Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Accordion night at the ÖGZM

Alte Schmiede, 04/05/2012

Ensemble Wiener Collage: Sylvie Lacroix (flute), Wolfgang Zuser (flute), Stefan Neubauer (clarinet), Reinhold Brunner (clarinet), Alfred Melichar (accordion), Jaime Wolfson (piano, conductor), Mathilde Hoursiangou (piano)

Georg Aranyi-Aschner: Erinnerungszwischenspiel for flute and accordion
Alexander Wagendristel: für 3 raben no. 9 for flute, clarinet and accordion (1998)
Daniel Salecich: ein ... atmen for flute, accordion and piano (2004)
Peter Köszeghy: TOTEM (Into the Pandemonium) for flute, clarinet, accordion and piano
Sylvie Lacroix: Trio for flute, bass clarinet and accordion
Alexander Wagendristel: Honeycomb for flute/piccolo, clarinet, accordion and piano (2011/12). World premiere
Manuela Kerer: air de souffleuses for flute and clarinet

The Vienna Philharmonic sponsors a network of chamber music ensembles to which most members of the orchestra belong. It’s a system which has been in place for some time, harking back to the orchestra’s origins, and performances by the various groups are frequent. Just the other month I wrote about the Ensemble Wien, which contains none of its founding members but maintains its unusual Vln/Vln/Vla/Db configuration and is now headed by this blog’s favourite Wiener concertmaster, Albena Danailova. For those rare Philharmonic birds with a thing for contemporary music there is the Ensemble Wiener Collage, which brings together these musicians with some familiar faces from Vienna’s contemporary music scene. Like the Ensemble Wien their set-up is unconventional, with an accordionist in the mix, Alfred Melichar, whom I heard on Friday evening at the Alte Schmiede in a concert sponsored by the broad church contemporary music association, the Österreichische Gesellschaft für zeitgenössische Musik.

I have written elsewhere about the ÖGZM’s origins in connection with Vienna’s factionalized postwar avant-garde and will simply note here that it is a fascinating tale involving the equally formidable extramural forces of inchoate Cold War cultural politics and, stretching out from the other U.S. seaboard, Arnold Schoenberg’s long tentacles (his finger kept in many a Viennese strudel by loyal acolyte H. E. Apostel). The ÖGZM’s self-declared aim sixty years ago was to transcend strife, which it did with varying success, and its setting aside of aesthetic agendas persists to this day but has led to questions about the purpose of the association. It is a Verein which tries to be all things to all composers and maintains that the individuals who co-operate with it ‘feel they belong’ [sich dem Verein zugehörig fühlen], though the names missing from their roster of members show how little its activities are valued.

This was in part borne out by Friday’s programme, much of which was derivative, and somewhat ironically, of composers considered too unreliable for the ÖGZM. That Manuela Kerer’s air de souffleuses, to take one example, shamelessly ripped off Peter Ablinger without use of his electronic trickery was interesting, up to a point. This piece could have gone much further and Kerer, at her best, has the imagination to do that. Other decent if none too inspired writing came from Georg Aranyi-Aschner, who exploited the accordion’s strengths while minimizing the various drawbacks that come with bellows, and Peter Köszeghy, whose TOTEM (Into the Pandemonium) was the most tightly constructed piece of the evening. Accordion-inflected spectralism – just to prove it can be done rather than saying anything essential – came from Daniel Salecich.

Always thoroughly rehearsed and game, so I sensed, for music less non-controversial than that sanctioned by the ÖGZM, Wiener Collage comes close to sure-fire Klangforum standards with the consistency of its spirited and technically impressive performances. I would have made more notes about the playing had I planned to blog about this; let it simply be said that if composer-conductor Jaime Wolfson can hold my interest with this fare then I hope to see him lead a Klangforum concert someday. A night of perfectly ordinary pieces played well then, and no crime for new scores to offer nothing more, but composers capable of quickening the pulse mostly operate outside the egalitarian ÖGZM’s staid comfort zone.

No comments:

Post a Comment