Grafenegg Academy

Review 2022 & Preview 2023

Published: 29/11/2022

This summer, after two cancellations due to the Covid pandemic, young musical talents from all over the world were able to come together in Grafenegg for the Grafenegg Academy to explore music together, exchange artistic ideas and pursue new ways of music-making.

After a successful first year under the direction of artistic curators Håkan Hardenberger and Colin Currie, preparations for the Grafenegg Academy 2023 are already in progress. Colin Currie gives a very personal insight into the planned events in this article.

The start of the Grafenegg Academy was delayed due to the pandemic, but it was able to get off to a good start in 2022. Have your expectations been met?

It is with enormous pride and pleasure that we announce the details of the Grafenegg Academy for 2023.  

This year, finally, the plans dating back to 2020 came to fruition, and did so with great passion and flare. As well as the original repertoire in place for that year, we added some further works, in the excitement of finally welcoming the full team of musicians, and an action-packed fortnight unfolded, bursting with vibrancy and spirited sense of adventure. Bravo to all who took part!

In 2023, the famous violinist Alina Ibragimova will join the Academy as an additional curator. What characterizes her?

With great fanfare, we commence our announcement for the 2023 Academy by welcoming an exceptionally esteemed new Curator to the artistic fold to join forces with Håkan Hardenberger and myself (Colin Currie).

The entire artistic team at Grafenegg could not be more honoured or elated by Alina’s presence, and her reputation of excellence, charm, generosity, and passion go before her. The sheer diversity of her career, spanning centuries of music and every conceivable format (from soloist to chamber musician, director, ambassador, educator and mentor) directly chime with the ideals of the Academy where all who attend are encouraged to go beyond regular career patterns and spin off into new and ambitious directions in their musical professions. 

Central to this curatorship and the broader tenet of the Grafenegg Academy is the desire to think creatively with connections across music, to behold the braid that ties together music from a variety of eras and across the breadth of contemporary genres. 

Welcome Alina - we cannot wait to work with you and perform with you!

Alina Ibragimova
Alina Ibragimova © Eva Vermandel

To this end, we decided to present two composers of prime position, as they mark significant anniversaries in 2023 - György Ligeti at 100 and HK Gruber at 80. Not only do both composers boast a unique style of their own, but they both have strong ties to the vernacular, the folkloric and the traditional, and yet with the strongest ties of respect to the canon of classical music.

To this end, we connect them to works by Bartók, Haydn and Bach, and also forward in time, in a sense, to the music of Hans Abrahamsen. Representing the key mavericks of musical output of the 20th Century is something that Alina, Håkan and myself (Colin) have taken very seriously in their careers, and this endeavour to represent these creative geniuses alongside earlier music and also music that is brand new, now extends to the Grafenegg Academy central core.

An awareness to consider the presentation and format of events is becoming a very hot topic in our field.

By way of opening this discussion here, and seizing the opportunity to present a beautiful collection of smaller, more intimate works, our opening presentation will feature a «musical collage» with the entire cast of our young professionals, tutors and curators all in one malleable ensemble, with repertoire that will flow from one group to the next. This event will culminate in the Austrian Premiere of the work that would turn out to be the final opus of the American iconoclast George Crumb - his resplendently emotional «Kronos-Kryptos». This work also plants the flag in the ground for two twinned themes that bring our programmes further together in conception - two of music’s closest colleagues, those of «Time» and «Mystery».

Two prelude concerts are planned as part of the Grafenegg Academy 2023. What will be the programme?

Our Prelude concerts offer the Academy an ideal platform for a focussed burst of creativity, and in 2023 we present two such events. The first of these looks at the unique nature of the «concertante» group, and what can define a soloist in works of chamber-sized ensembles. There cannot be a more wholesome way to start such a concert than with a Brandenburg Concerto, and to that end Alina will lead a performance of the No.3 in G Major. Then, Håkan will take the reigns for the delectable «MOB Pieces» by HK Gruber which finds the composer in perhaps his most charming, debonair and tuneful of spirits. Finally, we embark on György Ligeti’s «Hamburg Concerto» which features a solo horn player in detailed dialogue with four horn compatriots from within a large chamber ensemble. This work charms and alarms in equal measure and we are thrilled to present this masterpiece at Grafenegg.

In the second Prelude we wanted present a major work by Bela Bartók that would set the context for Ligeti’s expansion of that particular musical dialectic. We decided that the «Divertimento for Strings» would be the ideal work for this, as it traces the folk roots of both composers and yet also stares deeply into the impending abyss of modernity. Alina will lead this performance, prior to taking the stage as our featured soloist in our grand finale in the Wolkenturm. The Bartók will be paired with a work for brass and percussion by the French composer Phillipe Manoury, in his typically mercurial and spicy style. The first page of the score stipulates very clearly that the work must be performed «sans chef» - and so it will be.

Grafenegg Academy Orchstra
Grafenegg Academy Orchstra © Lukas Beck

On July 16, 2023, the Grafenegg Academy will culminate in an orchestral concert at the Wolkenturm.

For our main stage concert we will pull as many of these strands together as we can - maintaining the tradition of a Haydn Symphony (no.101 representing our «Time» theme in this highly celebrated «Clock») and concluding with Bartók’s «Dance Suite», which although a huge success for this composer at the time of composition has now become an underrated work in his oeuvre. Alina is magical soloist in the Violin Concerto No.2 «Nebelsteinmusik» by HK Gruber, under the baton of Gruber life-devotee Maestro Hardenberger, and I (Colin) will conduct the eerie «Melodien» of Ligeti to complete the lineup.

What kind of programme awaits the participants at the Grafenegg Academy 2023 apart from rehearsing the concert repertoire?

This year at the Academy we have also built in some more freely structured time for the participants, allowing instrumental «classes» to flourish. Questions regarding performance practice, audition techniques, career-planning and artistic curation will all be open for all to address, and the astonishing campus at Grafenegg offers the perfect context for these forums to flourish. The goals remain inspiration and the artistic diversification of our musical life, and it is with utmost anticipation that we await the assembly of international musicians for our unique project.

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