Olga Neuwirth: Remnants of Songs…an Amphigory


I make a point of trying to listen to BBC Radio 4’s Hear and Now show each week in an attempt to keep abreast of what’s going on in the music world. Usually, Saturday night isn’t the best time to be focusing on serious music (not in my house anyway), so I normally listen on iPlayer the morning after.

This Saturday’s show focused on British and Austrian composers and featured a number of good pieces by composers I was not too familiar with.

The piece that stood out was by Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, already pretty well known thanks to her opera based on David Lynch’s Lost Highway. I like the way that this piece played with ideas of memory and recall in its use of quotation. I particularly like the use of As Time Goes By that was effortlessly woven into the texture, while at the same time being clearly recognisable. A wonderful evocation of our relationship between our present selves and our memories.

Here’s a review of the piece I found on the Boosey & Hawkes website that describes the work much more articulately than I can:

Remnants is essentially a 20-minute, five-movement concerto for viola and orchestra with a fiendishly difficult solo part, written especially for violist Antoine Tamestit and breathtaking in its virtuosic range. After long, lyrical high arcs on the viola, the orchestra jumps in with exotic percussive effects. Every now and then, a snatch of something tonal and vaguely familiar drifts in. The first movement builds to a glistening cha-cha. The shimmering, unearthly second movement is interrupted by huge, dissonant brass chords. The third movement features chimes, sirens, apocalyptic drums, and the feeling of the world collapsing set against snatches of rhythmic patterns and odd whiffs of tonality. The gorgeous fourth movement is dominated by a big, lyrical viola solo with a grab-holdable melody. The final section virtually follows traditional concerto form, with dialogue between soloist and orchestra, and builds to an audacious, richly-textured finale suggestive of Mahler at his most kitschy. But the work is entirely original, astoundingly complex and, ultimately, gloriously rewarding and uplifting.” (Larry L. Lash, MusicalAmerica.com, 08 Dec 2009)

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This entry was posted in composer, composition, Olga Neuwirth, Remnants of Songs...an Amphigory, viola, viola concerto. Bookmark the permalink.

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