Elbphilharmonie, Großer Saal, Hamburg
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester / Alan Gilbert
Frontispiece for orchestra was commissioned by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra to open Alan Gilbert’s inaugural season as their Chief Conductor. This occasion prompted me to write a short piece which presents a time lapse of a kind of the history of music: certain aspects of a number of key symphonic works of different epochs are being evoked and poured into new moulds by letting them interact and comment upon each other. These are never actual style quotations - mere allusions, and faint references. On the level of details, the work consists of many tiny fragments which all refer to gestures typical to certain works and composers, and these are being ‘translated’ to each other in numerous different and occasionally unexpected ways. As to give but a few examples: certain chord sequences by Anton Bruckner are interpreted in a manner akin to Anton von Webern, splinters of Strauss, Scriabin and Stravinsky collide, Brahmsian harmony passes through the prisms of, say, Charles Ives, and certain material from Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony – Heaven forbid – is being presented a la manière de Pierre Boulez. This process of ‘translating’ happens on several levels: diverse materials and gestures, ranging from Baroque music all the way to the avant-garde, are being transcribed and transformed in an alienating manner so that something very different arises as a sum of their interactions. All of this happens at a rather microscopic level: all aforementioned allusions, as well as other ones, are not immediately perceivable, and it is most certainly not necessary to trace them in order to be able to ‘understand’ the piece. On the level of the macrostructure, the work’s form is being held together by a certain chord, which could be called its supporting pillar – a chord which, by way of exception, is completely autarchic. Frontispiece reflects on my decades-long experiences with landmark works of the symphonic literature as composer and recipient. In extracting distinct aspects of works of certain composers, Anton von Webern’s art of revealing a ‘universe in a nutshell’ by means of extreme compression served as a particular inspiration.
"Seven minutes of soundscapes, juxtaposed violently, then resting peacefully, with pedal points, blurrings and harmonic advances... Improvisational threads permeate the subtle orchestration - a concentrate of tensions to which are added the colours of four drummers, celesta and piano."