NEWS

German premiere of Chiaroscuro

On 29 June 2017 GMD Kazem Abdullah will conduct the German premiere of Chiaroscuro – contrasts for chamber orchestra with the Aachen Symphony Orchestra.
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Opera Anna’s Mask – Press quotes

(...) The orchestra’s string players have to bring the whole arsenal of modern playing techniques to bear in Anna’s Mask, from different types of pizzicato and assorted degrees of bow pressure to fulfilling instructions such as “grating” or “clattering”. Hefti also employs micro-tonality – in other words, the quartertones and three-quarter-tones that lie in between the “normal” notes. His orchestral forces are largely classical in size, though expanded by the use of much percussion, and in particular by “smoother” sounding instruments such as vibraphone, marimbaphone, celeste and harpsichord. The conductor Otto Tausk turns this into a subtle orchestral fabric that is often pointillist in character. The transparency of the orchestration also helps the singers, who never have to force. (...)

(...) Despite his classically avant-garde musical language, Hefti is also always concerned with expressiveness – with creating the kind of expression that speaks directly to the listener. He loves powerful contrasts and does not refrain from writing intense cantilenas when the opportunity arises. His music is capable of cumulative processes of concentration, and can unleash a vehement drive. (...)

(...) Initially, Hefti is somewhat economical in his tendency towards expressiveness. When Sutter here celebrates her stage success as Salome in the eponymous opera by Richard Strauss, the orchestra first offers a repetitive rhythm that one could interpret as an alienated, “classical” variant of the rhythmic drive of a kind of “pop” music. There are also heavily alienated quotations from Carmen and Salome. But the moment we approach the crucial moment of the murder, Hefti spreads open his broad palette of colours. First the string instruments slide up and down en masse while the strings of the harpsichord are plucked inside the body of it, as if spreading a murmured whisper. Finally, they embark on furious runs, the flute hyperventilates, and Sutter’s maid (Sheida Damghani with extremely high coloratura) lunges into hectic, jabbering repetitions. (...)

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 9 May 2017, Michael Stallknecht

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It’s rare to see a world premiere of an opera and to understand so much: of the text, the plot and the direction. And this is where David Philip Hefti’s music comes in. He uses the orchestra to characterise the events on stage, with Otto Tausk as his splendid “extended arm”, so to speak. Shimmering, violent, majestic, ironic, referential, quotative, atmospheric, contrapuntal – Hefti’s orchestral means of expression are multitudinous. And at times, the music of this 42-year-old Swiss composer is simply beautiful. (...)

NZZ am Sonntag, 14 May 2017, Christian Berzins

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The opera ends surprisingly, with the plot being revealed as (also) a nightmare. It is this nightmare to which Anna’s Mask, David Philip Hefti’s first stage work, boils down. This shifting between reality and dream, between the tragic demise of the Swiss opera singer Anna Sutter in Stuttgart in 1910 and the psychology of the Carmen opera plot is what makes this highly expressive work so exciting. It was commissioned by the St. Gallen Theatre, and at its world première it completely captivated its enthusiastic audience.

David Philip Hefti has composed a complex, demanding and yet sensual score that in the first half discreetly leaves its singers space to unfold, almost as if it were chamber music. It is this filigree aspect of Hefti’s musical language, its clarity, that mysteriously keeps the action flowing. The St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra plays with great concentration under Otto Tausk, and succeeds throughout in conveying the work’s precise emotionality. (...)

St. Galler Tagblatt, 8 May 2017, Martin Preisser

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(...) from the ensuing scene onwards, with the refusal by the Intendant Putlitz to continue employing the conductor Obrist, it gains momentum, ending in a grandiose epilogue borne by the orchestra alone. The composer had until now been known for his orchestral and chamber music, and here he demonstrates his mastery with glittering string chords and powerful trombone glissandi. Elsewhere, too, the score is captivating, with its large-scale orchestration and tripartite percussion (including marimbaphone, vibraphone, crotales, friction drum, wind chimes, angklung, sandpaper blocks, Thai gongs and maracas); its tonal language tends to the intimate, never covering the vocal lines; it is contemporary, but with a rapprochement to post-Romantic sounds. The ears of the audience are never overtaxed, and yet the music never tries to ingratiate itself either. (…) Given its enthusiastic reception in St. Gallen, this work has surely earned a production in Stuttgart, the original location of the action.

