Cosmoscow • Special SOUND UP Project at Cosmoscow 2023: Canto ostinato for orchestra of Russian folk instruments
September 27 – 29 2024
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Special SOUND UP Project at Cosmoscow 2023: Canto ostinato for orchestra of Russian folk instruments

Sept. 26, 2023

On September 30, the SOUND UP Festival will open the concert season at the Cosmoscow International Contemporary Art Fair. Especially for this event, the curators have prepared a premiere in the fusion style: for the first time, composer Simeon ten Holt's Canto ostinato piece will be performed by an orchestra of Russian folk instruments.

The SOUND UP special project is dedicated to the centenary of the Dutch minimalist Simeon ten Holt. He entered the history of academic music as a composer who returned nostalgia for the romantic. The quiet revolution of an ascetic and provincial from a Dutch village has been maturing for decades: ten Holt found his unique style when he was over fifty. Turning to the rehearsal technique, ten Holt began to compose giant minimalistic canvases, including his magnum opus — Canto Ostinato.

Unlike the mechanistic, cold American minimalism, Ten Holt's music is haunted by the ghosts of the sentimental past. Canto ostinato is a pure tonality, repetitions of short motifs, gradually forming into continuous singing, which is reflected in the title of the work. The time of "singing" is determined only by the performer himself, a concert lasting more than a day is considered a record. Ten Holt himself said that echoes of suppressed memory are always heard in tonal music, because his song is like a ritual incantation, an attempt to appeal to the romantic era.

Canto ostinato is written for keyboard instruments, but the composer does not specify a specific performing composition. The piece became a hit among pianists and percussionists around the world, but the SOUND UP curators, avoiding formulaic solutions, decided to sound the score with Russian folk instruments. The author of the new version will be the Moscow composer and pianist Igor Yakovenko.

In his work, Yakovenko connects the seemingly distant worlds of academic music and jazz. While his scores are being played on philharmonic and theater stages, he performs in metropolitan clubs as a jazz pianist and leader of his own band. The multipolar art of the composer is well illustrated by his discography on the label "Fancymusic", the main publisher of Russian innovative music, which has already released seven albums by Yakovenko. The new joint project with SOUND UP will be a creative experiment in the synthesis of traditional music and academic minimalism, the recognizable style of ten Holt and the author's manner of Yakovenko.

Musicians of the Belgorod Academic Russian Orchestra under the baton of conductor Evgeny Aleshnikov will undertake to bring this daring idea to life. The collective does not restrict itself to the framework of one style, fruitfully cooperates with modern authors and proves that the sound of folk instruments is still relevant today.

The premiere of the special project of the SOUND UP festival will take place on the second day of the Cosmoscow fair, which will be held in the Forum pavilion of the world-famous Expocenter.

Composer Igor Yakovenko on the arrangement and reinterpretation of the cult score "Canto ostinato" by Simeon ten Holt:

"Simeon ten Holt's Canto ostinato is a work of genius. As a person with an engineering degree, I like how this score is constructed. Musical patterns interact with each other, and a variety of emotions are born from an infinite variety of combinations. And as an improviser, I appreciate that Ten Holt gives full carte blanche to the performers. The author allows you to improvise with dynamics, strokes and the number of repetitions.

However, due to the peculiarities of the score, it was not so easy to arrange it for the orchestra of Russian folk instruments. I wanted to maintain the continuity of movement, the alternation of pumping and discharging of expectation (it's like you're waiting for something to happen now, they bring you to the edge, and then gently take you back). In addition, with this instrumental composition, I really did not want to go into buffoonery, "Kalinka-Malinka". It was important for me to keep the purity and transparency of the material. And I think it worked out.".