New Musical Spaces concert
New Musical Spaces cycle
Ivana Stefanović’s concert programme
27 March 2009, Serbian National Theatre, Novi Sad
Over the water, Op.43
Katarina Jovanović, soprano
Ljubiša Jovanović, flute
Jasna Tucović, piano
Play Strindberg Op.27
TAJJ String Quartet
Aleksandra Krčmar Ćulibrk, 1st violin;
Jovanka Mazalica, 2nd violin;
Jelena Filipovič, viola;
Timea Kalmar, cello
Extraordinary scenes from Homer’s grave in Smyrna – New additions for Hans Christian Andersen, Op.44
Ljubiša Jovanović, flute
Predrag Miki Manojlović, narrator
St George Strings - Biljana Radovanović, conductor
Tree of life, Op.38
St George Strings - Biljana Radovanović, conductor
IVANA STEFANOVIĆ, ABOUT THE MUSIC
OVER THE WATER
The piece Nad vodom (Above the water) was written in the summer of 2003. It was written for and dedicated to the trio Donne di Belgrado. I didn't have any literary text in mind when I started working on this piece. I thought that I would leave certain musical themes and notes without further development, or that I would treat voices as instruments. But a "genie of the lamp" appeared: someone I know sent me a few poems of the Ancient Greek poets. Among others, there were songs written by the melics Sappho from Eresos on the island of Lesbos, Alcman from Sardes, and Alcaeus from Mytilene. It turned out that the "genie" really did his part and suddenly the poems, or some of them to be precise, fitted perfectly into the existing sketches. There wasn’t even any need to alter the meter or repeat syllables. The lyrics themselves seemed quite surprising. The songs were about nature, descriptions, "events" between the Moon and the Pleiades, apple tree branches, or the wind. There were no men/women, no feelings, until the very last scene where the "face" appeared. "I'm talking to myself," Sappho said at the end.
The string quartet Play Strindberg was written in 1993. It was written as stage music for the play “The Father” by August Strindberg. The play, performed at the Atelje 212 Theatre in Belgrade, was directed by Radoslav Milenković and had Bata Stojković in the lead role. Play Strindberg was first performed as a string quartet outside of the theatre in May 1994. It was performed by the Camerata Academica quartet from Novi Sad. Since then it has been performed many times by Serbian and international ensembles.
EXTRAORDINARY SCENES FROM HOMER’S GRAVE IN SMYRNA – NEW ADDITIONS FOR HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
This piece was written in 2005. It was first performed in December 2007 by Ljubiša Jovanović, Biljana Radovanović and St George Strings.
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
A Rose from Homer’s Grave (1842)
All the songs of the east speak of the love of the nightingale for the rose in the silent starlight night. The winged songster serenades the fragrant flowers. Not far from Smyrna, where the merchant drives his loaded camels, proudly arching their long necks as they journey beneath the lofty pines over holy ground, I saw a hedge of roses. The turtle-dove flew among the branches of the tall trees, and as the sunbeams fell upon her wings, they glistened as if they were mother-of-pearl. On the rose-bush grew a flower, more beautiful than them all, and to her the nightingale sung of his woes; but the rose remained silent, not even a dewdrop lay like a tear of sympathy on her leaves. At last she bowed her head over a heap of stones, and said, “Here rests the greatest singer in the world; over his tomb will I spread my fragrance, and on it I will let my leaves fall when the storm scatters them. He who sung of Troy became earth, and from that earth I have sprung. I, a rose from the grave of Homer, am too lofty to bloom for a nightingale.” Then the nightingale sung himself to death. A camel-driver came by, with his loaded camels and his black slaves; his little son found the dead bird, and buried the lovely songster in the grave of the great Homer, while the rose trembled in the wind. The evening came, and the rose wrapped her leaves more closely round her, and dreamed: and this was her dream. It was a fair sunshiny day; a crowd of strangers drew near who had undertaken a pilgrimage to the grave of Homer. Among the strangers was a minstrel from the north, the home of the clouds and the brilliant lights of the aurora borealis. He plucked the rose and placed it in a book, and carried it away into a distant part of the world, his fatherland. The rose faded with grief, and lay between the leaves of the book, which he opened in his own home, saying, “Here is a rose from the grave of Homer.” Then the flower awoke from her dream, and trembled in the wind. A drop of dew fell from the leaves upon the singer’s grave. The sun rose, and the flower bloomed more beautiful than ever. The day was hot, and she was still in her own warm Asia. Then footsteps approached, strangers, such as the rose had seen in her dream, came by, and among them was a poet from the north; he plucked the rose, pressed a kiss upon her fresh mouth, and carried her away to the home of the clouds and the northern lights. Like a mummy, the flower now rests in his “Iliad,” and, as in her dream, she hears him say, as he opens the book, “Here is a rose from the grave of Homer.”