Das Opernglas, issue of 07/08 2017, W. Kutzschbach

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(...) When the jealous capellmeister Aloys Obrist makes his terrible decision to become “someone else” and to kill himself and his former lover, the successful opera singer Anna Sutter, the music undergoes a radical transformation. It, too, seems to begin to detach itself from the rational and the moral – on the one hand from words, on the other from its compositional sense of duty to modern music. Because it is now that Hefti yields unabashedly to his yearning for the beautiful, risking pure fifths and an almost physical fullness of strings and smouldering trombone glissandi. (...) This luminous ecstasy – and this is the point of it – is no betrayal of Hefti’s aesthetic stance, which otherwise tends to fragile, pointillist drops of sound solidifying into chordal structures. The beguiling beauty of it is inflamed in precisely the scene in which Obrist lapses into the delusion of wanting to be “pure” again – “for ever”. The closing music thus signifies the impossible, it signifies our desire, irrationality, guilt, dreams and – when at the close the son and the maid stand bewildered before the corpses of Anna and Obrist – it signifies the nightmare of the inexpressible. To assign the responsibility of this daring linkage to the music is a clever, effective idea that also stands in a well-established tradition in operatic history. (...) The chief conductor Otto Tausk elicits from the St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra those iridescent timbres that Hefti knows how to combine in so masterly a fashion, and in which, in particular, the celeste and harpsichord provide subtle contours in sound.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 8 May 2017, Felix Michel

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(...) As always with Hefti, this is no ingratiating score, but nevertheless an accessible one. The genre of the opera and the duration of 90 minutes were new challenges to him; but Hefti approached them with the same resources that have already brought him many prizes and even more commissions for new works. In other words, with a self-confidently contemporary musical language that also offers orientation points to an audience that is not attuned to the avant-garde: here a melodic quotation, there a love cipher or an unmistakeable instance of verbal expression. When the music plummets at the word “falls”, for example, the explicitness of it is almost Baroque. (...)

(…) the most thrilling drama doesn’t take place on the stage, but in the orchestra pit. There, Hefti is in his element: he has often demonstrated in orchestral works such as the Sator cycle just how well he understands the different instruments and their possibilities, and how transparently he can score for large ensemble. And he does the same again here, getting the St. Gallen Symphony Orchester under its chief conductor Otto Tausk to sizzle, to luxuriate – and to fall silent. But above all, the music opens up spaces – both restricted spaces and liberating spaces.

And these spaces expand far beyond the orchestra pit, not least thanks to Mirella Weingarten’s vivid production. At the top of the three-storey set there sits the chorus, which is employed almost after the manner of an instrument. Their business is not with words, but with sounds and noises, colours and moods – thus with accentuating the sung drama that is taking place in the lower storeys and that is far more conventional (and, thanks to this fact, the singers are pleasantly comprehensible in their articulation).

This drama is a strikingly quiet one. There is nothing hectic here, there are no screams, hardly any dynamic outbursts: Hefti’s music captures the inflections of Sulzer’s novella. Only the shots that are fired are loud. But what really hurts is the orchestral postlude after them, which tells more about the misunderstandings of love than any words can.

Tages-Anzeiger Zürich, 8 May 2017, Susanne Kübler

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(...) Sulzer’s tableaux have the emotional depth of a police report. That’s good! Because they offer Hefti precisely the framework he needs to unfurl his opera. We should not let ourselves be distracted by the fact that he makes considerable demands of his singers and their stamina. Because the star here is the orchestra. He uses it as a sound machine – not to express feelings, which naturally play no role in such an unholy clutter of clichés. But for situations, impressions, surprises. We notice it especially when the chorus intervenes again for a moment as a “colour enhancer”, or when it “explodes” a solo voice suddenly or offers a commentary, sometimes with mere noise. Hefti has invented a lot of music here, and we cannot appreciate enough his obvious desire that he shouldn’t bore anyone (and that he at the same time does nothing to ingratiate himself with anyone is no doubt a matter of professional ethics). The sheer abundance of invention is impressive. And it adds up to an astonishing listening experience: a modern music that seems naturally modern, that manages to forgo constantly seeking the spotlight, and that avoids any narcissistic self-assurance of its own newness. It all begins rather cautiously, as if uncertain, with rustling and rasping, but its increasing intensification cannot be halted. The first playful melodic lines in the orchestra at first seem to be a quotation, but they develop a post-romantic brutal force under the intensity of a well-nigh mechanical hopelessness: in Anna’s Mask there is more Wozzeck than Carmen, and undoubtedly more Lulu than Salome. (…)

Opernwelt, July 2017 issue, Clemens Prokop

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This is what a contemporary ought to be like: demanding, complex, challenging – and yet sensual, diverting, and as gripping as a thriller. Only on one level is David Philip Hefti’s Anna’s Mask a murder story about a gifted interpreter of the role of Carmen: Anna Sutter. The composer has come up with fascinatingly abundant musical ideas for the psychology behind this real-life Carmen plot. It is woven together with the original Carmen story with great suggestive power. Hefti’s music is as comprehensible as it is mysterious. (…) Hefti’s Anna [is] an opera that we hope will find a home in many opera houses.

