Mozart, Bernhard and the birds

© Michael Klimt

Berlin composer Frank Schwemmer was "very satisfied" after the world premiere of his new piece "mein Wort mein Glück mein Weinen" on 9 March 2024 in the Great Hall of the Mozarteum Foundation. 

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      Mozart und Schwemmer

The four young soloists Laura Obermair (soprano), Olaia Lamata Ezcurdia (alto), Lucas Pellbäck (tenor) and Xiaofei Liu (bass), the Mozarteum UniChoir, the Mozarteum University Academy Orchestra and the conductor and dedicatee of the score, Jörn Andresen, performed this work commissioned by the Mozarteum University as part of the Mozart:Forum 2024 on 9 March in front of an almost sold-out audience.

© Michael Klimt

„mein Wort mein Glück mein Weinen“

Frank Schwemmer (born 1961) is regarded as a specialist in singable contemporary choral music. His extraordinary biography explains why: Schwemmer is trained and artistically active in both fields, both as a composer and as a singer. As a member of ensembles such as the Vokalconsort Berlin, the Ars Nova Ensemble, the choir of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and as a soloist with the Taschenoper Lübeck, Schwemmer has come into contact with vocal music from all eras during his singing career. As a composer, he considers himself to be outside the experimental avant-garde and points to the Romantic choral music of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy or Johannes Brahms as well as the sound surface compositions of György Ligeti as sources of inspiration.

In his work "mein Wort mein Glück mein Weinen", composed for Salzburg, Schwemmer established a connection between Mozart's Requiem and the eponymous texts by the writer Thomas Bernhard against this aesthetic background. Motifs from the Kyrie, the Dies irae, the Recordare and others were partly quoted directly by Schwemmer, partly isolated from the context and transformed. The transitions from one composition to the next were skilfully designed, for example when the rhythm of the Lacrymosa appears as a leitmotif in the orchestra or a horizontal "d" at the end leads directly into the chorale melody "Komm o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder". The addition of a canary song - both Mozart and Bernhard were bird lovers - and the imitation of a glass harmonica by the vibraphone bowed with a double bass bow provided moments of sonic surprise - for Schwemmer, this symbolised the afterlife and transience.

When asked about the quality of the performance, Frank Schwemmer, who has also been involved in several Salzburg Festival productions, praised the tense atmosphere during the premiere and the creative energy of the young musicians. They must continue to be challenged and encouraged in the future. Schwemmer is also happy to accept the fact that his latest Mozart commentary cannot really be performed without Mozart's original composition in order to achieve such a valuable "educational return".

The ambitious concert programme in the Mozarteum choir sector continues unabated in May and June. A mixed programme of Giovanni Gabrieli and contemporary works entitled "HumaNature" is scheduled for Friday, 24 May at 20:00 with free admission in the Kollegienkirche. The following day, on Sunday 25 May, a concert of offertories by the former Salzburg cathedral conductor Andreas Hofer (1628/29-1684) will take place at 16.00 in the Domquartier Salzburg. On 4 July, the Mozarteum will also dedicate a symposium in the Rittersaal of the Residenz to this Monteverdi contemporary who is to be rediscovered.


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