Ostrava Days 2007: Institute and Festival of New Music

By Bakla, Petr | Czech Music, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Ostrava Days 2007: Institute and Festival of New Music


Bakla, Petr, Czech Music


An extraordinary biennial event, organised in the city of Ostrava but with an international dimension that goes far beyond the borders of the Czech Republic, will be taking place from the 13th of August to the 2nd of September 2007. The Ostrava Days combines international courses for young composers--the Ostrava Days Institute--with an attractive week-long festival that presents new and experimental music together with key, in a sense already "classic" avant-garde compositions of the second half of the 20th century. The main focus of both the festival and the composition courses is music for large symphony orchestra, and the festival programme will include not only top pieces in world repertoire but compositions by the students-residents of the Institute.

The first biennial Ostrava Days was organised in 2001, and the response in the Czech Republic and abroad has been considerable since then. The Ostrava Days Institute is attended by around 35 young musicians, mostly composers, from Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australian, who spend three weeks consulting and discussing questions of contemporary music with leading figures on the world new music scene (the principal lectors this year are the composers Beat Furrer, Petr Kotik, Alvin Lucier, Kaija Saariaho, Christian Wolff and the pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams) and at the same time working under their guidance with the resident orchestras--traditionally the Ostrava Janacek Philharmonic, and more recently with the Ostravska Banda as well (more than twenty-member international ensemble consisting of mainly young musicians, formed specially for the needs of Ostrava Days 2005), and other invited ensembles: the Melos Ethos Ensemble (Slovakia), the Flux Quartet (New York), the choir Canticum Ostrava, and other ensembles and soloists. In the second week of the Institute, the participants will then rehearse their own pieces, which will be presented at the Ostrava Days Festival 2007.

The event will thus climax in the week of the festival with fifteen concerts. Highlights of the festival programme this year include Morton Feldman's opera Neither and a thematic concert devoted to music of the early 1960s in Prague with an accompanying panel discussion involving the protagonists of the time. The Fluxus concert with happenings will be another unusual experience. The festival concerts will present music by Muhal Richard Abrams, Pierre Boulez. Earl Brown, John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Morton Feldman, Beat Furrer, Karel Goeyvaerts, RudKurt Weil, Christian Wolff, Stephan Wolpe, Iannis Xenakis, La Monte Young and other composers. As far as the guest performers are concerned, festival audiences are looking forward to appearances by the Flux Quartet from New York, the pianist Daan Vandewalle from Belgium, the American cellist Charles Curtis (in the Feldman concerto), the violinist Hana Kotkova (in the Ligeti Concerto) and the soprano Piia Komsi (in Feldman's opera Neither). The distinguished German conductors Roland Kluttig and Peter Rundel will also be making their debuts at the Ostrava Days. For detailed information about the Ostrava Days and the festival programme go to www.ocnmh.cz.

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To mark the forthcoming fourth Ostrava Days we are bringing an interview with its founder and artistic director, the composer and conductor Petr Kotik.

How much does Ostrava Days differ from other summer courses such as Darmstadt, Acanthes, Impuls, Royaumont and so on? What is so special about it?

Ostrava Days is quite a different project and for several reasons. First of all, it is one of the longest summer programs in existence, lasting three full weeks. Secondly, Ostrava Days focuses on working with orchestra. OD has two resident orchestras: our symphony orchestra the Janacek Philharmonic and the chamber orchestra Ostravska banda. We have of course plenty of solo and chamber music as well. Another exceptional aspect of the project is that it is conducted entirely in English. …

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