Alex Lipowski on Talea’s Tuesday concert

As I mentioned yesterday, Talea Ensemble will be giving a concert of works by Olga Neuwirth in New York City on Tuesday at 8 PM (Details/tickets here). The group’s percussionist, Alex Lipowski, was kind enough to talk with me about Talea’s activities of late and tomorrow’s show.

Alex Lipowski. Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan

- This has been a busy season for Talea Ensemble. Do you feel that the group’s reach and activities are expanding of late?

The 2010-‘11 season has been an amazing collection of projects for Talea and we are so grateful for each of them.  One of our goals is to reach as wide an audience as possible and this season we were able to achieve that by collaborating with so many outstanding institutions such as Miller Theatre, Symphony Space, the Consulate General of Denmark, Scandinavia House, Korean Cultural Service NY, Columbia and New York Universities, the Austrian Cultural Forum, Czech Center New York, Washington Square Contemporary Music Society, the Roger Smith Hotel, and Bang on a Can.  Through all of these inspiring collaborations, we were able to introduce Talea’s programs to new audiences while bringing together diverse groups from the New York community.

- Tell me a bit about your recent gala event.

We recently had our second annual Gala which was at the Roger Smith Hotel.  Talea Gala is a special event for us because it gives us an opportunity to come together with our audience and supporters and celebrate the end of a season while launching the next.  Talea Gala includes dinner, a silent auction, performances, as well as pre-dinner and post-concert receptions.  The event gives all of the attendees the chance to get to know some of their fellow audience members as well as the Talea performers and board of directors.  This year, we were especially honored to have Norman Ryan from European American Music Distributors as our Guest of Honor.  It was a really special evening for Talea and we are deeply grateful to everyone who was a part of it.
- You recently gave a concert of works by Unsuk Chin. On Tuesday, you’re performing music by Olga Neuwirth. Both of these are composers that are well known on the international scene but they are still in the process of gaining acclaim here in the US. For our readers who don’t know much about Unsuk or Olga, where should they start to get to know their works?

We feel honored to have had the chance to collaborate with Unsuk Chin on a program of her music which was generously supported  by the Korean Cultural Service NY, and equally honored to now have the opportunity to work with Olga Neuwirth on an entire program of her pieces which is generously supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum.  Both composers have a significant presence in Europe but have not had the American exposure they deserve and we hope that these concerts will help bring some recognition to their music and that other ensembles, presenters, and listeners will take interest in it as well.  For many listeners, both composers are perhaps best known for their works for large ensembles and operas.  Unsuk Chin is well known for her opera Alice in Wonderland and Olga Neuwirth for her opera Lost Highway which was given its US Premiere at Miller Theatre.  Both composers have wonderful CDs on Kairos that I would highly recommend.

Talea rehearses Chin. Photo: courtesy Korean Cultural Service

- What was it like working in rehearsals with Unsuk Chin?

Unsuk Chin was great to work with for more many reasons but one of which is her intensity and focus in rehearsals.  She has a well-sculpted vision for her music and is able to communicate really well to performers.

Chin in rehearsal. Photo courtesy Korean Cultural Service.

- I understand that one of her works had quite a theatrical component and involved playing in the dark. How did you approach working on these components of her music?

One of Unsuk Chin’s pieces, Allegro ma non troppo for solo percussion and electronics which I played, is theatrical, and the soundworld as well as the theatrical nature of the piece depict a scene, as she put it in my case, of a “house-husband” cleaning the home while awaiting his wife’s return.  The opening scene of the piece begins with a large cardboard box in the middle of the stage which is torn open to discover that the contents of the box are colorful tissue papers which are then tossed into the air creating a colorful soundscape.  Playing percussion in itself is theatrical and having a chance to overtly take on a role is an exciting opportunity to explore an extension of musical performance.

Olga Neuwirth. Photo credit: Priska Ketterer.

- What will listeners hear by Neuwirth on Tuesday night? What has it been like working with her on these pieces?

Tuesday’s Olga Neuwirth Portrait Concert will feature a retrospective of Olga’s music and feature her works ranging from solo to large ensemble pieces.  Featured on the concert will be Talea’s pianist Steve Beck playing incidendo/ fluido for solo piano and electronics, as well as bassoonist Adrian Morejon playing torsion: transparent variation for solo bassoon and large ensemble. Additionally the program will include Neuwirth’s…ad aduras… for violin duo and wood drum, AKROATE HADAL for string quartet, and In Nacht und Eis for bassoon, cello, and ring modulator. The program also features a special in-concert interview with the knowledgeable and well-versed, Bruce Hodges.

Working with Olga on her music has been such a pleasure because she knows exactly what she wants in each score.  Her sound world is incredibly detailed because she has a deep understanding of each individual instrument’s sonic capabilities.  Her positive energy is contagious too and she is inspiring for the ensemble.

- What’s in store for the Talea Ensemble this summer and next season?

This summer, Talea will tackle its largest project yet, and will team up with the Bang on a Can Marathon to present the US Premiere of Fausto Romitelli’s last and largest work, An Index of Metals for soprano and large ensemble which will feature the outstanding Tony Arnold.  We will be making a formal announcement of the 2011-12 season’s projects in July, so stay tuned to www.taleaensemble.org

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