Ostrava Days Festival is a biennial new music festival founded and still directed by longtime New Yorker, flautist and composer Petr Kotík, born in Prague. The structure of the festival tends to repeat itself every two years, but a recent addition to the 2021 schedule has made a successful comeback. On the second day, August 20, The Long Night began at 5 p.m. and continued uninterrupted until nearly noon on Sunday 21, the third day of the festival. Your scribe had already had one hell of a day of super-tough travel on the 19th, thus arriving too late for the opening performances at Hlubina’s former coal mine, Brickhouse. The long night was a perfect way to recover!
Alvin Curran conducted a gratis open-air performance in Masaryk Square in Ostrava, presenting his revised work from 1984 Era Ora (on wheels). It was a spatial wandering, with traveling horns and samba percussionists regularly changing their locations, using the buildings surrounding the square as a huge reverb chamber. The pianos were seated on wooden platforms, moving slowly on wheels. The drumbeats simulated another echo, as positions shifted, and a crazy looking dude walked through the ranks, screaming and waving his hands. It turned out to be Curran himself. Eventually the groupings clarified into static states, and a sort of motley system-building developed, with young people holding instruction cards for the players. Even the regular squirts of the plaza fountain have become part of the room flow. Being an unusual work, besides presenting a jazzy highlight, it was a cheerful way to involve random public passers-by, as well as festival devotees.
The parking lot at the Cathedral of the Divine Savior was the next stop, with percussionist Chris Nappi performing as James Tenney Never have written a note for percussion (1971). Nappi was seated in front of a large gong, just outside the front doors, programmed to accompany the gloriously ringing bells, creating a subliminal shimmer that gradually became more audible as the cathedral’s tintinnabulum gradually decreased in volume. Once the big bells fell silent, Nappi’s gong sounded disappointing, as the composition eventually withered into nothingness. Nappi thanked the audience and his gong, but unfortunately not the bells above.
Most of the 6-hour program took place inside the Jiří Myron Theater, split between its foyer and the main stage. Kotik’s new Three in one (2020-2021) for trombones, tuba, percussion, violin and flute paid special attention to positioning, with violinist Hana Kotková standing on a frontal platform and the horns in two groups at the rear. The hard, angry kick drum and the bongos throbbed, as the tuba walked high, then the second phase had one of the two percussionists switch to the trombone, the new pair probing their highest baby elephant ranges, Kotík adding his flute. