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Tutschku’s Alluring Explorations


Hans Tutschku (file photo)
Hans Tutschku (file photo)

The Goethe-Institut Boston was wired for sound: Hans Tutschku “A Composer Portrait.” Five performers were also wired to explore the virtuosic and poetic possibilities of instrumental and electronic sounds. Not at all a surprise to see young people, a good number of seasoned listeners were on hand as well. More chairs for a stronger turnout than had been predicted had to be brought into the room.

There was not one bad seat among the comfortable rows. Eight elevated large speakers surrounded the room on Saturday night. Five smaller speakers were placed within the performing space, half of the audience on one side facing the other half, on the other side. Tutshcku and his control board were also completely visible. When pianist Yoko Hagino sat down at the piano, she was only a few yards away. But do not leave yet if you feared rock or heavy metal-sized volume.

That never happened. Tutschku’s expertise in filling a room with sound in all kinds of ways was in evidence throughout his exploration, from a minuscule vibration to a symphony orchestra tutti. The instinctive and the intelligent, the openness and the restraint, the maturity and the youth impregnating his compositional discoveries set him apart from today’s circuitry circuit.

In Zellen-Linien (Cells-Lines) for piano and live-electronics, Tutschku “wanted to create an ‘electronically prepared’ piano, without using any physical preparations,” in the ways of John Cage, and the result was entirely different.  Pianist Yoko Hagino followed an iPad perched to the side providing cues—32 in all. Tutschku followed his score, working his control board, all the while noticeably displaying his approach, “My pieces are always living creatures.”  The artistry of Hagino and Tutschku lit up the mutable surfaces over a 20-minute span of intense, imaginative interaction between piano and electronics.

I heard something like to a child playing in still air 1 for bass clarinet and electronics in its first performance with Rane Moore. The smallest interval in well-tempered tuning, the minor second, came out of pitch-less breaths, expanded and contracted, trilled, slid, and repeated, creating a mindscape, slowly evolving, always in motion, organically growing with Moore and Tutschku. A nearly inaudible high note from the bass clarinet felt much like glances back to childhood’s coveted innocence, its concurrent mysteries. Strangely moving and piquing the imagination, this was my favorite of the five pieces on the program.

Klaviersammlung (Piano collection), an 8-channel electroacoustic composition, had me leaning to European symphonic tradition. While I could identify the piano everywhere, its strings strummed and plucked, its hard surfaces knocked, the sounding board resonating, I was pulled into a much larger, expressive dimension.  That revered instrument’s 10-minute -long transformation thrilled, transported, right up to a surprising yet inevitable end, an exclamation point. Eyes closed, Hans Tutschku worked the faders with every one of his fingers drawing out a range of crescendos and diminuendos, setting the listener adrift in a sea contoured in natural movement, teeming with silhouetted trickles, netted masses.

Obvious reverence to traditional gestures and poetics, tonalities, and expectations appeared more so in shore for oboe and live-electronics.  Here, Elizabeth England held long notes then deftly covered quick, staccato passages.  A second “movement” touched upon harmony, Romantic-era atmosphere. With the last of the three sections came more long notes and motivic restatements in simple, straight rhythm.

Einst mit Dir featured soprano, Jennifer Ashe, violinist Gabriella Diaz, clarinetist Rane Moore,  and oboist  Elizabeth England in a wired, live-electronics composition. Einst mit Dir, a setting of  Stefan George’s Fenster wo ich einst mit dir (Windows where I once with you). The work begins with inhaling and exhaling and ends with slow breathing from the soprano. It was a display of contemporary juxtapositions. I was not able to make much of the text. The setting felt harsh and somewhat too familiar, the performers, though, indicated complete involvement and thorough connection to this exploration. For me, they were fresh and welcome faces.

Upcoming at Goethe-Institut Boston:

New Perspectives on New Music in Germany
“I Hereby Resign from New Music” with Johannes Kreidler, Hannes Seidl, Michael Rebhahn, Harry Lehmann April 13-15 at Harvard University & Goethe-Institut Boston.

Jörg Widmann & the Signum Quartett in works by Haydn, Widmann and Weber, April 22 at 8:00 pm at Goethe-Institut Boston.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.





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