Playing piano with mountaineering equipment

Playing piano with mountaineering equipment

“IX KLA VIER E” was the name of the half-hour performance by Nick Acorne, for which 3×3 pianos were set up on top of each other in the anteroom. In front of them stretched a scaffold, which could be nimbly climbed by Acorne. Equipped with a helmet and a waist belt from which hung all sorts of kitchen utensils, counter-secured by a rope, he swung not from branch to branch, but from piano to piano, playing short passages on each. They all resulted in a truly breathtaking composition – but first and foremost for the pianist himself. Each time he had to climb several meters, both up and down, or shimmy along the metal struts to reach the next instrument. The pianos themselves were prepared and had different sound characteristics.

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“IX Kla vier e”

The be-all and end-all of any piano lesson – proper sitting and hand position led to absurdity in this performance. After all, Acorne had to find his footing hanging in the rope in the higher regions or kneel in front of the pianos in some cases in the lowest region. It was astonishing that, despite the sporting hardships, an improvised composition emerged that could be heard even without climbing. The fact that each performance – there were three in total – was different is obvious given the concept. The artist, who previously took a climbing course for beginners, noted in an interview with Daniela Fietzek that he wouldn’t underestimate the physical exertion, “but I know from myself that as soon as it comes to art, I always find resources in my body.”

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“IX Kla vier e” (Foto: ORF musikprotokoll/Martin Gross)

The different colored socks at the 2nd performance – one was yellow, the other blue – as well as the short encore – hanging upside down in the rope, spoke a clear language.

While one must appreciate the physical and artistic performance of Nick Acorne, at the same time one must not forget that his act is also peppered with a great deal of humor. Laughter and amazement were equally permitted.

Large contingent at the musikprotokoll in the “Steirischen Herbst” 23

Large contingent at the musikprotokoll in the “Steirischen Herbst” 23

At the beginning, Sappho / Bioluminescence by Liza Lim was on the program. In her composition, she wanted to “open a space for speculation,” which is an easy thing to do given the title. Lim speaks both of the ancient writer, about whom we suspect more than would have survived from her, but also of an octopus that can transform itself into a starry sky, thus deceiving its enemies. A trembling in the flutes, which passes into the orchestra, is at the beginning. Soon a harmonic progression is heard in the wind parts, strongly reminiscent of film score practice. The main players are again and again the horns, which stand out well audibly from the orchestra.

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Marin Alsop und das RSO (Photo: ORF musikprotokoll/Martin Gross)

It is also striking and characteristic that the entire instrumentation is almost in continuous use. Chimes, shimmering violins and a rude interruption by the harps – which will be heard several more times – follow. Again, however, it is a wind melody that stands out from the rest of the action. After a majestic orchestral sound and spherical strings, the tremors heard at the beginning are heard again. Both the brass and woodwinds get their own part, with euphony flowing through the instrumentation again and again. But also a small violin solo is allowed to present itself, supported by small harp interjections. Again and again the beautiful, in which one likes to let oneself fall, is interrupted by unexpected hard sounds like from a xylophone, a vibraphone or harps. The fact that at the end a kind of suspended state is described fits well and logically with what has been heard before. A beautiful work that makes one want to hear more from the composer.

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Karl Heinz Schütz as soloist on the flute (Photo: ORF musikprotokoll/Martin Gross)

The second program item “making of – intimacy” is by Clemens Gadenstätter and is written for solo flute and orchestra. Karl-Heinz Schütz took on the demanding soloist part, exploiting a wide tonal palette of his instrument. The beginning is made by the entire orchestra simultaneously in an excited, rapid ductus. The flute, which becomes audible shortly thereafter, is quickly used by the large sound apparatus to respond to it. This play between default and reaction will soon be repeated in reverse, after a wild interlude without flute.