Ostschweiz am Sonntag, 7 May 2017, Martin Preisser

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(...) Hefti, born in 1975, has remained true to himself to a high degree in this, his first evening-length work. As in many of his works, Anna’s Mask also features held notes or chords around which impassioned movement occurs. Less usual are the open fifths that slide into each other in glissandi and that plunge the close – after the mighty tutti strokes of the fatal shots – into an atmosphere that is all its own. Hefti possess a virtuosic technical mastery; he knows well the arsenal of sounds invented by the avant-garde, and knows how to use them in the most imaginative ways. (...)

Mittwochs um zwölf – The blog on classical music, 10 May 2017, Peter Hagmann

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(...) The pithiest reminiscence of Carmen is to be found in the Spanish rhythms; one scene plays with Salome and the hacked-off head of the Baptist, and when Bayreuth is mentioned, Hefti allows himself to quote the Tristan chord. But otherwise, his musical language remains wholly in the realm of those stylistic means that we know from him already: filigree lines reminiscent of chamber music, few instances of massed sound despite the large orchestra, and above all a highly sophisticated repertoire of sound colours and mixtures thereof. Hefti explicitly doesn’t want to offer a “soundtrack” for this love drama, but an associative, detached, commenting level of musical signification. (...) His vocal lines are often in sympathy with the speech melody of the words, and avoid all artificiality. On the one hand this brings fluidity to the scenes, but on the other hand it is also helpful for an understanding of the words on the part of the audience. (...)

Südostschweiz, 8 May 2017, Reinmar Wagner

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(...) As he himself has emphasised, Hefti’s first opera gave him three times as much music to write as any of his hitherto compositions – and he has done it deftly, writing a work that is diverting and lucidly structured. His music is transparent, devoid of anything hectic, and he doesn’t play all his cards at once. On the contrary, his music continues on its trajectory towards its intense close throughout all its ninety minutes. It ends with an instrumental epilogue that adds another hard turn of the screw – it’s a “music of fate”, as Hefti himself calls it. It confirms his rich experience in writing for orchestra. The St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Otto Tausk swells up here one last time. What Hefti achieves in the orchestra pit, along with the manner in which he refrains from embedding his small chorus in the action (instead, it offers a static commentary for purposes of intensification) – all this contributes to the strong impact that the work makes. He also shows skill in his use of the percussion, both to paint moods and to act as a continuo for the voices. (...)

Schweizer Musikzeitung, 23 May 2017, Thomas Meyer

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(...) Hefti’s first opera relies upon its large orchestra and subtle instrumentation. The percussion is accorded a prominent role, with gongs, marimba and xylophone almost permanently accompanying the singers directly until the sixth of the ten scenes. Often, the strings or wind provide an unobtrusive foundation for them. The chorus is employed as an additional source of timbres. The result is colourful, and the whole is shaped in a manner as prudent as it is subtle by the St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra and its chief conductor Otto Tausk. This music does not shy away from solo cantilenas in the oboe or the horn, and in the long crescendo in the interlude before the murder scene, it almost evokes Puccini and Debussy; it also quite intentionally quotes Carmen and the atmosphere of Strauss’s Salome music when Anna Sutter sings of her roles in these operas. (...)

Die Deutsche Bühne, 7 May 2017, Tobias Gerosa read more less

Changements performed by the Orchestra of the Bavarian State Opera

On 20 and 21 March 2017 Cornelius Meister will conduct Changements by David Philip Hefti as well as works by Beethoven and Strauss with the Orchestra of the Bavarian State Opera at the Munich National Theater. tickets & details here read more less

David Philip Hefti conducts the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt

On 16 March 2017 David Philip Hefti conducts a concert with the Ensemble Modern at the Alte Oper Frankfurt. The program consists of works by Stefan Wolpe, Edgar Varèse, Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler.
tickets & details hier read more less

CALENDAR

David Philip Hefti: E las culurs dals tuns – song cycle for baritone and piano
on Romansh texts by Bibi Vaplan
world premiere

Peter Schöne, baritone / Axel Bauni, piano


David Philip Hefti: Ritmico – piano piece no. 4
world premiere

NN, piano

NEW PUBLICATIONS

Chiaroscuro (2017) +

contrasts for chamber orchestra

Poème noctambule (2016) +

for violin and piano

As dark as night (2016) +

for contralto and orchestra, on a sonnet by Shakespeare

Resonanzen II (2016) +

piano piece no. 3