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A new instrumental ‘setting’ of the REQUIEM by Peter Ruzicka is premiered in Hamburg under the baton of Kent Nagano on 2 September. The coming months also see first performances of EINGEDUNKELT at Donaueschingen and DEPART: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in Zürich.

Three major premieres by composer and conductor Peter Ruzicka take place in the new concert season, launched by the unveiling of his new REQUIEM in Hamburg on 2 September. Kent Nagano conducts the first performance with the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra in St Michael’s Church, whose spaces formed a major part in the composition of Ruzicka’s antiphonal work. Scored for winds, strings, organ, timpani and percussion, the 20-minute REQUIEM is a purely instrumental ‘setting’ of the familiar text, remaining voiceless as a shocked and fitting response to the COVID pandemic at the time of composition.

Peter Ruzicka notes how “while working on the REQUIEM, the following note was lying next to my score: ‘Dies irae, day of wrath, a rift in our consciousness. Terrifying visions of the end of the world as a cosmic catastrophe.’ In my REQUIEM, the sonic impressions of our fears and sensations are enclosed in contemplation, offering a meditative replay. And death appears as a transition into what is uncertain for human experience... I am afraid that I cannot and should not say more about this work.”

> Concert info (Hamburg)

The closing concert of the Donaueschingen Music Days, which celebrated its centenary last year, features the world premiere on 16 October of Peter Ruzicka’s new concerto for violinist Carolin Widmann and the SWR Symphony Orchestra. As well as soloist and orchestra, conducted by Bas Wiegers, EINGEDUNKELT features a small group of voices provided by the SWR Vocal Ensemble who surround the violinist. The concerto is named after the sequence of eleven poems by Paul Celan, Eingedunkelt (Benighted): the poet has been a recurring influence on Ruzicka’s musical output including his opera CELAN which occupied the composer through much of the 1990s. The new concerto refers specifically to the sixth song in Celan’s collection, Nach dem Lichtverzicht (After renouncing light):

“My second violin concerto was written throughout 2021 in a time of pandemic-related restrictions. EINGEDUNKELT is four interlocking, delimiting sound spaces of light and shadow, proximity and distance. The solo violin is the vox humana in the midst of a vocal ensemble placed in the orchestra. EINGEDUNKELT appears like a reverse of my first violin concerto ...INSELN, RANDLOS, composed in the 1990s. In the middle, both works touch each other in a reminiscent approach to Paul Celan's poem Nach dem Lichtverzicht. Finally, there is a cadential outburst from the solo violin, which leads into a great, fading peal.”

> Concert info (Donaueschingen)

A further Ruzicka string concerto, this time for viola and again with profound Celan connections, is premiered in Zürich on 2 December. Written for soloist Nils Mönkemeyer, DEPART: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra is given its first performance by the Tonhalle Orchestra conducted by the composer, two years after its composition as the darkness of COVID spread internationally.

“Paul Celan wrote ‘Départ Paul’ in his notebook on 19 April 1970 before he ended his life with a walk into the Seine. Fifty years later, my viola concerto DEPART was written as funeral music in memory of this great poet who, like no other, knew how to name the wounds of the 20th century. I had already dedicated a number of other works to him, including the opera CELAN, which finds a late parergon in my new piece. The solo viola leads us through the music of DEPART, which oscillates between rapturous rebellion and silencing musical form. My empathy for Celan not infrequently leads to moments of rebellion, of outburst - but then also of epic withdrawal into the dark, the indeterminate, into silence and extinction. DEPART was written in the months of the emerging corona pandemic.”

Also in the Zürich programme is the Swiss premiere of Ruzicka's overture FURIOSO which the Tonhalle Orchestra premiered at Austria's Grafenegg Festival in 2019 and toured to Romania's Enescu Festival last year.

> Concert info (Zürich)

> Further information on Peter Ruzicka at Boosey.com
> Visit Peter Ruzicka’s website

>  Further information on Work: REQUIEM

Photo: Peter Ruzicka conducting (image: Anne Kirchbach)

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