Karlheinz Essl / Xenia Pestova Bennett
Karlheinz Essl, Xenia Pestova Bennett
Karlheinz Essl, Gold.Berg.Werk (piano and electronics) 2017
Venue: Project Arts Centre
Duration: 65 minutes
J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations (1741): a radical re-interpretation
The Goldberg Variations form a cornerstone of keyboard repertoire, yet we rarely question the mode of presentation for this piece. Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl offers a refreshing glimpse of a new performance practice through his unusual take in Gold.Berg.Werk (2013-16). Originally envisioned as a performance environment for string trio, there is now a version for piano and live electronics, never before heard in Ireland. Gorgeous time-stretched harmonies are manipulated in real time and played back through spatialised loudspeakers in between the piano variations, bringing together Baroque and contemporary sound worlds. This new reimagining of Bach's vision juxtaposes the variations in a new strictly symmetrical structure which reflects the binary form of the original aria (a microcosm within a macrocosm with binary divisions commonly found in digital systems). No two performances are the same due to the live generation of the electronic interludes. Gold.Berg.Werk transcends itself and becomes a new piece in its own right, creating a sense of space and grandeur through electronic distribution of the interludes. This magical performance invites and entices the audience to join us on a journey of discovery, opening and blossoming into a whole new universe of sound.
"Through these interventions, Essl creates two temporally separate soundscapes that are musically related and comment on each other... Essl then spins the Bachian idea of variation on another level... [and] conveys the impression of spatial proximity and distance of these different sound spaces... Essl's live-electronic parts captivate through the richness of relationships... while at the same time going far beyond generating a new sonic-musical fabric." (Stefan Drees, klassik.com)
Xenia Pestova Bennett is an innovative performer and educator. Described as "a powerhouse of contemporary keyboard repertoire" (Tempo), "stunning" (Wales Arts Review), "ravishing" (Pizzicato) and "remarkably sensuous" (New Zealand Herald) in the international press, she has earned a reputation as a leading interpreter of uncompromising repertoire alongside masterpieces from the past. Dr Pestova Bennett's commitment and dedication to promoting music by living composers led her to commission dozens of new works and collaborate with major innovators in contemporary music. Her widely acclaimed recordings of core piano duo works of the Twentieth Century by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen are available on four CDs for Naxos Records. Her evocative solo debut of premiere recordings for the Innova label titled "Shadow Piano" was described as a "terrific album of dark, probing music" by the Chicago Reader. In addition to her career as an interpreter, she is active as an improviser, composer and educator. She is the Director of Performance at the University of Nottingham and also provides wellness coaching to individuals and businesses on work-life balance and dealing with performance anxiety.
Karlheinz Essl attended the Vienna Musikhochschule (1981-87), where he studied composition with Friedrich Cerha and electro-acoustic music with Dieter Kaufmann. From 1979, he also studied musicology and art history at the University of Vienna (doctorate 1989 with his thesis Das Synthese-Denken bei Anton Webern). Active as a double bassist until 1984, he played in chamber and experimental jazz ensembles. As a composer he has contributed to the Projekt 3 composition programming environment of Gottfried Michael Koenig at Utrecht and Arnheim (1988-89) which later transformed into his own Real Time Composition Library (RTC-lib) for Max/MSP/Jitter. Besides writing instrumental music, Karlheinz Essl also works in the field of electronic music, interactive realtime compositions and sound installations. He develops software environments for algorithmic composition and acts as a performer and improviser, utilising his own computer-based real time composition environment m@ze°2 and also instruments like electric guitar, toy piano and music box. Since 2007 professor of electroacoustic composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.