As intense as the beginning was, soon after a melancholy flute solo sets in, its lamentation tone again taken up by the entire instrumentarium. What was just audible in mourning changes atmospherically into a rebellion. Striking and loud brass, a roar and loud drums characterize this part. As before, the action changes completely and to whispering voices the quiet flute stays on one note for a long time. The long, quiet passage is also marked by a delicate solo, which the flutist also accompanies vocally while playing. Meanwhile, the orchestra acts like a sleeping animal, responding to the dynamics of a flutter-tongue entry by Schütz and its runs. An ensuing intensification of sound with full orchestral entry moves agitatedly into a roaring state, like that of a hunted animal. Now it’s up to the flute to take over the orchestra’s ascending and descending runs and then leave the stage to it again. Bells, cymbals, a roaring brass, hard blows and knocks mark the violent passage, which is again replaced by a long, quiet passage with vocal breaths. As before, the action flares up again, only to calm down quickly. Voices, dark brass and a fluttering flute can now be heard – until everything fades into a long quiet passage that slowly drifts away. It is an up and down, an emotional lament and roar as much as an introspective, melancholy lingering that has been transformed into Gadenstätter’s musical language. In the first place in this work are audible emotions. Emotions that can be interpreted by the audience in a similar, but not identical way, thus providing enough room for interpretation for everyone.

Also “strange bird – no longer navigating by a star” by Clara Iannotta, describes emotional states, in which the metaphor of a strange, fluttering bird, is included, “whose aimless circling is the source of the cries that echo in an empty square” – according to the composer. Her sound material is not always precisely definable; an electric guitar is often used as a rhythm instrument, violin bows brush along cymbals, deep brass hums mark a somber overall impression. Again and again there are excited chirping noises and states in which it seems as if time stands still. The Emil-Breisach-composition 2023 ends with bird sounds and leaves the impression of having looked briefly into a psychic abyss with the help of the music.

At the end of the concert series was “Scorching Scherzo,” a piano concerto by Bernhard Gander. The work is a typical “Gander“: Intense, pulsating, upbeat, furious. And it leaves the piano in its original aggregate state, without preparation or rhythmic expansion possibilities. Nor are these necessary, so furious is the part largely allotted to it.

Jonas Ahonen needs strength and stamina to counter the rapid chord progressions from the orchestra in a way that keeps them at the sonic apex rather than drowned out by the instruments. A whipping, jazzy rhythm, accompanied by timpani and basses at the beginning, and rising, repetitive runs that conclude in bass chords immediately catch the ear. The wildness, which has already shown its face at the beginning, returns again and again and at one point decays only in the solo part of the piano. The piano takes up the rising runs of the winds heard at the beginning until the orchestra returns wildly.

Another solo with short thrust runs reveals a harmonic structure from the 19th century, which is again interrupted by short runs, but again a melody is inserted. The strings join in obliquely with a nevertheless lovely timbre and experience a renewed start to a furious part with the cellos and wild timpani. A wild rhythm, rushing and breathless, takes hold of the orchestra and overtakes the piano, which is now barely audible. The action moves into a part dominated by the basses, low brass and woods, which by itself, disengaged, would be an impressive work in its own right. Wild chord progressions with equally wild runs, again supported by the full orchestra, form another climax toward the end of the composition, which ends abruptly and leads into a varied, tender section carried by the piano and violins. Now it is not rising spirals but descending ones in a bright major that bring a new color to the proceedings. The idea of letting those runs sound again in the finale that were audible in the bass of the piano at the beginning, but this time in the treble, forms a wonderful parenthesis with which the concerto ends.

It is the combination of the rousing wildness of the technically demanding piano part and the quotations from the Romantic piano literature that made the audience extremely enthusiastic. Four times it brought Gander, Alsop and Ahonen back to the stage for acclamation. A circumstance that is an absolute exception in performances of contemporary music.

With this evening, the musikprotokoll offered an opulence of sound that at the same time demonstrated that compositions for large orchestra have lost none of their fascination. Much to the delight of the audience.

The sound of nature in the concert hall

The sound of nature in the concert hall

The music protocol presented the audience of the Steirischer Herbst per evening such a dense program that many people left the respective performance venue at about half-time. This may be due less to a lack of interest than to an overflow of what was heard and seen. In addition, the List Hall, where three evenings in a row were held, is only served by the streetcar in the direction of the city center until 11:15 pm. Unfortunately, this meant that many people missed out on things that would have been worth listening to. Like this evening the “Aria” by Beat Furrer, whose performance we could not attend.

