Victor Santiago Asuncion
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
2008 — Week 5
Ma mere l'Oye, Four Hands
Marc Neikrug, piano; Victor Santiago Asuncion, piano
When he's not living the travelling life of a performing musician, pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion teaches at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, which is part of the University of Memphis.
Marc Neikrug commented that this week's broadacst was something of a childrens' program for grown-ups. Following along those lines, here's Marc performing Traumerei, the 7th of Robert Schumann's Scenes of Childhood.
Frankenstein!!, a pan-demonium for chansonnier and ensemble after children's rhymes
HK Gruber, chansonnier; Bart Feller, piccolo; Todd Levy, clarinet; Bill Barnewitz, horn; Stefanie Przybylska, bassoon; Charley Lea trumpet; David Tolen percussion; Giora Schmidt, LP How, violin; Carla-Maria Rodrigues viola; Zuill Bailey cello; Marji Danilow doublebass; Victor Santiago Asuncion piano; Jeffrey Milarsky conductor
Here are the composer's program notes (with many thanks to Boosey & Hawkes.
The origins of this 'pan-demonium' go back to the Frankenstein Suite of 1971 a sequence of songs and dances written for the Vienna 'MOB art and tone ART Ensemble', which was then active in the field of instrumental theatre. Although the Suite was a success, I was unhappy about its improvisatory structure, and also needed the resources of a full orchestra. So in 1976/77 I completely recomposed the work in its present form. It was first performed on 25 November 1978 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Simon Rattle, with myself as soloist. For the 1979 Berlin Festival I wrote an alternative version for soloist and 12 players (first performed that year by the Vienna ensemble 'die reihe' under Kurt Schwertsik, again with myself as soloist). Since then, the two versions have happily co-existed; and in 1983, at the Espace Cardin in Paris, Frankenstein!! entered the theatre for the first time an unforeseen development, but one that proved suited to Artmann's multi-layered fantasy.
The title of the volume from which I took the poems of Frankenstein!! - Allerleirausch, neue schöne kinderreime (Noises, noises, all around lovely new children's rhymes) promises something innocuous; but Artmann himself has described the poems as being, among other things, 'covert political statements'. Typically he refused to explain what he meant. But his reticence is eloquent: the monsters of political life have always tried to hide their true faces, and all too often succeed in doing so. One of the dubious figures in the pandemonium is the unfortunate scientist who makes so surprising an entry at mid-point. Frankenstein or whoever we choose to identify with that name is not the protagonist, but the figure behind the scenes whom we forget at our peril. Hence the exclamation marks.
Artmann's demystification of heroic villains or villainous heroes finds a musical parallel in, for instance, the persistent alienation of conventional orchestral sound by resorting to a cupboard-full of toy instruments. However picturesque or amusing the visual effect of the toys, their primary role is musical rather than playful even howling plastic horses have their motivic / harmonic function. In order to do justice to the true significance of the texts it would be enough to provide some extra exercises in structural complexity. By analogy with Artmann's diction, my aim was a broad palette combining traditional musical idioms with newer and more popular ones, and thus remaining true to the deceptive simplicity of texts whose forms at first glance suggest a naive and innocently cheerful atmosphere.
- HK Gruber