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The Masque of the Red Death
Havelka, Loudová, Heiniö, Roloff, Fišer

F10152   [8595017415227]   released 11/2007

play all The Masque Of The Red Death 55:23
312 Azusa Street L.A. 12:36
Hlasy pouště 10:51
Wintertime 7:30
Variaciones para un percusionista 11:38
Hommage a E.A.Poe 12:38

Svatopluk Havelka (b. 1925)
After studying musicology and completing private lessons in composition with K. B. Jirák, Svatopluk Havelka became known to the public thanks mainly to his film music, having composed for 70 feature films and 150 film shorts. He has also collaborated on a number of theatre productions. In the field of serious music, although he has written far less here than in his works for film, Havelka has provided Czech music with distinctively creative impulses. The characteristic features of his compositions are a special sense of timbre, melody, and rhythm. His Symphony No. 1 (1956) was performed repeatedly in a short period all over the world. In symphonic works he is the first Czech composer to use exotic percussion instruments, some of which he has discovered on his travels in China and Cuba. His compositions for percussion instruments, which contain Christian ideas, are true gems. The first of them, Percussionata for a percussion quartet (1978) was premiered by the Prague Percussion Ensemble (Pražský soubor bicích nástrojů). The second, The Hidden Manna and a White Stone, is for a duo (1992), the third Paraenesis, is for soprano, piano, and two percussionists (1993), and the fourth …with sounding cymbals (1994), is inspired by Psalm 150, and uses only melodic percussion instruments.
     IN THE WORDS OF THE COMPOSER: Los Angeles, April 1906. William J. Seymour, an African-American ordained minister, together with a group of students of a bible school, found himself in an unattractive part of the large city in an even less attractive street full of factories, little shops, and farm buildings, in an empty two-storey house badly damaged by fire. The house had two, unfurnished rooms, and the congregation sat on coarsely hammered-together crates. Downstairs, services were held continually, while upstairs people prayed. The house was open night and day, and was jam packed. People arriving experienced something reminiscent of the first Christian Pentecost in Jerusalem in 30 A.D., with the Descent of the Holy Spirit, that is, the beginning of the Christian Church. Most of them experienced something they’d never experienced before – namely, baptism in the Holy Spirit and the divine gift (charisma) of “speaking in tongues,” that is, the Christian’s ability to pray in an unknown language, which is untranslatable in a natural way. Paul, the Apostle, himself endowed with this charisma, mentions it in Chapters 12 and 14 of his First Epistle to the Corinthians.Sparks flew from Azusa Street throughout the United States and to Europe. Pentecostal churches were born and so was the denomination of Pentecostalism. The Pentecostalists serve God with the gift of healing without magic, providing effective help to drug-addicts and people on the margins of society. Thanks to selfless service to one’s neighbour, Pentecostalism has become increasingly attractive and the number of Pentecostalists is growing with record speed. With 250 million followers, it now constitutes the largest Protestant denomination in the world. After a hundred years of Pentecostalism, it is fair to say: Thank the Lord for all the good with which the Pentecostalists have endowed the Church of Christ. Among the rare treasures of preserved old Church music are the text and melody of the hymn Pange lingua (Sing, O tongue!) from the second half of the sixth century, written by Venantius Fortunatus. Over the centuries the text was often set to music and the melody varied. In my composition for solo vibraphonist, marimba, and crotales, the melody of the hymn is quoted twice, each time in a different polyphonic form and rhythm, and is intended as a link between the confession of the Early Church and the spiritual movement typical of the twentieth century. The style of the composition is athematic, with a stream of ever new musical elements, a parallel of prayers “in tongues.” I was not, however, concerned with depicting Pentecostal religious services and Charismatics. The composition is an expression of thanksgiving to our Lord, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first events in Azusa Street, which, I believe, were under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.

Ivana Loudová (b. 1941)
A graduate of the Prague Conservatory and AMU, Ivana Loudová studied in Prague with Miroslav Kabeláč and Emil Hlobil, two major figures of Czech modern music, in Paris with Olivier Messiaen and André Jolivet and also in the experimental studio of the Centre Bourdan at ORTF. Her work covers a broad palette of orchestral, chamber, solo, and vocal compositions. Her instrumental works often stem from the masterful technique of the leading soloists and chamber ensembles, as is evinced by the long list of her chamber works. In many compositions, for example Hymnos, Agamemnon, Dramatic Concerto, Echoes for Horn and Percussion, Concerto for Percussion Instruments and Winds, and Lost Orpheus, she has discovered the charm and new possibilities of composing for percussion instruments. In addition to the utterly extraordinary music itself, her meticulous approach, absolute clarity, and flawless notation also merit admiration. This is particularly true of her scoring of music for percussion instruments. The special quality of her notation is demonstrated by the fact that AMU published her book Moderní notace a její interpretace (Modern Notation and Its Interpretation) in 1988. Apart from teaching composition and music theory at AMU, Loudová founded Studio N (Studio for New Music) here in 1996, and with it has started up a number of activities, including concerts.
     IN THE WORDS OF THE COMPOSER: The composition Voices in the Wilderness for two percussionists is a kind of memory of a night and two days spent in the Gulf of Oman desert, where I ended up while on a visit to Oman for the premiere of my composition Renaissance for string quartet in February 2002. The desert, particularly at night, has an utterly special atmosphere, because it really hums, buzzes, and chirps, and in the distance you can hear drums, voices, and the ocean. I tried to capture all of that on paper and entrust it to carefully selected percussion instruments.