The evening opened brilliantly with the “Piano Concerto” by Kristine Tjøgersen. In action at the piano was Ellen Ugelvik, who did not make it ring from the keys. Rather, as the orchestra played, she gradually built into the resonant space a forest of small trees, like those found on the staffage of model trains. The composer is fascinated by the communication of the trees, which takes place invisibly under the ground, and thus found an adequate realization of visualization. In addition to sounds, it is above all noises, such as a crackling and rattling, but also a hissing, wind noises or the buzzing of bees, which could be heard alongside repetitively descending bass lines, but also small snippets of melody. After the construction of the artificial forest was finished, the performer took care of a live video recording, which was projected on the large screen behind the orchestra. The task that the composer had set for this concert, to give a voice to nature in the concert hall, was actually audibly and visibly realized by her in this setting.

Madli Marje Gildemann is interested in nocturnal birds and tried to empathize with these animals while observing them. In her composition “Nocturnal Migrants,” she creates a hovering sound that swells and diminishes and is repeated in similar but not the same execution. A panicked chirping betrays doom at one point in the composition, as does a very darkly colored part that emerges in the bass of the piano after the bird scares. The basic tenor is dominated by an excitement, a permanent tension that only subsides when the music dies away at the end of the composition. Her work deals with the attraction of light, which is exerted on birds and can ultimately have fatal consequences. However, she herself describes this “as a metaphor for the impulsive and compulsive behaviors of people…who have little idea of the motives that drive them.”

“if left to soar on winds wings” by Karen Power was created alongside the Klangforum’s live part from recorded sounds the composer has collected around the globe. She prefers to go to places with few people, only to discover time and again that there are no places left in the world where people have not already been and left their traces. What can be heard everywhere as a constant is wind – albeit in different forms. It is also this natural phenomenon that can be heard right at the beginning of their composition. Chirping sounds and birdsong also appear in her work, but the defining element remains the wind, which can even be attributed the function of a basso continuo. “Like many of my works, “…if left to soar on winds wings…” asks each performer and audience member to hear all sounds simply as music we have never heard before. I ask us all to open our ears and reconnect with our environment as something that unites us rather than divides us, and to reconsider our power and influence over all that surrounds us.” – Karen Power said in her statement, which can be read in the program booklet.

The performance of “Exercises in Estrangement II – L’animal que donc je suis” by Sandeep Bhagwati proved original.

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“Exercises in Estrangement II – L’animal que donc je suis” (Photo: ORF musikprotokoll/Martin Gross)

The ensemble was allowed to move choreographically on stage, finding each other in ever new constellations. Kneeling at the beginning, but then striding or turning around their own axis, the musicians offered not only auditory but also visual fodder in their actions. The starting point for the work was a book by Jacques Derrida, in which he explores the close connections between animals and humans. The musicians repeatedly slipped into the role of different animals and communicated with each other constantly. Combined with recorded voices, some of whose text was deliberately unintelligible, the result was an animal-human-auditory mesh whose individual components no longer formed a focal point. Bird calls, elephants roaring, or cicadas chirping, all this could be heard with the help of the implementation of individual instruments, but also active voice use.

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Schallfeld Ensemble (Foto: ORF musikprotokoll/Martin Gross)

The second part of the evening saw the Schallfeld Ensemble perform “My fake plastic love” by Sehyung Kim, Dune by Carlo Elia Praderio and Katharina Klements “Monde II”. The latter work experienced a kind of “historical performance practice” with two repaired mixing machines, since these two had already been used in an earlier work by Klement.

Due to great similarities, or rather, great affinities in parts of the compositions, the programming of this concert sequence may be called very coherent in itself. All of them were characterized by recurring clusters of sound as well as an opposing decay. Sehyung Kim works with different timbres of the instruments and towards the end with increasingly narrow intervals. Praderio’s composition was experienced as minimalist-contemplative and dark in overall impression. Klement employs frequent bell sounds in contrast to the noises of the mixing machines. Electronic recordings expand her sonic cosmos, which is also characterized by recurring passages.

A concert evening filled to bursting point, which offered something new, but also the opportunity to draw comparisons between individual compositions.

stereophony in the “Dom im Berg”

stereophony in the “Dom im Berg”

The program – four pieces plus another three from submissions for the Student 3D Audio Competition, exemplified what was also demanded of the audience on the following evenings: Stamina. From 7 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. – with short breaks – sound experiences were offered that found an international audience.