TREE OF LIFE
My composition is based on the idea of the tree of life, the symbol of eternal renewal and new life. The tree of life motif is widespread in the East and frequently encountered in the world of floral ornamentation. The tree of life can be found on rugs, tapestries, miniatures, engravings, fabrics, paintings, mosaics… The branches of the tree of life extend endlessly, continuing onto each other, interlacing… One gets lost in that endless pictorial labyrinth. The path of those branches, those branches that are ever green, looks renewing, repetitive, restless and uncatchable. Is that good enough for hope?
“Dialogue” concert programme; Ivo Josipović - Ivana Stefanović
Zagreb - Belgrade, December 2007, Belgrade Philharmonic concert hall
Belgrade string orchestra “Dušan Skovran”, conducted by Tonči Bilić
Ivo Josipović: Samba da camera (9')
Ivana Stefanović: Four nighttime notes, for viola and strings (22')
Ivo Josipović: Encounters in dreams, for voice and strings (10')
Ivana Stefanović: Tree of life (11')
Ivo Josipović: Dernek for two pianos, percussions, and strings (10')
About the silence
This programme is dedicated to silence.
One could offer alternative titles in the context of this theme:
Life/live - conversation
Testimony of temptation
Nature - portrait without a face
Exploration of duration
Silence - genre scene
Life - hope
Obični razgovori (Ordinary conversations) represents a relation between two forms/voices/lines/curves. Two voices that are similar but different, that are searching, finding, touching, parting, merging, overtaking, calling each other... It's a musical simulation of human conversations, of human dialogue. One might say that both notes can be replaced with words or (meaningful/meaningless) syllables. The piece was written for the duo of Borislav Čičovački, oboe, and Peđa Milosavljević, violin. These two instruments might not seem to fit together naturally but, with careful coordination, a certain closeness of sound and expression can be achieved. This piece premiered at the Crossing Border festival in the Hague, on November 16, 2003.
Kust (1974) was originally written for a bassoon and a piano. It was first performed by Božidar Tumpej. The piece was recently arranged for the cello. Joseph Brodsky, the famous Russian poet who emigrated to the USA and spent the rest of his life there, published a collection of poems entitled Station in the desert. In one of his poems in this collection, Brodsky describes the Biblical story of Isaac and Abraham (Isaac and Abraham). But besides the father who must decide between his love for his son and his love for God, Brodsky introduces an additional character to the poem. This character is unimportant, silent, almost invisible. The poet, however, gives him a prominent place in poem and introduces him through an acrostic. In my piece, Kust, I place this marginal character in the center, and in the title of the piece. The character is a witness to the drama, the one who silently watches the unfolding of the scene. The character is a log, a piece of dry wood, a bush. It stands to the side, watching and remembering. Kust is the Russian word for bush or shrub. My idea was to make this old Biblical kust "speak" about what it saw, through the sounds of the "noble wood."