Mikko Heiniö (b. 1948)
A Finn, Mikko Heiniö studied composition with Joonas Kokkonen and piano with Liisa Pohjola at the Sibelius Academy. He continued to study composition, this time with the Polish composer and teacher Witold Szalonek in Berlin, and also musicology at Helsinki University. At present he is Professor of Musicology at the University of Turku. Heiniö is a leading musicologist. His dissertation, “The Idea of Innovation and Tradition”, is concerned with the music philosophy of contemporary Finnish composers. He has also contributed to books on the history of Finnish music and to a prestigious Finnish music quarterly. He is a member of the Board of the Finnish Composers’ International Copyright Bureau and of the Foundation for the Promotion of Finnish Music (LUSES), and has been Chairman of the Society of Finnish Composers since 1992. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Music, Stockholm, in 2004. The composition Wintertime, for harp, vibraphone, and marimba, is a collage of shorter sections, first solo, then the full interplay of all instruments. Whereas some parts are strictly contemporary, others have elements originating in medieval music, but all come together in a single whole.

Julio Roloff [Reyes-Gavilán] (b. 1951)
The variations in Variaciones para un percusionista are by no means ordinary. They have no single theme and variations on it. Instead, after an Introduction, five variations are presented by different instruments.
Intro Poco Ad Libitum (two cymbals, two bongos, two tom-toms, one pedal timpani, and a vibraphone)
I. Más rápido (two cymbals)
II. Nervioso (two bongos, two tom-toms, timpani, and a cymbal)
III. Tranguillo: muy ad libitum (a vibraphone)
IV. Tranguillo: vibraphon sempre (a vibraphone, timpani, bongos, two tom-toms, and a cymbal)
V. Nervioso: tenso (all instruments used so far)
All six parts are fluidly linked in a single whole, which is highly interesting in terms of technique, sound, timbre, and music generally. Equally interesting is the technique for the individual instruments, for example the cymbals, or the use of one timpani for various pitches with the use of glissandi. We have this composition straight from the composer. Julio Roloff [Reyes-Gavilán], a Cuban musician, visited a percussion class at the Prague Conservatory as a tourist in 1983, and offered us another two compositions, asking us to present them at some of our regular concerts. At his graduation concert in 1989, Lubor Krása, currently solo timpanist with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, presented Roloff’s Tritema for Solo Percussion Instruments. Variaciones was not premiered in the Czech Republic till the year-end concert by Tomáš Koubek in 2006, and was subsequently recorded for this CD.

Luboš Fišer (1935–1999)
The work of Luboš Fišer is one of the long-standing treasures of Czech music. Fišer gained renown as a student at Prague Conservatory with his First Sonata for Piano (1995), then five years after graduating from the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague, with the opera Lancelot (1960), and in 1965 he made Fifteen Prints after Dürer’s Apocalypse, which has become his best-known orchestral work, earning him recognition and enduring attention of music lovers the world over. A large part of his autonomous work has employed philosophically oriented themes, reflecting currents of thought, which his music touches upon at the level of the symbol or emotionally charged sign.
     Among these is Hommage à E. A. Poe. The musical current of this one-movement composition is formed by a continuous dialogue of many meanings, carried on between the solo flute and four percussionists. The brusque, keen encounter unexpectedly changes into frozen expectation; the musical form is, in a unique way, dramatically set forth, suggestively evoking a group of ideas referring to Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, and yet Fišer’s music is not programme music. The work grows out of three distinctive melodic motifs, which the composer, in twenty strikingly profiled sequences in various permutations, has reshaped onomatopoeically and in terms of articulation in an inventive instrumental stylization of all the instrument voices: the flute picks up the alto flute and piccolo, and in the choice of percussion instruments, musically on an equal footing with the flute, the composer’s characteristic timpani and bells predominate.

Vladimír Vlasák

This recording is an important presentation of the Department of Percussion at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (HAMU), Prague. In the seven years since it opened in 2000, the Department has repeatedly demonstrated its right to exist with its teaching methods, range of fields of instruction (for which conservatories had previously had neither the time nor the instruments), collaboration with other departments (in particular those of composition, wind instruments, and sound engineering), collaboration with the Department of Percussion at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), Brno, and with institutions of higher learning abroad, for example, in Germany, Denmark, the USA, Russia, and Lithuania. The Department of Percussion has a had an important role in organizing and giving concerts and initiating new works for percussion instruments, both by renowned composers from around the world and by students of the Department of Composition. On average it holds four concerts a year. In these seven years, HAMU students and teachers have given a number of outstanding performances worthy of recording, which led to the idea of capturing this short period of the Department’s existence on CD. The basic criterion in the selection of compositions was that they should be contemporary and have their world premiere or Czech premiere at one of our concerts. This requirement was fully met, and so we have a recording that is an historic document, one that fills in gaps in the repertoire.

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