The start was made by “Organa Quadrupla” by Heinali, who used the grandiose sound possibilities of the Ambisonics system in the Dom im Berg with his modular synthesizer. Fascinated by polyphonic structures as used in the Renaissance, he set up his composition in a similar way. He produced the sound of old organs, alto flutes or a bagpipe and underlaid the running melody lines with a kind of basso continuo. After an intro, still completely attached to a historical soundscape, it becomes audible that it is electronic sounds that are being generated here. The swelling with the increase of voices happens up to a cathedral sound, in which a penetrating up and down of runs characteristically comes to the effect. A rhythm is also cleverly deposited in the bass in the last part of the work, which fades away towards the end. A sonically successful festival entry, which does not break too much with our listening habits and therefore found great approval among the audience.

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“Organa Quadrupla” – Dom im Berg (Foto: ORF musikprotokoll/Martin Gross)

In stark contrast was the collaborative work “forest Floodlights” by Croatian Manja Ristić, as well as Abby Lee Tee and Franziska Thurner, both from Austria. They received a composition commission as part of a SHAPE+ artist residency and explored the sound of a secluded area in the Mühlviertel for it. SHAPE+ is the platform for exciting new projects in music and audiovisual arts of the festival network ICAS, founded in 2014 by the music protocol together with fifteen other festivals. It is funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe program. One of its bases, from which the trio worked, was Garage Drushba, formerly started by Karl Katzinger. It was a meeting place for offbeat cultural events in the nowhere until his death in 2021. From this Place they explored the area and created a visual-auditory, artistic diary. The water richness of the landscape, the remoteness, the ancient set pieces of the Garage Drushba, but also the beauty of nature were captured. In a combination of sound recordings and live recordings succeeded a coherent performance, in which one could dive deeply into the northern border of Austria. The visual realization received an extraordinarily aesthetic component through the superimposition of several video recordings. Sounds of nature such as birds chirping, water rushing or the rustling of dry leaves while walking over them alternated with e-sounds, but also live sounds of a violin and animal sounds. “forest floddlights” is a work not only with high recognition value, but it also makes you want to watch and listen to it more than once.

Taiwan-born artist Sabiwa presented “Island N. 16 – Memories of future Landscapes” with her partner Nathan L.. She describes the work as a place of memory she created during the pandemic.

In addition to a diverse video installation that alternates between real footage, footage in which real material has been alienated, and purely computer-generated footage, she created an equally diverse sound mesh. Recorded material is mixed with live recordings. Fish in an aquarium, to be seen on the video, fresh flowers in a floor vase on stage, in which garden hoses are inserted, through which air is blown, flute sounds, those of an alienated saxophone and singing, all this results in a visual as well as auditory kaleidoscope, which constantly changes form, color and sound. At the beginning, the video remains entirely rooted in the Asian cliché of bondage practices, but soon switches to purely computer-animated color constellations, and later to impressions of landscapes and cities and close-ups of butterflies or wasps feeding. The overall conduct speaks a youthful sound language with a high noise density, in which later passages change into the psychedelic. “Island N. 16 – Memories of future Landscapes” is a good example of the fluidity of musical different sources, alternating between the realms of E- and U-Music, which cannot be sustained in this way.

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“OSWYC” – Dom im Berg (Foto: ORF musikprotokoll/Martin Gross)

In OSWYC – the title of the composition by Robert Schwarz – he combines artificial and natural sounds, which, however, are indistinguishable from each other. With crickets chirping, wind noises and a billowing sound running across the room, he lets the audience enter his work. Door creaks, a sound resembling a bouncing roulette ball and a chirping accompanied by a dull bass repeat with slight changes. A buzzing, murmuring, gurgling and clanking is interrupted by a rattling, shortly after which one thinks to hear insect sounds. Again and again, it is natural sounds that one thinks one perceives, again and again the sounds and noises wander across the room and pretend what has only come about electronically.

The evening ended with contributions from three students who applied for the ‘Student 3D Audio Competition’. All three made clear how much they are immersed in the matter of space-body perceptions and once again demonstrated the breathtaking listening possibilities that the sound system in the Dom im Berg is capable of reproducing.

Julius Bürger – expelled and rediscovered I A Viennese composer returns

Julius Bürger – expelled and rediscovered I A Viennese composer returns

The RSO, under the direction of Gottfried Rabl, performed works by Julius Bürger (1897-1995) for the Austrian premiere on Aug. 18, 2023, in the large broadcasting hall of the ORF RadioKulturhaus. And it came 18 years after the Jewish composer died in New York at the age of 98.

