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When the Ink is Still Wet

Composer in Residence & Ink Still Wet

Published: 02/11/2023

It is 22 December, two days before Christmas. You are packed in a freezing auditorium, just to hear the very latest music a composer thought up beforehand. Would you do that to yourself? Many hundreds of Viennese did just that when they attended one of Beethoven's famous Academies in 1808. In one go they witnessed several world premieres, including the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Fourth Piano Concerto. For most, enduring the cold was well worth it. 

It is a quirk of our cultural life that with books, films, fashion, architecture, and other genres, it is always the newest of the new that commands the most interest. Music is different. There is usually a lot of room for Mozart and Brahms, but «new stuff» is rarely included. Music is a treasure trove from which we could help ourselves to something new every day. But the concert world mostly focusses on the past; the variety of centuries does not always mean variety of choice.

Music works many wonders

Nowhere is one's attention so focused and the atmosphere so embracing as in the concert hall. In the very best cases, you go home with a feeling of community. Music brings us together like almost no other art form. This gives weight to the question of where the music we love comes from. The answer seems banal: from composers who have created works of musical art for centuries. These are notated on paper, reproduced, rehearsed, and performed. It all begins with ideas in the minds of composers, who perform their work in silence and solitude. This process of thinking freshly about music and thereby creating New Music is a very special moment in this history.

At home in music – Composer in Residence

© Beatrice Schreiner

Grafenegg maintains an excellent relationship with tradition. This includes the past as well as the shaping of our environment. The festival has welcomed a resident composer every year since 2007. They come from all over the world. The institution of Composer in Residence brings the world to Grafenegg, and brings Grafenegg into the world. 

During their residency, works by the Composer in Residence are integrated into the festival's programmes. A partner in this is the resident Tonkunstler Orchestra, though works by the Composer in Residence also feature on the programmes of visiting orchestras from time to time. The Grafenegg Festival always commissions its Composers in Residence to write a new work to have its world or Austrian premiere here, thus creating a new piece of music history.

Tomorrow begins today – Ink Still Wet

A Composer in Residence has already made a career and can look back upon past achievements. This is where the composer conductor workshop Ink Still Wet (ISW) comes in. Initiated in 2011 by then Composer in Residence HK Gruber, aspiring composers can rehearse their own works with the Tonkunstler Orchestra and premiere them in a concert. Such an opportunity is unparalleled. From all submissions, the Composer in Residence generally selects five or six participants. What they have so far notated in their scores will be fine-tuned under the guidance of the Composer: over the course of the workshop, they will be occupied with questions of correct notation, efficient use of rehearsal time, and clear communication with the members of the orchestra. 

© Sebastian Philipp
«The atmosphere in this concert is something special: curiosity and anticipation fill the air as each moment brings something new.»

The first session takes place in spring. The Composer in Residence serves as a sparring partner, teacher, critic, sometimes even as a role model. Throughout the summer residency, Grafenegg also offers participants other events in addition to orchestral rehearsals such as lectures, workshops, and visits to all concerts. The closing concert is also the workshop's finale. The atmosphere in this concert is something special: curiosity and anticipation fill the air as each moment brings something new.

Gallery of composers


If you want an impression of all Grafenegg's previous Composers in Residence, the best place to visit is the castle library. There a glass display case is reserved for each of them. Inside is a portrait, a signed page from the commissioned score, and an illustration of the species of tree the composers themselves have planted in the Schlosspark. One can imagine how these notes have resounded at the Wolkenturm and reached many thousands of people over the years. Two of the Composers in Residence have already passed away. It is therefore all the more beautiful to be able to see and hear their handwriting in Grafenegg. We are looking forward to all future members of this series and to them keeping their fingers on the pulse of time, continuing to listen carefully to what is happening in the world, and lending a voice to our present.

    Portrait of Enno Poppe
    At home in Grafenegg Festival Weekend 3 Festival Zeitgeist

    Tonkunstler Orchestra · Sarah Maria Sun · Enno Poppe

    HAAS / NONO / POPPE

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