The Foreign Correspondent

UPDATE: All the below is still true, but due to hurricane related events, I’ll actually be getting to the festival Tuesday, August 29.

Thanks to a generous grant from the organizers, I will be attending the Ostrava Days 2011 music festival, keeping a critics diary at ClassicalTV and writing concert reviews for Seen and Heard International.

The music scheduled is like a dream list of the exploratory edge of 20th Century and contemporary classical music; starting with a post-WWII core of Feldman, Wolff, Berio and Xenakis and others, there is also difficult to find and hear music from Bernard Lang, Gordon Mumma, Cornelius Cardew, Lejaren Hiller and Brian Ferneyhough . . . and even more, of course! All this music represents an extraordinarily wide range of aesthetic concepts and values, the variety of ‘ideologies’ a testament to the care and open-minded thinking of festival founder Petr Kotik.

Kotik is one of the leading figures in the music; a performer, ensemble leader (S.E.M. Ensemble, Ostravská Banda) and composer. His contributions are so consistently accomplished and self-effacing – always in service to the music – that it’s surprisingly easy to take him for granted. I’ve seen several of his performances over the past year and a half, and they are at the summit of contemporary musical art, played with such skill and musicianship that music that often seems so technically and aesthetically challenging comes off as an almost unremarkable status quo of where the tradition lays. And his own works stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers – the New York School and beyond – and are not only easily of equal quality but represent a very personal answer to and exploration of the ideas and problems in the cutting edge of contemporary composition.

For those of you who can’t make it to Ostrava Days, there is a sampler, and several excellent recordings are available that offer a taste of this musical universe and satisfy all by themselves, including the definitive recording of Marcel Duchamps’ compositions, Kotik’s exemplary settings of Getrude Stein and a great set of live recordings from Ostravská Banda. And watch for dispatches, starting the last weekend in August.

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