Portrait Buerger vor Klavier Brian Coats

Julius Bürger (Photo: Brian Coats)

That the pieces were able to be heard at all was thanks to the shrewd actions of Ronald S. Pohl, a New York estate attorney. He had been hired by Bürger in 1989 to administer the estate of his wife Rose, who had died shortly before, and to give most of the money to young, Israeli musicians. Not yet knowing that Julius Bürger had a remarkable compositional oeuvre to his credit, Pohl asked him whether, due to his advanced age, he might not want to tackle his estate in time, which turned out to be a stroke of luck. Bürger, born and raised in Vienna, had moved to Berlin as a young man with fellow students and his composition teacher Franz Schreker, and thereafter commuted between London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna. Hitler’s invasion of Austria, however, alarmed him so much that he was able to emigrate to America with his wife in time. There he received American citizenship, worked at the Metropolitan Opera, but also for radio and television stations as a conductor, arranger and commissioned composer, without, however, completely abandoning his own independent compositional activity. Fortunately, Bürger had found a man of action in Pohl. He pulled out all the stops to fulfill his client’s wish to hear his Cello Concerto from 1932, which was first performed in 1952 and had not been heard since 1991, once again. Pohl’s efforts were successful. After performances in the USA, it was also played in Israel – by those musicians who had received scholarships from Rose Bürger. Only after contact was made with Gerold Gruber, director of the Exilarte Center for banned Music at the mdw, and Julius Bürger’s musical estate was brought to Vienna, was it possible to perform a concert of works by him here as well. If Pohl had not met with the composer, one may assume with great certainty that his works, which were collected in a small piece of furniture, would have been disposed of after his death when the apartment was vacated.

The RSO Vienna plays Julius Bürger.

Photo: Benjamin Pieber – Herzog Media

Adagio for String Orchestra

The range of works heard in Vienna was rich. The opening was an Adagio for string orchestra, from 1978, which was the only work that had ever been performed in Austria. Flowing gently, it darkened briefly every now and then to expose more dramatic material. The bass violins at some points literally push the strings to moments of tension, but they are always overcome by them. They finally manage to leave behind the wild, the evil, the almost unspeakable, which makes itself audible again and again, and let the work end with a tender euphony. A good choice, as far as the solo part of the cello concerto was concerned, which was played afterwards, had been made with Anna Litvinenko. Impressive were not only the technically difficult passages, mastered with bravura, but especially the intimacy and sensitivity of her solo in the last movement. Technique is only one component of a successful performance, but filling the work with soul makes the difference that Litvinenko was able to show the audience. After a quiet introduction, the winds form and release a pulsating rhythm that the orchestra and cello pick up. Soon the musical action becomes lightly dance-like and develops into a slow flow in which the rhythmic pulsations repeat themselves. Again and again, the little theme, spanning barely 3 measures, emerges across the orchestra. Bürger allows the movement to end only with the winds, supported by the cello. The composer subsequently dedicated the 2nd movement to his mother, who had been killed by the Nazis during the march to Auschwitz. A long, dragging march is intoned at the very beginning, and the cello theme is soon taken up by the oboe. The strings enter elegantly and are carried by the solo instrument, which continues the theme. The dragging ductus gradually transforms into a general shimmering and a transition of the theme into a brightened scenario with harp accompaniment. The soothing, lovely attitude does not last long; soon the sound clouds over again. It experiences a sharp agglomeration and comes up with a long wind sequence with disharmonies that wake up the orchestra and animate it to a wild, gloomy event. Now the cello gets a solo that can be described as illusionless. No trace of that calm, life-affirming passage with harp accompaniment is perceptible anymore; rather, it seems as if the cello has surrendered to the voices of wild violence. Logically, this is followed by an ending in which the orchestra, as at the beginning, reproduces the dragging march. Knowing the fate of Bürger’s mother, one can feel what last moment of life he has captured here musically. In the rapid 3rd movement, the cello responds almost chamber-like to the individual instrumental solos. Again and again, soothing passages, often supported by the strings in unison, counter the lively ones heard earlier, which then pick up speed again with the help of the winds in interplay with the cello. The finale is a cello solo with differentiated, beautiful dynamic colorations, which is followed by a furious final wind and timpani event. The orchestra and soloist rightly received prolonged applause for the performance.

