Monday, August 25, 2014

Photo Log

Heiner Goebbels and Louis Andriessen, Kraftzentrale, Duisburg
Monica Germino and Louis Andriessen, Kraftzentrale, Duisburg

Friday, August 22, 2014

De Materie Review

De Materie, Louis Andriessen, directed by Heiner Goebbels and Peter Rundel. 
August 15, Kraftzentrale, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. Repeat .: 22, 23, 24/8.

Review by Frits van der Waa (published in Dutch in De Volkskrant, Monday, 18 August)
De Materie, Part II Hadewijch, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann

What have zeppelins to do with the seventeenth-century naval industry, or a flock of sheep with a sonnet by the Dutch poet Willem Kloos? Nothing at all. Nevertheless, the intuitive choices director Heiner Goebbels has made in his staging of Louis Andriessen’s De Materie Copper are convincing. Goebbels, himself a composer, in a way adopts the approach of Andriessen himself, who in 1989 in this four-part piece of music theatre succeeded in connecting the most diverse musical, literary and philosophical elements in a balanced way.
On the first day of the Ruhtriennale, the six-week festival that is led by Goebbels, he treated his audience to a memorable performance. Apart from the first series of performances directed by Robert Wilson at the Dutch Opera De Materie never has been performed in staged form again, up to now. Especially in musical terms, a lot of water has passed under the bridge in those years: the performance by the Ensemble Modern Orchestra and solo and choral singers, conducted by Peter Rundel and enhanced by an excellent sound projection, transcends the already respectable level of previous performances in its rhythmic precision, homogeneity and especially in the blending of the sound colors. In addition, the Duisburg Kraftzentrale with its oversized dimensions turns out to be prove a perfect venue for the "terrible symphony orchestra" that Andriessen had in mind when creeating this work.
De Materie can be seen as an opera in which ideas rather than characters occupy the stage, as a symphony with singing protagonists or as an essay on the relationship between exact thinking, artistic intuition and human emotion: there is no doubt, though, that this work, with its vast architecture, extended arcs, and a musical substance encompassing minimal and maxinmal idioms, requires a form of dramatization, even though it holds its own as 'pure' music as well. It is remarkable that Wilson's visualization twenty-five years ago, mainly made us of a frontal plane, like a shadow play, whereas Goebbels literally goes in-depth. Astounding is the moment in the third part, De Stijl, where in the distance at the back of the hall, two dancers appear, looking so small that they,for a moment, seem little puppets. And in the very part where Wilson introduced a solo piano, moving from left to right across the stage, Goebbels, at first unnoticably, manages to shift the complete orchestra  gradually to the rear and back - a technical achievement thatis almost as inexplicable as the invisible guiding hand that herds the sheep across the plaing field.
With the exception of that swinging third part, in which three luminous discs, decked in Mondrian colors, provide a lively visual play, circling in the air, Goebbels' staging, albeit spectacular, shows marked restraint. In the second part, with the mystic Hadewych as the centralfigure, the minute variations in imagery are almost static. Evgeniya Sotnikova sings the Middle Dutch very convincingly, and tenor Robin Trischler is just as proficient in his delivery of the old-fashioned wordings of the early atomic theorist Gorlaeus. The eight singers of ChorWerk Ruhr are a perfect fit for Andriessens chanted harmonies.
From the relentless hammering in the first part to the serene bell sounds in the fourth, that burgeon to a grand crescendo, Goebels’s staging emphasizes that De Materie is a work of international scope and substance, a magnum opus that Andriessen actually has not surpassed in the intervening years, especially where it comes to the balance between rigor and playfulness, between form and content - a balance that, incidentally, just as twenty-five years ago, is disrupted by the recited monologue by Madame Curie that makes the impression of an an uncomfortable vacuum after all that went before. Inexplicable that a composer who knows so much about the power of music eventually gave primacy to the infinitely weaker force of the spoken word.

Monday, August 18, 2014

De Materie Performance Photos

De Materie, Part I, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann
 De Materie, Part I, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann
 De Materie, Part II Hadewijch, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann

De Materie, Part III De Stijl, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann
 De Materie, Part III De Stijl, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann
De Materie, Part IV, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann
De Materie, Part IV, Photo (c) Wonge Bergmann

Monday, August 11, 2014

De Materie, Part IV, Libretto

Dreams of beautiful death and eternal desire,
Splendour of catching and feeling in steady arms,
Beauty, pressed to the loudly pounding heart,

Splendour of holding each other in a fiery embrace,
Blessedness released in wordless compassion,
Blessedness itself in the lifting of all pain.

