UK premiere “Kenotaph” – concert reviews
Michael Church: Prom 57 (…) Thomas Larcher’s “Cenotaph” makes old symphonic forms newly relevant
(The Independent, 1.9.2016)
“… His music is always instinctive and emotional, yet it possesses a watchmaker’s precision; its stock-in-trade includes biting dissonances, cinematic cross-cuts, and startling shifts in volume, timbre, and tone. What is quintessentially classical is the care and clarity with which he lays out each work’s structure.
In this new work all those qualities are there in spades. Each of its four movements is fastidiously shaped, and in each there are outbursts of anarchically dissonant fury. But under Semyon Bychkov’s baton the BBC Symphony Orchestra delivered a superbly detailed performance, with the sudden turns into pastiche-Mahler and pastiche-Bach opening like wondrous flowers in a parched terrain …”
Tim Ashley: BBCSO/Bychkov review – faultless and furious Larcher premiere
(The Guardian, 29.8.2016)
“Thomas Larcher’s formidable symphony commemorating refugees drowned in the Mediterranean builds to a climax of tremendous irony and power. (…)
It’s a formidable score, angry yet lyrical, and rooted in the mainstream symphonic tradition, though it also pushes at the boundaries of conventional structure. Larcher argues that his music is not programmatic – that it does not “convey messages, but asks questions”. But it’s difficult not to hear the heaving of a treacherous sea beneath the formal crisis of the opening movement, or the intimation of dangerously becalmed waters in the grieving adagio. The sonorities are by turns lucid and brutal, and the climax comes with a battering scherzo that furiously demands answers, only to be greeted with a banal ländler that reeks of indifference and contempt. It’s a moment of tremendous irony and power. You couldn’t fault the performance …”
Anna Picard: Prom 57: BBCSO/ Bychkov at the Royal Albert Hall
(The Times, 28.08.2016)
“The sound worlds in this ostensibly straightforward three-work concert were complementary, and Larcher’s new symphony exquisite.
Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No 2, Cenotaph, opens with a violent slap of sound. Smeared and blurred strings quickly cool the crimson cheek, interrupted by cauterised fanfares, fragmented hymns, sweet laments for solo violin and clarinet, a cobalt swell of sound from harp, celesta, vibraphone and prepared piano. In Semyon Bychkov’s taut performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the UK premiere, there was little doubt that Cenotaph was being treated as an important, maybe great, new work — about time too, given the parochial quality of some of this year’s new works.
New CD with Poems for Pianists and other children out now …:
Lars Vogt: For Children – Thomas Larcher – Robert Schumann – Bela Bartók
Concert review by Jens F. Laurson in Forbes
The Rebirth of Contemporary Classical Music? The Vienna Philharmonic Plays Larcher.
Concert review (available in German only) by Wilhelm Sinkovicz in Die Presse
“Kenotaph: Eine neue Symphonie als Mahnmal. Thomas Larchers Zweite, “Kenotaph” genannt, ist ein außerordentlicher Wurf. Die Wiener Philharmoniker spielten sie zum 200-Jahr-Jubiläum der Nationalbank.”
World premiere of Symphony No. 2 “Kenotaph” with Vienna Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov in the Viennese Musikverein
Live broadcasted by OE1 on Sunday, 5.6.2016; online available for 7 days: http://oe1.orf.at/programm/438805
Tim Plegge’s ballet “Kaspar Hauser” with sections of Thomas Larcher’s “Böse Zellen” premiered in Wiesbaden and Darmstadt
For more information about the piece and all upcoming performances:
Ouroboros for cello and orchestra is premiered in Amsterdam by Jean-Guihen Queras and Amsterdam Sinfonietta
Thomas Larcher is awarded the Austrian Kunstpreis for Music 2015
Thomas Larcher’s forth string quartet “lucid dreams” is premiered in Grenoble, France, by Belcea Quartet who commissioned the piece for their 20th anniversary season
Thomas Larcher is awarded the Elise L. Stoeger Prize
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 2014–2015 Elise L. Stoeger Prize has been awarded to Austrian composer Thomas Larcher. The Stoeger Prize, a $25,000 cash award and the largest of its kind, is given every two years in recognition of significant contributions to the field of chamber music composition.