Songs with symphonic accompaniment

The following two songs with symphonic accompaniment were interpreted by Matija Meić. “Legend” after a text by Christian Morgenstern and “Silence of the Night” after Gottfried Keller, allowed musical comparisons with Gustav Mahler. Almost every line, every mood, every description of a state of landscape, soul or action receives its own, musical expression in Bürger. Whether Jesus before his walk into the garden of Gethsemane, completely unexpectedly begins to dance with a young woman and these exuberant steps become audible, whether the surf of a sea addressed in Gottfried Keller, triggers musical surges in the body of sound, music and word support each other most artfully. Meić’s baritone sounded full, warm and very mature, without, however, lacking clear enunciation. He managed with ease to leave the broad symphonic support, a challenge for the singer in these works, as such and rather to contribute vocally like a solo instrument. Both pieces can be characterized as small symphonic poems, but endowed with an epic weight using a large instrumentarium, which makes them extraordinarily exciting. One would like to hear more of them.

The RSO Vienna performs Julius Bürger. Pictured here is baritone Matija Meić

Photo: Benjamin Pieber – Herzog Media

“Eastern Symphony”

The concert concluded with the “Eastern Symphony” from 1931.In 3 movements, it opens with a bright theme in the winds that is answered by the strings. Memories of Gershwin, one year older, are evoked, mainly by the strongly accented rhythms, which also change frequently. It is striking, as in the songs before, that Bürger keeps the entire orchestral instrumentarium in almost constant motion. There is hardly a passage in which the musicians are not challenged at the same time, which proves immensely appealing. Cymbals, timpani and drums set the predominant tone, as do the winds, and allow the movement to be experienced as hymn-like and progressive. The 2nd movement begins with the oboe, broadly supported by the orchestra. She is answered by violins and cellos in such a way that a fluidity takes hold of the entire body of sound and a wide, opening landscape can easily be imagined. Again it is the harp that leads to the clarinet, bassoon and strings, as well as the soft wood. It is this instrumental thematic wandering and at the same time the continuation of the same that makes this movement so interesting. The quiet ductus is maintained and the end also sounds accordingly. How could it be otherwise, the final movement begins furiously in the entire orchestra with a wild run. Trumpets and drums set the rapid rhythm, which only calms down with the harp and oboe with the theme sung by the strings above. Now it is the flutes that complete this description of the landscape. As if following a river with small whirlpools of water, the violins, held by the clarinet, spiral on in a lively manner, handing over to the flutes. With a final, massive orchestral entry, the theme, presented once again, ends the beautiful work. The characteristics of Bürger’s music are unambiguous and can be clearly stated. As a composer, he stands aesthetically between the 19th and 20th centuries, from which he borrowed not only the courage to blur sound, but also hitherto unusual rhythms and some new instrumentation. However, his compositional technique is always clearly comprehensible, structures are easily recognizable and – this is what distinguishes Bürger’s symphonic works in particular – he captivates with a musical richness of color par excellance. Austria, especially Vienna, has not made amends with this concerto. There is no such thing. The statement that was made, however, is clear and was more than necessary. Taking care of the estates of expelled composers is an absolute imperative of the hour. The work of the mdw’s Exilarte Center should be brought much more into the public consciousness. A broader awareness of this inglorious chapter in the context of music history can at least help to ensure that the work of the exiles is not consigned to oblivion. We, who are in the fortunate position of being posthumous, can either get actively involved in this event or – and this must not be underestimated – we storm concerts like these and fill the halls to capacity. In doing so, we express our interest and give the music what keeps it alive and what it deserves: our undivided attention.

f.l.t.r Prof. Gerold Gruber, Anna Litvinenko, Ronald S. Pohl, Gottfried Rabl

f.l.t.r Prof. Gerold Gruber, Josipa Bainac Hausknecht, Ronald S. Pohl, Gottfried Rabl (Photo: Ronald Pohl)

The Sound Magician

The Sound Magician

The Sound Magician

By Michaela Preiner

Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)


September 2017

Translated by Victoria R. Yan

There are people with special talents. Some are sport aces, some communication experts who can strike up a conversation with anyone, and others masters of an instrument. We all know someone who is endowed with such a gift.