O, desire! The billow break over me,
By the dark spray of the thrilled waves,
To see how life perishes around me.

But not Love, while staring
At the quiet glow of your open face,
United with you, journeying with you to eternity ....!

Madame Curie (spoken):
... Pierre, my Pierre. There you lie, like a wounded man with bandaged head resting in sleep.

... Your lips that I once called greedy are pale and discoloured. Your little beard is turning gray.

... We placed you in your coffin on Saturday morning, and I supported your head as they carried you. We kissed your cold face for the last time. Then l placed some branches of periwinkle from the garden in the coffin, together with the little portrait of me that you called “the diligent student,” and that you loved.

... Your coffin is closed and I will never see you again. I forbid them to cover it with the terrible black drapes. I cover it with flowers and sit near it.

The importance of radium for the point of view of theories in general has been decisive. The history of the discovery and isolation of the substance has delivered the proof for the hypothesis that I formulated, according to which ... The chemical work needed to isolate the radium in the form of a pure salt, and to characterize it as a new element was above all my work ... And the substances which l have termed radioactive ... l have used ... l have accomplished ... l have determined ... l have obtained ....
This work (…) is very closely related to the work that we performed together. I therefore believe that I correctly interpret the action of the Academy of Sciences when I conclude that the great distinction that they have bestowed upon me has been motivated by this collaborative work, and is therefore also an homage to the memory of Pierre Curie.

My dearest Pierre, you are never for one moment out of my thoughts, my head bursts, and my thoughts are muddled. I cannot comprehend that I must continue to live without seeing you, without smiling as the dear partner of my life. My Pierre, I arose after sleeping quite well, relatively calm. It is scarcely a quarter of an hour later, and I wish to shout like a wild beast.

... The whole world is talking. But I see Pierre on his deathbed.

My little Pierre, I would like to be able to tell you that the golden ram is flowering, that the wisteria and the hawthorn and the irises are in bloom—you would have loved that. I would also like to tell you that I have been appointed to your chair, and that there were even some imbeciles who congratulated me.

I spend all my time in the laboratory. I do not think that there is anything that I will be able to enjoy apart from perhaps scientific work—and no, not even that. For should I succeed, I could not bear it if you were not aware of it.

Excerpts from:
·       Willem Kloos, Verzen (Verses), 1894/1948
·       diary kept by Marie Curie after the death of her husband in 1906
·       Marie Curie’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize in 1911, as recorded in Françoise Giroud, Une femme honorable (Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1981)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

De Materie, Part III De Stijl, Libretto

 Piet Mondriaan, Composition no. 1, III (1927)
The line of a perfect circle is not perfection of the first order. The line of a perfect circle is perfect as a line. But it is not perfect without limitations, it is not perfect as an unending line, it is not perfection of the first order, it is not the perfect line.

The perfect straight line is the perfect line. Why? Because it is the only perfection of the first order. Likewise its ray, the perfect eternal ray, is perfection of the first order. The perfect eternal ray is also the perfect ray. For only it is as ray a perfection of the first order.

The cross-figure.
The figure which objectifies the concept of this pair of perfections of the first order is the figure of the perfect right-angledness, or, in other words, the cross-figure. This is the figure that represents a ray-and-line reduced to perfection of the first order. It characterizes the relationship between perfections of the first order as a perfect right-angled relationship, a “cross” relationship. This figure is actually “open.”

Dancer (spoken):
In those days, Piet Mondrian sent a message that he was in Holland and that he could not return to Paris. Mrs. Hannaert invited him to stay, and when one afternoon I arrived, he was sitting with her at the table. He made a curious impression upon me, because of his hesitating way of speaking and the nervous motions of his mouth. During the summer of 1915 he stayed in Laren and rented a small atelier in the Noolse Street. In the evenings we would go to Hamdorf, because Piet loved dancing. Whenever he made a date (preferably with a very young girl), he was noticeably good-humoured. He danced with a straight back, looking upwards as he made his “stylized” dance steps. The artists in Laren soon began to call him the “Dancing Madonna”!
            In ‘29 I was with him one afternoon in Paris and met the Hoyacks in his atelier. After a while, without saying anything, he put on a small gramophone (which stood as a black spot on a small white table under a painting of which it seemed to be the extension) and began quietly and stiffly, with Madame Hoyack, to step around the atelier. I invited him to dine with me as we used to do in the old days. Walking on the Boulevard Raspail, suddenly I had the feeling that he had shrunk. It was a strange sensation. In the metro we said goodbye; when we heard the whistle, he placed his hand on my arm and embraced me. I saw him slowly walking to the exit, his head slightly to one side, lost in himself, solitary, and alone. That was our last meeting.