Chamber Music Society Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han commented on the announcement: “We are thrilled to present the 2014–2015 Stoeger Prize to Thomas Larcher. As a composer of great achievement on canvasses both large and small, he merits specific recognition for his work in the highly concentrated art form of chamber music, for which his bountiful sonic imagination is tremendously well suited. We find his music deeply communicative yet uncompromising, essential qualities for the ongoing vitality of the chamber music tradition, so it is with great pleasure that we add his name to the already luminous roster of Stoeger Prize recipients.”
Thomas Larcher responds: “All I have learned in music I learned by writing and playing chamber music: listening, breathing, balancing, living and working in and for a community. Chamber Music has always been the heart of music making. It comprises all the facets that music can contain and express, and has always been a field where new ideas have been explored, and where composers have opened doors which were crucial for them. I am very touched and honoured that the Chamber Music Society considers my work to be a part of this great tradition.”
The Chamber Music Society will present Larcher’s Mumien for Cello and Piano during the 2015–2016 season of its New Music. Previously, his composition Kraken for Piano, Violin, and Cello, was performed on the series in February 2014.
In the last few months Thomas Larcher has been working on commissions for several pieces due in the next seasons.
A new work for baritone and orchestra (commissioned by Zaterdagmatinee Amsterdam, NSO Washington and Gewandhaus Leipzig) is underway. It will be premiered on April 11, 2015 at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw by Matthias Goerne (baritone), the Radio Filharmonish Orkest and Jaap van Zweden.
The next major project will be the “Concerto for Orchestra”, commissioned by the Austrian National Bank on behalf of its second centennial. The premiere will be in June 2016 at the Vienna Musikverein featuring the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Semyon Bychkov.
The 15/16 season will also see premieres of two pieces which will bring the composer back to the sources of his composing: a string quartet initiated by the Belcea quartet (premiere: December 2, 2015 in Grenoble) and a work for cello and chamber orchestra, initiated and commissioned by Amsterdam Sinfonietta with co-commissioners Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and Munich Chamber Orchestra. The concerto will be premiered in Amsterdam on February 8, 2016.
It’s been more than a month since “What Becomes” has been released. Several fantastic reviews have come up so far, among them in The Independet, The New York Times Classical Playlist, The San Francisco Examiner, BBC Music Magazine, Fono Forum.
“A Padmore Cycle, which he wrote for the elegant and eloquent tenor Mark Padmore, is a haunting, enigmatic work, with a taste for gnomic melodies, as are the other tracks, for piano.” | Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times Playlist, 19.03.2014
“The result is that the experience of listening to this new album is just as intense as that of listening to the earlier Madhares release. In both cases Larcher’s music draws the listening mind into sharply defined focal points, and the only real difference is the scale of the resources. […]
In writing about Red and Green, I concluded by hoping for further exposure to Larcher’s work “in the foreseeable future.” I ended up waiting three years. As a result of listening to What Becomes, I am likely to be far less patient over when my next opportunity will arise.” | Stephen Smoliar, The San Francisco Examiner, 16.04.2014
“Highly recommended for those keen to explore.” | Robert Hugill, Planethugill.com, 22.04.2014)
“So wird der Albumtitel What Becomes im besten Sinne nachvollziehbar. Hier ringt ein Pianist und Komponist kreativ und abseits ästhetischer Dogmen mit seinem Instrument: Mag es ihn einst emotional abgestoßen haben, nun kehrt er desto zwingender zurück, allein und gemeinsam mit anderen Musikern.” | Meret Forster, BR-Klassik, Leporello CD-Tipp, 30.04.2014