The piece Nad vodom (Above the water) was written in the summer of 2003. It was written for and dedicated to the trio Donne di Belgrado. I didn't have any literary text in mind when I started working on this piece. I thought that I would leave certain musical themes and notes without further development, or that I would treat voices as instruments. But a "genie of the lamp" appeared: someone I know sent me a few poems of the Ancient Greek poets, translated by Aleksandar Gatalica. Among others, there were songs written by the melics Sappho from Eresos on the island of Lesbos, Alcman from Sardes, and Alcaeus from Mytilene. It turned out that the "genie" really did his part and suddenly the poems, or some of them to be precise, fitted perfectly into the existing sketches. There wasn’t even any need to alter the meter or repeat syllables. The lyrics themselves seemed quite surprising. The songs were about nature, descriptions, "events" between the Moon and the Pleiades, apple tree branches, or the wind. There were no men/women, no feelings, until the very last scene where the "face" appeared. "I'm talking to myself," Sappho said at the end.
Harmonies were written for a string quartet and were performed many times in Belgrade, Opatija, Ohrid, as well as in Hungary and Romania, by a Serbian string quartet. At the time, the quartet was made up of Jovan Kolundžija, Živojin Velimirović, Petar Ivanović and Ivo Poparić. The creation of the piece was inspired by Zoran Hristić, the artistic director of the BEMUS festival at the time. The piece was first performed at BEMUS in 1976. Like many of my other compositions from the seventies (Incantations, for example), Harmonies were inspired by literature. I was then deeply fascinated by the works of Vesna Krmpotić, an almost unknown writer Ljubinka Radovanović, and Thomas Mann. They were also inspired by a long gaze into the depths of the past. I used to call it my "Egyptian phase". In Harmonies I expressed a universal search for balance through balance of musical material. Besides that, an obsessive fascination with silence contributed to my musical thought in these compositions. There are two structural elements in Harmonies: one is a cluster that is the sum of all scale notes and the other is a melody formed by the constant changes in the density and sonority of the clusters. The melodic element circles, shifting from one instrument to another, only to disappear in the fixed clusters. Harmonies are composed in an extended tonality. What comes out of the silence and eventually disappears into that same silence makes the invisible circle in which the sound trembles seem never ending.
Paysage - Also on the subject of silence... An unexpected event defined some of my musical work. At the start of my studies, in the 1970s, I started working in a radio studio (was it really an accident?). This affected my life in a number of different ways. I worked with sound like the way a baker works with dough, every day. I therefore started to really observe sounds and noise. Under the magnifying glass of the microphone and the loudspeakers, I realised that the micro and macro worlds of sound were actually much more plastic than ordinary sound, that sound exists everywhere around us. The first piece I composed in that, so-called, radiophonic genre was Poslanica ptica (The epistle of birds). At the time, I didn't know what the genre was called. But did anyone? I've enjoyed working with sounds and exploring procedures and methods, modeling that dough and sometimes getting surprising, unexpected forms. And I've approached nature from a different perspective and imagined it further. Sometime later, I started composing pieces out of natural, ordinary sounds. Even though I came closer to using the computer for composing by the end of the 70s and the start of the 80s (while studying at IRCAM), I've stayed in the world of ordinary, natural sound. It has fascinated me more than the endless field of electronics. Paysage (1980), a piece for the harpsichord and tape was performed by Olivera Djurdjević in many places, from Belgrade, to Radenac and Paris. In Paysage, I explore possible dialogue between sound and silence. In that sense, the composition has two equally relevant layers – a layer of sounds, and another layer that is its antipode – the layer of silence. There is more noise here than there is sound. The tape recording has a multilayered structure formed out of the recordings of different sounds from nature. Since the tape recording itself has a limited lifespan, this composition, as so many others in the world, had to renounce the notion of "eternity."
