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Peter Graham (*1952) Der Erste

F10091   [8595017409127]   released 12/1998

play all Der Erste - Peter Graham 67:43
Der Erste 7:05
Fragment II 3:19
Sextet - Impatience 6:38
Sextet - Heart 4:59
MOENS 12:21
Silent Music 14:08
Heaven and Earth Shall Pass Away... 8:12
The Last Evening Of Poet Si-Kchan-Secreta 4:54
Ave verum corpus 5:35

    1. Der Erste (chamber cantata on a German text by Franz Kafka, for female vocal, bass flute, bass clarinet, accordion, percussion and double bass), 1993
    2. Fragment II (for cello and piano), 1998
    3. - I. Impatience
    4. - II. Heart (for two string trios), 1998
    5. MOENS or "Dvořák problem" (for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, synthesizer and piano), 1998
    6. Silent Music (for three clarinets), 1990
    7. Heaven and Earth Will Pass Away... (for chamber ensemble and tape), 1997
    8. The Last Eve Of Poet Si-Kchang - Secreta (for flute solo, for percussions), 1973, 1995 - simultaneous performance
    9. Ave verum corpus (for vocals, clarinet and piano), 1990

Ensemble Mondschein, conducted by Miroslav Pudlák
Tereza Bystřická - vocal (9), Zuzana Drtinová - vocal (9), Kateřina Hradcová - accordion (1),  
Jana Lewitová - vocal (1), Anna Matoušková - clarinet (6), Zdeňka Pelikánová - violin (3-5,7),
Hana Pokorná - vocal (9), Lenka Šimková - flute (5,7,8), Hana Tomešová - vocal (9), Jitka Tóthová - vocal (9), Hanuš Bartoň - piano (5,7,9), Martin Čech - bass flute (1), Kamil Doležal - clarinet (5-7,9), bass clarinet (1), Radovan Heč - double bass (1), Jaromír Kubíček - percussions (1), Miroslav Pudlák - synthesizer (5,7), conductor (1), Vít Reichel - clarinet (6), Jiří Richter - viola (3-5,7), Radek Širc - cello (2-5,7), Peter Graham - piano (2), percussions (8)

For those who might be interested:
     I was a bad pupil at music school. I even had to repeat my third year (for lack of diligence). Immediately after that, however, music began to fascinate me through rock'n'roll (Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard) and the Slitr songs. When I was twelve I heard a programme on the radio (where composer Pavel Blatny put together various musical curiosities) featuring a work by John Cage called Imaginary Landscape No.4 for twelve radio receivers. It changed my life. It was so different from any music I had ever heard and filled me with the notion that music can be made another way. Although I was still going through my rock phase, I began to take greater interest in New Music as a wide-open field for imagination, research and experimentation. During my first period (1971-1976) I was inclined towards graphic scores and concepts where emphasis was placed on the skeletal communication of the work's general aim which the players then developed in their own way. Later, as a pupil of Alois Piňos at JAMU (1976-1980), I turned my attention more to the internal structure of the composition, the treatment of detail and the balance of contrasts frequently derived from opposing styles. Since that time, while I have been using the advantages of conventional notation more frequently, it never has the character of dogma, but instead kerygma - where understanding the sense is more important than anxious adherence to the written symbols. I might compare this to the work of an actor who has to fully understand the situation first before he can offer the correct interpretation. Conversely, we could imagine some kind of subtle poetry being read "impeccably" by a television announcer.
     I greatly respect the "great musical tradition" (perhaps more than many of its die-hard adherents), but I still see in it only one of the possibilities of making music.
     My music grows like trees in the forest: from all sides and from many roots. I treat each work individually, but whatever I do, everything else grows with it. I try to follow the course of vital energy with my music, how I feel it within myself and how I see it in the world around me. It is a constantly changing process, a continually moving current which is sometimes hidden, at other times it sets everything in motion. Sometimes it assumes an almost geometric form, at other times it spreads out into unpredictable figures. It might seem that it adheres to certain laws but never to such a degree that one could reliably foresee its outcome.
     My music is still incalculable. I'm curious myself to see what surprises it will bring.

The chamber cantata Der Erste was written on the initiative of Radek Tejkal who was the first to translate Kafka's little known Letters to Hedvika Weiler . The music was composed to the text of the first letter (29.8.1907). Only the poem In der abendlichen Sonne quoted in the letter is used for the vocal part, perhaps the first poem Kafka ever wrote. I tried to capture the Kafkaesque atmosphere and Kafka's feelings: "the yearning to become a Red Indian", stumbling through his own fear and anxiety, his isolation and the scratching of his pen in the silence of the night. Jana Lewitová as Hedvika reading Franz's letter, sings using the German dialect of the Prague Jews, as remembered by her own father.
     The composition won 3 rd prize at the Musica Iudaica festival competition held in Prague in 1993; it is dedicated to Petr Pokorný.