A “cross” relationship.
This figure is really “open.”
We can prolong it on any side as long as we wish without changing its essential character, and however far we prolong this figure, it never attains a perimeter. It never becomes “closed” thereby; it is thereby totally and utterly boundless: it excludes all boundaries. Because this figure is born from itself in our conception, it characterizes the concept of perfect opposites of the first order, as a concept of the essential “open,” the actual and real “unbounded.”

Excerpts from:
·       M. H. J. Schoenmaekers, Beginselen der beeldende wiskunde (‘Principles of Visual Mathematics’) (1916)
·       M. Van Domselaer-Middelkoop, Herinneringen aan Piet Mondriaan (‘Memories of Piet Mondrian’) (1959/1960)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

De Materie, Part II Hadewijch, Libretto

The text is one of the visions of Hadewijch, a 13th-century Dutch mystic poetess, and expresses her passionate vision, both spiritual and erotic, of union with Him. The composition is organised to mirror the architectural plan of the cathedral of Reims in France. The intervals of time between the chords of the pianos, tuned percussion and guitars, which ring through the canvas at set points, have the same proportional relationship as the distance in space between the cathedral’s pillars.


Hadewijch:      ... thereupon, I was hopelessly thrown upon my own poor resources.

One early morning at Pentecost, attending matins sung in church, I received a vision. My heart, my veins, and all my body shook and trembled with desire. As so often before, I felt intensely and frightfully touched, and I was afraid that I would not satisfy my Love, but my Love did not allow me to die, to die grieving. Gradually, my passion became so terrible and painful that all my bones seemed to break one by one, and my blood flowed more swiftly than ever. My desire is inexpressible, both words and people fail, and what I could tell about it would be absurd to anyone who never learned Love’s effect and who was by Love neglected. This at least I can say: I longed to enjoy my Love to the fullest; to know and taste Him through and through; His human nature united with mine, and mine received in His. I did hope I would have the strength to let myself fall into completeness, so as to prove in turn to be inexhaustible for Him, pure; I alone would be satisfactorily virtuous in all virtues. Therefore, I wished deep inside that He, with His divinity, would elevate me into a unity of our minds, without withholding anything from me. For this gift I prefer above all other gifts I ever chose: to satisfy in unending submission. For this is the most perfect thing: to grow enough to become God with God—because it is endurance and pain, misery and unprecedented sorrow, and one has to let all this come and go without succumbing, and without feeling anything but marvellous love, embraces, and kisses. Thus I wished God would be for me, as I for Him.

Chorus: While it became unbearable to me, I saw a giant eagle flying toward me from the altar, and he said to me: “If you desire to be one with God, prepare yourself.” I knelt, and my heart beat in my throat, worshipping His greatness. I know very well that I was not ready for this, and God knows it too, always to my grief and sorrow. The eagle flew back to the altar, saying: “Righteous and almighty Lord, now prove your power in the unity with You, in Your heavenly bliss.” Then he came back and told me: “He who came will return, but places where He never came, He will not come.”

Then He came from the altar, showing Himself in the form of a child, such as He looked in the first three years of His life. He turned to me, and out of the ciborium He took His body with His right hand, and with His left He took a goblet that seemed to come from the altar, but I do not know that for certain. Then He came to me, now in the clothes and in the form of the man He was the day when He first gave us His body, enchanting and beautiful, with a ravishing face, and with the humble attitude of someone who already belongs to another. Then He gave Himself to me in the form of the Sacrament, and afterwards He gave me to drink from the goblet: it seemed and tasted as usual. Then He came very close to me, took me in His arms, and pressed me to His chest. All my limbs felt His, to their total satisfaction, as my heart and my humanness longed. I felt truly satisfied and saturated. I had just the power to bear this for a while, but soon I lost sight of this handsome man, and I saw Him fading and melting away, until I could no longer feel Him next to me, or perceive Him within myself. At that very moment, I felt that we were one together, without any difference. All this was real and tangible—as one really tastes and feels the Sacrament, or the way lovers, taking pleasure in seeing and hearing each other, can get lost. After this, I stayed one with my Love, melting with Him, until nothing was left of me. I was beside myself in exaltation, and in my mind I was raised up to a place where many different hours were shown to me.

Excerpts from Hadewijch, Book of Visions (13th century)