Drvo života (Tree of life) was composed during the spring of 1997 and premiered at St Anthony’s Franciscan Church in Damascus, in June that year. Tree of life was a commission from the Syrian National Orchestra, and more precisely from the conductor and High Institute for Music dean in Damascus, Maestro Solhi Al Wadi. I decided to write a new piece for this occasion. I needed a new piece, a piece filled with hope. My composition is based less on the idea of a tree of life, a motif that exists in the Middle East, where I lived for some time. It is based more on the pictorial representation of that idea. In the world of floral ornamentation, the tree of life can be found on rugs, tapestries and miniatures. The branches of the tree of life extend endlessly, continuing onto each other, interlacing… One gets lost in that endless pictorial labyrinth. The path of those branches, those branches that are ever green, looks renewing, repetitive, restless and uncatchable. Is that good enough for hope? Instrumental song was composed in 1996 and was dedicated to Galina Kaldeeva who performed the song many times, accompanied by Rustam Gubaidulin on the piano. The piece premiered in Damascus in 1996. With some minimal adjustments, it was later arranged for the flute and the piano.
Ivana Stefanović’s concert, 1993
29 May 1993, Cvijeta Zuzorić Pavilion
November, November…. quasi una fantasia for solo cello - Ištvan Varga, cello
Piano music - Alain Fraser, piano
Play Strindberg, string quartet no.3 - Camerata academica string quartet
Julija Hartig, violin
Zorica Stanojević, violin
Peđa Milosavljević, viola
Ištvan Varga, cello
Hommage à Villon, for ancient instruments and two voices – Renaissance Ensemble
Ivana Radivojević, soprano
Magda Skačić, mezzo-soprano
Biljana Radovanović, conductor
Signs along the road, for flute and piano - Ljubiša Jovanović, flute
Olivera Đurđević, piano
Lachrymose - Tape music
Psalm, for mixed choir and solo mezzo-soprano - Aleksandra Ivanović, mezzo-soprano
The Krsmanović-Obilić choir
Dara Matić-Marović, conductor
FROM THE AUTHOR
November, November…. quasi una fantasia, for solo cello, 1987. An image seen through the foggy glass of a damp window. One day, when the “Seasons” cycle is complete, November will be its penultimate movement.
Piano music. It emerged between 1967 and 1993 from impressions from stories, paintings, theatre characters and real people.
Play Strindberg, 1993. Stage music for the play “The Father” by August Strindberg. The cold and the light that appears only fleetingly before it turns into darkness that characterise the North – they don’t give rise to cold poems or cold writers. They give rise to things durable, to things that last. Reading Strindberg (or watching his plays on stage) gives the reader the impression that a whole eternity has passed since the first page of the text. White nights erase the borders between dreams and wakefulness, between passion and insensitivity. This piece is a reflection on how to play Strindberg.
Hommage à Villon, 1978. The verses of the brigand and poet François Villon «...Triste, plus noir que... ...Mort saisit sans exception... ...Repos éternel...». These verses by François Villon seem to peek, like snowdrops from the snow, from Villon’s other cheeky, ironic, humorous, charming verses. Still, only these verses drew my attention «... je ris en pleur...» - says Villon. The two voices that sing this text separate only in their internal echo. They are merely a picture and its reflection in a mirror. Natural tempered instruments, dusty costumes of the past, are the only things that blur this picture.«...Mais où sont les neiges d' antan?...» - asks Villon.
Signs along the road, 1993 version. Based on Ivo Andrić. This is music meant for ‘singing’ even though there are no voices in it. The piece was written in 1978, for a theatre adaptation of a book by Ivo Andrić.
Lachrymose, 1993. Tape music. Produced by Kunst Radio-Radio Kunst, ORF, Austria. Quotations from Pergolesi, Mozart, Verdi, Penderecki, Britten… Sounds from the streets of Sarajevo (May 1992), Belgrade (June 1992)… Jews departing again (winter of 1992-3). The Canto ladino group from Sarajevo sings Sephardic songs. ‘Full of tears’ say prayer texts from around the world. This musical prayer, dedicated to a friend from Sarajevo, is also full of tears.
Psalm, 1990. This piece was born out of the prayer dedicated to the Virgin Mary, from a poetic reading of the Orthodox prayer book. Psalm was not written to a specific text but to certain prayer words: Halleluiah, Glory to You, Have Mercy on Us… Certain images go with this music: that of our ancestors migrating, through gorges, down mountains, they find themselves in the midst of the hopelessness of those who have gathered in the plains...
photo: Zoran S. Popovic