“This is very striking music. We do indeed feel an alternative form of being proposed, one dominated and defined by solitary internal matters and concerns. What are we to make of it? Perhaps the Greeks who came to this kind of art to purge or at least make peace with their fears could tell us. That Larcher should call this album What Becomes suggests that Smart Dust, Poems, and the title work have led us to A Padmore Cycle. Have become it.” | Bob Neill, Positive Feedback, Issue 72 March/April 2014
“Setting texts by Hans Aschenwald and Alois Hotschnig, A Padmore Cycle offers a aphoristic if not fragmentary trip back into the mountains and valleys that are so familiar from Schubert, Brahms and Mahler’s Lieder. Larcher echoes their musical and literary tropes, though everything is placed at an eerie distance, due, according to one of Aschenwald’s poems, to the ‘hunger for a homeland that no longer is one’.” | Gavin Plumley, entartetemusik.blogspot.co.at, 31.03.2014
“Dem Zuhörer verlangen diese enigmatischen Gedichte ein Höchstmaß an Konzentration ab. Wer sich aber darauf einlässt, wird vielfach belohnt. Auch die von Tamara Stefanovich gespielten Werke für Klavier […] sind von äußerster Subtilität und Fragilität und ergänzen den Gedichtzyklus optimal.” | Das Opernglas 05/2014
“The songs make full use of Padmore’s exceptional interpretative talents. His initial outburst belies the prevailing fragility of a transfixing cycle.” | Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine, June 2014
“Smart Dust, in which the rubber wedges and the gaffa-tape applied to the strings enable startling juxtapositions of quiet tones with kinetic, percussive flourishes. Elsewhere, the unprepared approach to the suites Poems […] and What Becomes reveal a contemplative sensibility.” | The Independent, 05.04.2014
Thomas Larcher’s new CD “What Becomes” released on 7th April 2014
Thomas Larcher: What Becomes
harmonia mundi HMU 907604
Smart Dust; Poems; What Becomes; A Padmore Cycle
Tamara Stefanovich (piano), Mark Padmore (tenor), Thomas Larcher (piano)
Thomas Larcher’s fourth and most recent recording What Becomes comprises three works for piano: Smart Dust (2005), Poems (2005–2010) and What Becomes (2009), as well as Larcher’s 20-minute song cycle, A Padmore Cycle, composed for tenor and piano. Set to short poems by Hans Aschenwald and Alois Hotschnig, Mark Padmore gave the UK première of A Padmore Cycle in 2011, and will give the world première of the orchestral version in London this November with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner.
The three pieces for piano, performed on this recording by Tamara Stefanovich, comprise a selection of works composed to elicit from the piano new sounds and means of expression that would turn it into a “different instrument”. In Smart Dust, composed for a piano completely prepared with rubber wedges and gaffer tape, which was premièred at the 2005 Lucerne Festival, Larcher wanted to return to the piano a sound with a sense of urgency. In contrast, when composing Poems, he was able to go back to the piano and rediscover its natural sound. Between these two works, What Becomes was written for Leif Ove Andsnes who premiered the piece accompanied by video projections by Robin Rhode in New York, prior to taking it on tour.
“Short, elliptical verses reveal hidden depths as Padmore wrenches every ounce of melancholy ardour, or sudden whispered ferocity, out of their syllables. Larcher, playing the equally elaborate piano parts, adds another line of provocative counterpoint.” | The Times, November 16 11
“… a haunting, enigmatic work, with a taste for gnomic melodies …” | Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times, March 19 14
What Becomes on the “Classical Playlist” of The New York Times: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com
Thomas Larcher: What Becomes is available from store.harmoniamundi.com from April 7 14
“Lightning strikes at Chamber Music Society’s modernist program” – On www.newyorkclassicalreview.com George Grella reviews the concert on February 13th at Lincoln Center, New York with Gloria Chien (piano), Nicolas Dautricourt (violin) and Nicholas Canellakis (cello) performing Thomas Larcher’s “Kraken” (1994–97)
“[…] The lightning came after intermission, as Dautricourt ripped into the virtuosic, intense solo opening of Thomas Larcher’s tremendous 1997 composition Kraken for Piano, Violin and Cello. The flashes in the sky paled in comparison to the brilliance of Larcher’s combination of structural simplicity and startlingly imaginative lines.