I composed the music for Zbigniew Herbert's poem Fragment some time during the mid-1970s. The poem is written using a passionate, ancient tongue and is reminiscent of a fragment of a Homeric epic. I kept in mind the instrumental version from the beginning, although it took many years before I finally came round to writing it.
     Fragment II develops the original melody into new and richer forms. The ritually conceived piano accompaniment has remained the same. The work is dedicated to Radek Širc.

The Sextet for two string trios is an attempt to answer a question posed by John Cage: "are tones just tones or are tones Webern?". The composition uses the ancient composition technique of parody , or the treatment of another's work, in this case the Satz für Streichtrio (op.post.) by Anton Webern from which the pitches are taken. Their rhythmical treatment is quite different, however. The first movement incorporates repetitions layered one on top of another which together create the form. In the second movement, the classical instruction on "note direction" is developed in a distinctive manner - here, of course, using micro-interval oscillation. The individual instruments play independently of one another (throughout the first movement, coming together in individual sections during the second). While all the notes used "are Webern", the result has little in common with the original work. The string sextet is divided into two trios set against each other. The identical notation comes to life in two different conceptions.
     While the performers recorded the individual versions without any form of sound control, the music still maintains remarkable continuity and certain parts of the spontaneous interplay evoke the sense of a "miracle". (Much of the credit naturally goes to sound technician Jindřich Michalík!).
     The sextet is dedicated to my mother.

MOENS or "the Dvořák problem" Dvořák's well-known lament "it wasn't so much the music, but those titles..." came to me when I was questioned about the title of my own work. MOENS is a working abbreviation for the Mondschein Ensemble. It is also a mysterious, almost dreamy expression, perhaps best capturing the character of music which is hard to define in words.
MOENS represents my conception of "NeoClassicism" where Myjava fiddlers come together with Brahms and bossa nova with the Balkans. Everything, however, is transformed until it becomes unrecognisable. My main aim was to penetrate the spirit of chamber music, the problems of joint performance and instability, the architecture of tempo and also the quest for new melodies. In some places the performers are forced to abandon all "good behaviour" and just play hell for leather. At other times the audience might think that they're timidly playing for the first time.
     The work is dedicated to the Mondschein Ensemble.

Silent Music (in memory of Milan Kostohryz) was written under the influence of performances by Kamil Doležal. Soft sounds flow through space and crash into each other in chance collisions, creating a fine tremor. This is the music of emptiness and liberation from the endeavour to achieve some kind of "effect". It is inspired by gradual natural processes which are not conscious of their audience - for example, when the sun sets even if people haven't got time to look up and take notice.
     Silent Music was first performed in concert on the occasion of the 80 th birthday of distinguished Czech clarinettist Milan Kostohryz and we dedicate this work to him.

The composition Heaven And Earth Shall Pass Away... is an attempt at new spiritual music - not associated with any liturgy but with a certain sense of the spiritual. It was written during a troublesome time in my life, when I began to think hard about the transience of all earthly things. A fragment of a well-known biblical verse came into my head together with the work's conception and I thought of it frequently during the course of my endeavours.
     The music unfolds in several independent, sharply contrasting layers which symbolise various planes of existence.
     The work is dedicated to Jesus Christ, since only He recognises all my doubts.

The Last Evening Of Poet Si-Kchang is one of my early works. It relates to a story from "Writings from Ancient China" (translated by Oldřich Král): "Si-Kchang played the flute on the eve of his execution, watching the shadows lengthen on the faces of the pupils and friends gathered around him."
     The new 1998 version is dedicated to the flautist Lenka Šimková.

Secreta means "silent prayer". Unlike the majority of works for percussion which try to impress the audience with their wealth of sound effects and instrumental virtuosity, the chief idea here is application and concentration on an almost inaudible sound. The work was written for the American percussionist Amy Lynn Barber, to whom it is also dedicated.
     Since both these works to a certain extent share a common theme, and because neither obstructs the other, in fact their sounds are complementary, I decided to put them both together on this CD.

Ave verum corpus This music came to me after the death of my father, Christmas 1990. It was strange because I always knew him as an atheist. It was only a few years later that I discovered he had been christened and brought up as a Catholic.
     The work is dedicated to the memory of my father, Jaroslav Pokorný (1915-1990).

The whole album is dedicated to my wife, Julie.
Peter Graham

An Hedwig Weiler (Prag, 29 August 1907)

In der abendlichen Sonne
sitzen wir gebeugten Rückens
auf den Bänken in dem Grünen.
Unsere Arme hängen nieder,
unsere Augen blinzeln traurig.

Und die Menschen gehn in Kleidern
schwankend auf dem Kies spazieren
unter diesem groĐen Himmel,
der von Hügeln in der Ferne
sich zu fernen Hügeln breitet.

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