chants oubliés (LAPA commission, US Premiere)
Georg Friedrich Haas
A more apt description of the compositional integrity through consummate craft in the music of Georg Friedrich Haas would be hard to find. The composer has a wonderful aural imagination that could only be realized in his work by his skillful, rational technique of balancing diverse orchestral colors combined into new sounds with a marriage of microtonal inflection, alternative tunings, and clouds of partials derived from the natural overtone series that glow and seemingly float organically out of sound patterns one into another on the wings of intuition. In many ways this deep intuition makes Haas at once a most ancient and a contemporary composer.
Although Haas’ preoccupation with and utilization of tunings and harmonic partials came into full force beginning in the early 1990s with such works as Nacht-Schatten (1991), these considerations have been with him from the beginning of his artistic career: “The exploration of microtonal music is indisputably important to my compositions. I became aware from an early stage that tone pitches offered to simplify, the piano, for example, were not the only musically meaningful tone pitches available.” In addition to this emphasis on microtonal shadings is the aspect of “micropolyphony” (a term coined by Gyorgy Ligeti in reference to his own work), in which multiple threads of melody are intertwined canonically or in simple imitation to create a sum total of fluctuating, polymorphic sound. Haas melds the technique of micropolyphony with tonal suspension, overtone harmonies, and juxtapositions of instrumental choirs into great dramas of sounding strata of contrast and similarities balanced by intuition and rational control.
chants oubliés (Forgotten Songs) is written for chamber orchestra separated into two groups. One group consists of eight violins, four violas, and four cellos; the other group consists of two of each: clarinets, horns, trumpets, trombones, and double basses. According to the publisher, the “title refers to late works by Franz Liszt (Valses oubliés, Romance oubliée) – Liszt’s technique of presenting one-part melodies in a different sound environment (often that of the piano) is applied here to the possibilities of the chamber orchestra.” Melodies emerge out of sustained microtonal clusters and chords first articulated in winds and brass. Octaves and fifths in the strings emerge at the end of the brass passage to establish the overall sonority.
Georg Friedrich Haas was born in 1953 in Graz, in east Austria. He is the leading Austrian composer of his generation, having won the Grand Austrian National Prize in 2006. chants oubliés fur Kammerorchester (2011) was commissioned by Münchener Kammerorchester (in co-operation with Kunstfest Weimar) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.