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By Culturekiosque Staff

NEW YORK, 7 JULY 2010 — The French-American composer Edgard Varèse (1883 -1965) was a gruff character who was prepared to fly in the face of every convention. Known as the "Father of Electronic Music", he was one of the first composers to take percussion and use it as a weapon against the academicism of traditional instruments. 

The Parisian-born Varèse left behind a significant oeuvre that will be performed in its entirety over two evenings this month (19 - 20 July) during the Lincon Center Festival in New York.

Winds, brass and percussion, at times augmented by voices, dominate in Varèse’s often raw, rhythmic orchestral works. His Poème Électronique, in which sound fanned out over the Le Corbusier-designed Philips pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958, became legendary.

Edgard Varèse (1883 -1965)

In addition to his Déserts (source of one of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées´s most memorable scandals when it was created in 1954) the programme in New York includes a performance of Étude pour Espace, a sketch for his never-realized utopian opera Espace, in an orchestral arrangement by Varèse’s former assistant Chou Wen-chung. In 2009, the Holland Festival presented the premiere of Étude pour Espace under the conductor Peter Eötvös and the video artist Gary Hill.

Performances at the Lincoln Center Festival feature the New York Philharmonic under its new music director Alan Gilbert, the International Contemporary Ensemble under the direction of Steven Schick, the rhythms of So Percussion, Musica Sacra led by Kent Tritle, Finnish soprano Anu Komsi among others.

Fortunately this New York festival takes place in the air-conditioned Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall rather than out-of-doors in the often intolerable tropical humidity that is the defining feature of summer in New York.

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)

Part I
Monday, 19 July at 8:00 pm
Alice Tully Hall, Starr Theater

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
Steven Schick, conductor
So Percussion
Anu Komsi, soprano
Alan Held, bass baritone
Mika Rännäli, piano
Jonathan Golove, cello theremin
Natasha Farny, cello theremin
Claire Chase, flute
Musica Sacra
Kent Tritle, chorus master

Part I Programme:
Poème Électronique, Un Grand Sommeil Noir, Hyperprism, Offrandes, Integrales, Ecuatorial, Dance for Burgess, Etude pour Espace, Density 21.5, Deserts

So Percussion

Part II
Tuesday, 20 July at 8:00 pm
Avery Fisher Hall

New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert, conductor
Anu Komsi, soprano
Oratorio Society
Kent Tritle, chorus master

Part II Programme:
Ionisation, Octandre, Tuning Up,
Arcana, Nocturnal, Ameriques

Concert venues:
Alice Tully Hall, Starr Theater
Avery Fisher Hall
Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY
Tel: (1) 212 721 65 00 

Lincoln Center Festival 2010

CD TIP: All CD releases are chosen by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.  

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Asko Ensemble
Riccardo Chailly
, conductor
Decca: 460 208-2 (2 CDs)

Culturekiosque Klassiknet's vote for the most important classical recording of 1998. Twelve years later, Riccardo Chailly's double CD set of the complete works of Edgard Varèse remains a distinguished achievement without the stale agenda or rigid obedience one often associates with the fragmented narrative of modern music.


BOOK TIP: All titles are chosen by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.

Edgard Varèse: Composer, Sound Sculptor, Visionary
Edited by Felix Meyer and Heidy Zimmermann

Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2006, reprinted with corrections 2007
507 pages. - 24.5 x 28.5 cm
10 digit ISBN: 1-84383-211-9
13 digit ISBN: 978-1-84383-211-9
EUR 39.95 / CHF 69.50
Available from the Paul Sacher Stiftung (Paul Sacher Foundation)
Auf Burg, Münsterplatz 4
CH-4051 Basel

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