Universal Edition - Johannes Maria Staud – About the Music

Johannes Maria Staud

Johannes Maria Staud

About the Music

Johannes Maria Staud was born in Innsbruck, Tyrol, on 17 August 1974. However, nothing would be further from the truth than to call him a ‘Tyrolian composer’. In no way is he a provincial figure – in fact, ever since he joined Universal Edition in 2000, at the age of 26, he has become one of the most successful composers of his generation, with prestigious commissions from some of the greatest orchestras and festivals in the world.

Staud and his publisher have every reason to be proud that Sir Simon Rattle has asked him for a composition for the Berlin Philharmonic (Aperion, 2004/2005), that the Salzburg Festival commissioned a cello concerto from him to be premiered as part of celebrating the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth in 2006 (Segue, 2006). Heinrich Schiff was the soloist, Daniel Barenboim conducted the Vienna Philharmonic. The Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst gave the first performance of On Comparative Meteorology (2009) and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra have received the score they have commissioned for string quartet and orchestra (On Deceptive City Maps and the Temptations of Winter Nights. Dichotomie II). Riccardo Chailly premièred it with the Gewandhaus String Quartet.

Such lists could eventually become tiresome and perhaps smack of publicity, but they do give an indication of the extent to which Staud’s music has found widespread recognition on the highest level. To cite one more example: the Staatskapelle Dresden has appointed him capell compositeur for the 2010/2011 season. He is to write three new works for the orchestra and its principal conductor, Fabio Luisi.

Let us take a look at those titles once again: Apeiron was inspired by ideas of Leonardo da Vinci and the Greek philosopher Anaximander. In Segue, Staud has orchestrated a Mozart fragment for violoncello and piano and succeeded brilliantly not only in making it sound genuine Mozart but also in finding a transition to his own music which gives the listener goose-pimples. On Comparative Meteorology and On Deceptive City Maps and the Temptations of Winter Nights conjure up the world of Bruno Schulz, the Polish-Jewish writer and graphic artist whose writings have deeply impressed the Austrian composer. Finally: Dichotomie II is a reference to the string quartet of the same title (1997/1998). Staud rarely resorts to the method of taking an early piece and re-working it to produce a new one; it is more usual for him to create a series of compositions where the Roman figures (such as Incipit III. Esquisse retouchée II for trombone solo, 2 horns, 3 percussionists and string orchestra) inform one of its links to earlier pieces of the cycle.

Staud is an avid reader and draws inspiration from world literature. He is also an appreciative and sensitive observer of the contemporary art scene (with Bruce Nauman among those who have directly influenced him; cf. Violent Incidents. Hommage à Bruce Nauman for saxophone solo, wind ensemble and percussion, 2005/2006. Film is for him also an art form capable of awakening musical ideas (Black Moon for bass clarinet, 1998, was inspired by Louis Malle’s film of the same title) – the list could be continued indefinitely.

Staud has shaken off early enough the supposed expectations of the music world for a young composer to write in an 'avant-garde' style. Neither does he look back at his predecessors to produce pieces easy on the ear, to please conservative audiences. He has found an idiom all his own marked by meticulous work on the large form as well as on the tiniest details (his beautifully written scores are a faithful mirror of this); he takes a long time over each new composition and is its most critical listener at the premiere. His acute self-criticism has led to some revised versions, such as Segue or One Movement and Five Miniatures for harpsichord, ensemble and electronics.

Johannes Maria Staud’s compositions have all cleared that most difficult hurdle of all: having a second performance. In fact, his music is being taken up by soloists, new music ensembles, chamber groups and orchestras all over the world (including the Far East) so that a tradition of interpretation is in the making – a sign that Staud’s music could be here to stay.