Laid across an almost-visible grid of measures that holds the piece together, the music explodes with freedom and variety. Answering the violin was a mesmerizing, almost mechanistic series of quarter notes that Chien played on the piano, the precision of rhythm and tempo conveying a surreal sense of control.
The music was joined in the third of five sections by Canellakis: the strings playing pianissimo over a clearly outlined pulse. Their phrase lengths are at odds, and off-kilter accents simulate a shifting sense of complex rhythms, while the piano adds short, punchy phrases on muted strings.
The result is a thrilling aural illusion greater than the sum of its parts, an example of craft that students will likely be studying for years to come. A spartan ballad follows, then the arch form of Kraken closes with the trio playing an emotionally tense variation of the opening violin solo, rounding off a superior performance.[…]”
Awards and excellent reviews for new “CD Hanns Eisler: Ernste Gesänger. Lieder with piano”
In September 2013, a new CD was released on harmonia mundi featuring Thomas Larcher as pianist together with baritone Matthias Goerne and Ensemble Resonanz. The recording of “Ernste Gesänge“, assorted songs and the Sonata No 1 by Hanns Eisler received prestigious awards and rave reviews:
* DIAPASON D’OR (édition de novembre 2013)
* CHOC de Classica (octobre 2013)
* DIAMANT d’Opéra Magazine (novembre 2013)
“Die wichtigste CD dieses Jahres.” | Berliner Zeitung (Peter Uehling), 27.09.2013
“It is a fascinating and hugely rewarding disc.” | The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 26.09.2013
“Worte leuchten, Musiklinien verweben sich, das Ensemble Resonanz und Goerne sind ideale Partner. Ebenso der Pianist und Komponist Thomas Larcher. Der ist in den Klavierliedern nicht nur Begleiter, sondern aktiver Gestalter, auch in der packend gespielte Klaviersonate op. 1, die Eisler seinem Lehrer Arnold Schönberg gewidmet hat.“ | Die Welt (Manuel Brug), 24.11.2013
“Interprète exceptionnel du lied allemand, confident favori de Schubert dont il a enregistré sept disques magnifiques pour le même éditeur, Matthias Goerne sculpte les mots avec le soin d’un orfèvre et galbe la ligne mélodique avec l’intensité du grand chanteur d’opéra qu’il est aussi. Le pianiste Thomas Larcher et l’Ensemble Resonanz vibrent au même diapason de cette musique qui mérite vraiment d’être entendue.“ | Les Echos (Philippe Venturini), 21.11.2013
“The German baritone Matthias Goerne articulates Eisler’s anguish with crisp diction couched in a velveteen musicality. More even than Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who took up these songs half a century ago, Goerne goes to the heart of pain without a trace of pity and with sudden flashes of wit. He turns wilder and more dramatic in a set of Bertolt Brecht songs for voice and piano, accompanied by Thomas Larcher, who also performs Eisler’s earliest work, a 1923 piano sonata dedicated to Schoenberg. The sound is exemplary and the cover image arresting; (…) this is a near-perfect record.” | Sinfini Music (Norman Lebrecht), 16.09.2013
“Matthias Goerne offers an excellent new disc of songs by Hanns Eisler. After Kaufmann and Verdi’s operatic largesse, Goerne and Eisler prove you can also thrillingly expressive wielding a delicate whisper, a pungent shout, and irony’s stiletto heel.” | The Times (Geoff Brown), 19.09.2013
“Bravo voor de onopgeprikte Goerne: alsof het makkelijke deuntjes zijn, zo moeiteloos rollen de liederen uit zijn keel.” | Volkskrant (Guido van Oorschot), 19.09.2013