Then there are people who possess talents that cannot be compared with those of others. Ingmar Flashaar is one of them. He started taking piano lessons at age nine and continued until he was 19. As the son of Austrian parents, he grew up in Winterthur, Switzerland. It was not until much later that he moved to Vienna with his wife, Ketevan Sepashivili, a pianist. So to speak, to his motherland which had never been his home before.

Everything began with piano playing

The phenomenon of sound, which he was gifted with since his first attempts at the piano, did not leave him even after ending private piano lessons. He then acquired the craft as a piano technician, a profession that requires not only skilled fingers and ears but also unconditional love and devotion to the sound. For decades, he has been a sought-after specialist in the greatest concert halls in Austria and beyond, and is acquainted with various pianists from the jazz and classical world who are grateful for his work on their instruments.

However, the special talent that distinguishes Ingmar Flashaar from the others is his ability to refine sounds. He performs “sound refinement” on pianos, as well as on all other instruments presented to him. This does not involve mechanical handwork, such as tightening screws, fitting strings or re-adjusting tuning pegs. The “sound magician” manages to bring the best out of every instrument thanks to his energy. Anyone who watches him as he touches the instruments, feels them, stops for a moment and ponders, cannot imagine these interventions will finally become audible, and yet they are.

The energy that he transfers into the instruments actually heals their invisible wounds. Although you cannot see the wounds or the healing process, if you have played the instrument before and after its treatment, you can hear the striking differences. Musicians, who witnessed this on their instruments, showered him with praises.

ingmar gong

Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)

Sound that can help people

“I have come to understand that ‘sound’ in my life is the means by which I can best express myself, and with which I can help people greatly” says the magician of sound. He took a step towards a different direction, and today, after many different additional training courses, he has discovered his skill and trained his talent so well that he became a true professional in every aspect of his work. To enhance a sound, to improve an instrument and to spread positive energy into the world with sound – that is what makes Ingmar Flashaar so unique. It is not a one-way street on which he moves.

In addition to his work “to ensure a good mood in the house” and to transform instruments to produce sounds that are indescribable, Ingmar Flashaar also plays concerts. In the Ruprechtskirche – the oldest church in Vienna – he can be heard frequently performing his special Light-Sound concerts. He appeared as a guest performer at the Kunsthaus Mürzzuschlag at the beginning of September 2017. With him he brought a gong and five crystal sound bowls from Silicon Valley. A Fazioli concert grand piano, which is stationed permanently in the Kunsthaus, was also put to use. As he wandered between the instruments, one was able to hear what “sound energy” actually meant and that the instruments he “plays” seemed to be living beings, to which he blows life into.

ingmar klavier

Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)

ingmar klangschalen

His instruments are like living creatures

The way he began by delicately swiping the big gong with a drumstick, without even making the slightest attempt to strike the beautiful Chinese instrument, was fascinating from the first second. Moreover, the various sounds he elicited from this instrument. One voice after another could be heard; voices like those of humans. Delicate and tranquil breathing, followed by feverish, lamenting, and agitated emotions – as if by magic, they seemed to have been freed from a metal enclosure second by second with the help of Ingmar. As the deep and powerful sounds of the gigantic gong – 95 centimeters in diameter – echoed through the hall, the ears of the audience were taken unawares. A mastering, masculine energy floated through the room; however it did not feel at all threatening. Highly concentrated, attentive and spellbound was his audience that you could hear a pin drop.

It was neither the skillfully mastered rhythm nor the melody which flowed through the hall. It was pure energy, which swept the bodies of the listeners away and placed them in a state that is rarely achieved in concerts. Through these magical moments it became clear that this musician and sound magician had found the key of access to his instruments, a key that has nothing to do with meter and melody. One gained the impression that this man, with his outstanding talent, freed a secret hidden energy, which seemed that he could easily call upon. Unleashed, released and at his disposal, he was able to spread a force that was both strengthening and incredibly reassuring at the same time.

