“Institutions are nothing without the people who actually help the wheels to turn. I was unable to see that when I was young. The strength of the institutions which are crucial for our artistic development and production capabilities is mainly dependent on the imagination and courage of just a few people,” Mauricio Kagel once said. Nobody doubted that he was referring above all to Otto Tomek, one of the defining personalities in the New Music scene, without whose courage, imagination and strength music history after 1945 would certainly have developed very differently.
Otto Tomek passed away earlier this year after a fulfilling life. In this issue, you can read about what he meant to Universal Edition and its composers. We also remember Luciano Berio, who died ten years ago, with a touching poem by Eduardo Sanguineti.
In the UK Harrison Birtwistle’s Gawain is considered one of the most significant works for 20th-century music theatre. However, the opera has never been staged in the rest of Europe. This is due to change, as Gawain is to be performed in the Felsenreitschule at Salzburg Festival from 26 July onward. The storyline is based on a medieval heroic epic from the Arthurian saga and includes a host of elements that are typical for the genre: gloomy castles, eerie nocturnal apparitions, magic powers, political intrigue and amorous confusion. We visited Birtwistle in London and asked him about the work.
Georg Friedrich Haas turns 60 on 16 August and we celebrate his birthday with a special section. In January Simon Rattle conducted in vain, the forward-looking ensemble composition which has gained cult status, for the first time and has nothing but praise for the work: “It requires patience and it requires trust, but it’s a staggering experience and one of the first great masterpieces of the 21st century.” In an interview, Haas himself describes the sounds for which he has a particular preference: “I am interested in the unbelievably intense sound quality of ‘purely’ intoned intervals. An overtone chord with pure tuning.”
“Your letter dated 8 June which I just received has filled me with the greatest pleasure,” Emil Hertzka wrote to Karol Szymanowski in 1919. Wolfgang Molkow uses a number of interesting references to describe how this great Polish man – who is still underestimated even today – came to Vienna, to UE, and how he found his style and his inspiration.
In an interview with David Sawer we travel once more to England, where we are allowed an insight into his work. Just a short time ago, Sawer enjoyed major success with the premiere of Flesh and Blood in London. As an interesting aside: Sawer was one of the extras when Gawain was premiered in 1991.
Vykintas Baltakas is a composer who likes to surprise himself with the music that he writes, and therefore does not work according to a prefabricated aesthetic programme. We introduce one of the last composers who Otto Tomek brought to Universal Edition.
We hope you will enjoy this issue.
UE Promotion Team