Under the baton of the Norwegian conductor Per Kristian Skalstad, the French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra perform Thomas Larcher's Ouroboros for violoncello and orchestra. Recorded at Sentralen, Oslo, on September 13, 2016.
The work "Ouroboros for violoncello and orchestra" was named after the ancient Greek symbol, the Ouroboros, which Larcher came across while reading about Brahms’ symphonies. A series of repeated motifs give the music a sense of circularity as the ideas progress and then return to the original motif.
Written to be played with or without a conductor, the rhythmically complex textures of the work require the orchestra to listen and play as a much smaller ensemble. The solo cello is an initiator of processes more than a virtuosic centrepiece. Ouroboros is constructed in three movements, the second of which is an extended cadenza for the solo cello and piano.
Thomas Larcher (b. 1963)
♪ Ouroboros for violoncello and orchestra (2015)
ii. Allegro infuriato
iii. Adagio – Allegro
Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Per Kristian Skalstad
Sentralen, Oslo, September 13, 2016
|Photo by Richard Haughton|
Thomas Larcher stands out as one of the most imaginative voices in classical music today. Born in Innsbruck in 1963, Larcher grew up in Austrian Tyrol and studied composition and piano in Vienna. Today he is celebrated internationally as a composer, pianist and programmer. His music is inventive and captivating, as he combines contemplative harmonies with extended performance techniques – at once experimental and responsive to tradition.
In 1994 Larcher founded the festival "Klangspuren", now an international renowned festival for contemporary music. He stepped down in 2003 to establish the Swarowski "Music im Riesen" festival in Wattens, Austria, which he still runs, a gathering of the best international chamber musicians in May each year.
Larcher's early works are characterized by his preoccupation with the piano and its tonal qualities. He established new benchmarks in piano literature with compositions such as Naunz for piano solo (1989), Kraken for violin, cello and piano (1994/5) , Mumien for cello and piano (2001). A series of string quartets Cold Farmer (1999), Ixxu (1998-2004) and Madhares (2006/7) continued his path of exploration, absorbing and crossing stylistic boundaries, "wandering freely among musical traditions". The quartets contain highly original sounds, often derived from extended string playing techniques.
Larcher began using the colourful timbres of the orchestra, starting with his solo concertos Still (2002) for viola and orchestra, Böse Zellen for piano and chamber orchestra (2006) and the Violin Concerto (2008) written for Isabelle Faust.
His first large orchestral score, written for the San Francisco Symphony in 2011 and conducted by Osmo Vanska, was Red and Green, a pair of movements with contrasting tonal colouring. Critic Stephen Smoliar commented "The result is a highly unique listening experience with a perfectly valid aesthetic of beauty... my only regret was having but one opportunity to experience this stunning music". Later that year, the Double Concerto for violin and cello was commissioned and premiered at the BBC Proms with Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley under the direction of Ilan Volkov, for which Larcher was awarded the International category of the British Music Awards 2012.
Larcher's skill in writing for the voice is evident in his astonishing and highly original works for ensemble and orchestra including My Illness is the Medicine I Need (2002) for soprano and piano trio, a much performed work that has recently been arranged by the composer in a version for chamber orchestra, Heute (2005) for soprano and orchestra, and Die Nacht der Verlorenen (2008) for Matthias Goerne and the London Sinfonietta.
In 2014, A Padmore Cycle, originally for tenor and prepared piano, was recomposed as an orchestral score with voice and was premiered by the BBCSO under Edward Gardner in November 2014. It is scheduled for performance with the Bayersicher Rundfunk in Munich next season, conducted by Mariss Jansons. Tim Ashley in the Guardian wrote, "Larcher's writing fits Padmore's voice like a glove, erasing its register breaks, showcasing its purity of sound and flexibility".
A work for baritone and orchestra, Alle Tage, was premiered in 2015 by Matthias Goerne with Jaap van Zweden and the Netherlands Radio Orchestra at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and co-commissioned by Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and NSO Washington.
A new string quartet Lucid Dreams was commissioned the Belcea Quartet's 20th anniversary season in 2015 with performances in London, Vienna, Luxembourg, Berlin and Grenoble, while Ouroboros commissioned for cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and chamber orchestra was premiered with multiple performances in Amsterdam, Lausanne, Munich, Vienna, Oslo, Orebro and Hong Kong.
Thomas Larcher was commissioned by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra to write a new orchestra; score – Symphony No.2 Kenotaph. Semyon Bychkov conducted the world premiere at the Musikverein in June 2016, and the BBC Proms presented the UK premiere in August 2016. Premieres in Germany and Holland followed in Autumn 2017 – DSO Berlin with Robin Ticciati Munich Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov, and Netherlands Philharmonic with Markus Stenz. New York Philharmonic gives the US premiere in April 2019.
Larcher has been Composer in Residence at the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Mozarteum Orchester, Wigmore Hall, and many festivals including Davos, Heimbach, Risör, Mondsee and Bantry. In 2015 he received the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's Elise L. Stoeger Prize 2014/15 awarded every two years in recognition of significant contributions to the field of chamber music composition.
ECM has recorded three discs of Larcher's works, establishing his distinctive voice: Naunz (2001) was nominated "editor's choice" by Gramophone; Ixxu (2006) received the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik; and Madhares (2010). What Becomes with Mark Padmore and Tamara Stefanovich was released on Harmonia Mundi in 2014. His recordings have been awarded several international prizes, including the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the Choc de la musique and the Diapason d'Or.
Larcher is highly regarded as a pianist; his repertoire is broad, ranging from his Schubert/Schönberg CD with ECM to accompanying Mark Padmore in Schubert's Schwanengesang. Through thoughtful programming that reveals links, contrasts and comparisons, he has a special ability to cast new light on the established repertoire whilst his performances of the music of our time are particularly illuminating.
In recent years Larcher has begun conducting, working with orchestras such as Munich Chamber Orchestra, Mozarteum Orchester, Netherlands Radio Kamerfilharmonie and with soloists including Isabelle Faust and Igor Levit.
A new orchestral score, Chiasma, for Andris Nelsons and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra will be premiered in March 2018. Larcher is currently working on his first opera for Bregenz in summer 2018, The Hunting Gun.
Sofia Gubaidulina: Sieben Worte for cello, bayan and strings – Jean-Guihen Queyras, Geir Draugsvoll, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Per Kristian Skalstad (HD 1080p)
Pēteris Vasks: Violin Concerto "Distant Light" – Anthony Marwood, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)
Sofia Gubaidulina: Fachwerk for bayan, percussion and string orchestra – Geir Draugsvoll, Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra,Terje Tønnesen (HD 1080p)
Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht, for string orchestra – Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Terje Tønnesen
Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings – Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Terje Tønnesen (HD 1080p)