The sound specialist then switched quietly and naturally to the piano after finishing his improvisation introduction on the gong. The Fazioli grand piano, which Flashaar was already familiar with through previous tunings on the instrument in Mürzzuschlag, waited majestically for his first touch. As if greeting an old friend, the artist approached the piano reverently and started with a sparkling run. Once again, there were some very special moments that went under the skin and touched the soul. By the repetition of a single note, which was crystal clear and articulate, he played an improvisation that reminded one of the musical styles of Arvo Pärt, Arnold Schoenberg, and Enrico Einaudi. As a delicate echo sounded back and forth through the hall, it became clear that he was able to produce goose bumps without needing to press more than ten keys. This single tone, with its very unique vibration, made all the tones before seem as if to be playmates which he had long left behind. He then, however, took them back with him on his journey, where they united once again. This moment could be compared to a situation where one sees a distinctive person in the midst of a crowd. He looks at this person involuntarily yet so intensely that it is possible to fully grasp the person’s essence within mere seconds. Without knowing who this person is, where he came from and where he is heading. He is a unique being, who at this moment unexpectedly transforms into the ambassador of humanity.

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Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)

From the chip production to the concert hall

Finally the crystal sound bowls, which completed Flashaar’s concert instruments, unsurprisingly proved to possess independent individualities of their own. There was a large, dominating sound bowl surrounded by four smaller bowls, all of which were endowed with their own unique sound qualities. “Usually silicon is melted into them. Since the crystal in which this is done must not have the slightest flaw, not even the slightest hairline crack, the bowls are examined carefully before their use. Those that I use have been acquired before further production.” They have come a long way from the US to Europe, and are now brought to sound by Flashaar’s hands. Tangible sound waves were created during the concert, comparable to healing hands, which can be felt during a tender massage. The sounds created by the milky-white bowls traveled through the ears then directly into the hearts of the audience. He flattered, calmed and brought them to a state of unquestionable trust. The warm and beautiful musical soundscape, beating with thriving energy, embraced the various sensations around them fearlessly.

After a final improvisation on the gong, with his head slightly lowered and his arms partly spread, Flashaar stood still in front of the instrument until the last audible sound had faded. It seemed as if he had summoned “it” back. “It” meaning the sound phenomena that was freed from its surrounding metal shells by him during this magical night. With its power, the audience was able to have a taste of the abundant experiences that Ingmar Flashaar had experienced throughout his life. He proved that the sounds created by energy were not only an aesthetic experience but also an energy that can touch the hearts of people.

“I would like to perform sound refinement on all the instruments of an orchestra. I know the great differences would positively influence the musicians.” This is one of the two wishes of the tall gentleman. His second wish, “I really desire to perform a Light-Sound concert in the Votivkirche.” His first vision “only” requires one person, who has the ability and willingness to refine multiple sound apparatus. The engagement of 400 good-willed people, who will have the chance to experience a relaxing ‘sound shower’, are needed in order to realize his second wish to perform in the Votivkirche.

One thing is for sure: whenever one or the other event takes place, we will be there to report about it.

The history behind the article:

I, Michaela Preiner, author of this article, noticed a distracting noise coming from inside my daughter’s Kawai grand piano some time ago. Several piano mechanics had tried to solve the problem, but in vain. Thankfully, the piano company Stingl recommended Ingmar Flashaar to me. After an hour of deep pondering and careful investigation of the instrument, he followed his intuition. Using a mechanical trick, he then removed an undefinable, small piece of wood which had been jammed at an inaccessible area under a string, therefore causing the noise. Everyone who once had their beloved instrument successfully repaired can imagine how overjoyed I was to have the problem solved.

As Ingmar Flashaar offered to perform sound refinement on my piano a few months later, I was somewhat skeptical. However, drastic differences of each key before and after his work were immediately audible. I could barely believe my ears. I was in awe of the new sound quality which filled the room whenever the instrument was played. Another feeling came to my mind: the feeling of a closer communication between the performer and the piano. Many musicians develop a strong bondage between themselves and their instrument. They become good or even best friends. Often one wants to do something special for their best friend to show appreciation for their friendship. The sound refinement was my special “something” for my grand piano. However, it returned the favor at the same time by its enchanting sounds that even helped me conquer performance blockades that I once used to have.

One may consider these statements non-verifiable. This reaction is not a stranger to me, as I once also felt the same way. However the immiscible sound quality, a privilege that I get to experience again and again since the sound refinement, speaks for itself. Touched and motivated by the various possibilities that the sound now offers me, I overcame my past shyness towards public performances and presently offer musical wellness sessions. I devote each session to a single individual, with the goal to pass on happiness and the magic of sound. It is a true privilege and blessing to have this piano in my life.

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