samedi 26 octobre 2013

Hans Otte (1926 - 2007) : Die Kunst der Minimalism


Another newcommer into my repertoire.

I added Hans Otte pièces only last year. In fact this composer is very rarely present on the "usual minimalist composers" lists.

And this is thanks to the musicologist and friend David Sanson that i heard about this composer.
It happened just before my very first Philip Glass Marathon. We were eating a nice steak tartare and talking about our mutual tastes, when David was saying some names that i never heard of.
As a result he told me to check it on his blog : (do not hesitate to check it !! ).

Luckily, some months after, being contacted by the "New Music at Arsenal" a Kiev Festival, and dealing about a Glass Marathon, they asked me if i knew Hans Otte Music and will be interested in doing the Book of Sound as national Premiere.

And to prepare it, i searched a little more, and found out this excellent blog :

After when i organised the program of the Night of Minimal Piano in Collioure, i added Otte 's Book of Hours.

I must confess that this strange music, very minimalistic with an eerie feeling really attracted me. Curiously (for me) it did not sounds like everything i knew, but on the other hand it was just like a soft dream, out of space and time. Something that can reminds of Ancient Music with its slow gregorian like slow voices , but with a more modern shape. Highly spiritual , but really close to mankind.

Piano Music

Das Buch der Klänge (The Book of Sounds, 1979-82)


This piece deal mostly with repeat, endless repeat (if i had more time, i am sure that my performance would have been much longer, as i did with the 7 hours long Canto Ostinato in Monaco, i am dreaming to make a "very long version" of the Book of Sounds. But not all the movements would do the job. ). On the contrary of the recording available, i followed the "repeat again and again" signs. With those it can bring a hypnotic effect (i must have performed too much Vexations...).
I also tryed my best to make variations of touches and feeling. I still remember after the concert, some fans of Otte that were surprised with the result and i had to show the score to prove i was not "improvising" or making it "in my fantasies".

The piece has 12 différents movements, some have repeated chords, repeated like broken chords (arpeggios), silents notes that are fadding into nowhere ...

I never had the luck to see this piece on concert, but if the public receive the piece as i am receiving when i am performing, i must confess that it is really a strange journey. The kind of piece like Vexations or Canto Ostinato that you wish will never end. Something that can bring you into another sphere of consciousness.

Stundenbuch (The Book of Hours 1991-98)

This composition is in its essence totally different than the Book of Sounds.
The book is composed of 48 little pièces, very abstract in their essance, and almost gregorian like. No bars, few indications. It can be seen as a great great child of pièces like Liszt's Grey Cloud, or even more some abstract Liszt religious pièces like Rosario.
It is said that Otte inspiration came from the middle age Christian devotional book... (more détails : )
I must confess that i have a preferance for the Book of Sounds, it s hypnotic effect and the sounds possibilities. I am looking forward performing both of them at the same concert, it might help me to understand them, and maybe feel some echoes in those pièces that i might not being able to feel right now.
As with the minimalist music, it is of course "possible" to perform one movement, and not everything. But i really think that it will be pointless and will break all the effects that Otte had planned for the listener.
Of course, unlike some other minimalist composers, performing only one little part can be "ok" and can be mixed with regular composers. It will feel that Otte music is really contemporary, but nothing more. Exactly like performing only 1 or 2 Satie's Vexations!

Bio :

Hans Otte born Hans Günther Franz Otte (December 3, 1926, Plauen – December 25, 2007, Bremen) was a German composer, pianist, radio promoter, and author of many pieces of musical theatre, sound installations, poems, drawings, and art videos. From 1959 to 1984 he served as music director for Radio Bremen. From the early 1960s onwards,
Otte frequently presented contemporary experimental American composers in his Bremen radio festival pro musica nova, among them in those days completely unknown people like John Cage, David Tudor, Terry Riley, and Lamonte Young. From 1959 on, Otte lived and worked in Bremen, Germany. His catalogue of works contains more than 100 works.
Hans Otte had studied in Germany, Italy, and at Yale University in the United States. His teachers included the composer Paul Hindemith and the pianist Walter Gieseking.
Some of Otte's works, especially his extended suites for solo piano, are characterized by very minimal means but are nevertheless quite subtle and sophisticated in their architecture and expression. Das Buch der Klänge (The Book of Sounds, 1979–82) and Stundenbuch (Book of Hours, 1991–98) are his best known works in this vein, and Otte often performed them himself. His last public recital was given in Amsterdam in 1999. Recordings of these works, with Otte as performer, are available on CD.
In his works, Otte drew significantly on European and Asian spirituality, integrating various prayers into the fabric of the music.
In 1991 his work "KlangHaus" became a permanent interactive sound installation in the Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen in Bremen, Germany.
Pianist, composer and sound artist Hans Otte is still undervalued in Europe, and the Anglo-American cultural scene just starts to notice him, as Ingo Ahmels states in his bilingual study »Hans Otte – Klang der Klaenge/Sound of Sounds« (book+DVD+cd, Schott, ISBN 978-3-7957-0586-2). Dr. Ahmels' study of his biography and artistic work highlights Otte’s view of life and his aesthetical orientation, providing the fundamentals for an adequate reception.
At the centre of the book are the solo piano cycles »Das Buch der Klänge« (The Book of Sounds, 1979–82) and »Stundenbuch« (Hours Book, 1991–98) as well as the related sound installations »Atemobjekt« (Breath Object, 1970) and »NamenKlang« (NameSound, 1995).
In addition, the publication includes digital media containing sound examples and excerpts from the Otte Media Pool (OMP), and for the first time the authorized catalog of works (Otte Werkverzeichnis, or OWV)

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