Alex Lipowski, percussion
- supported by
- ERSTE BANK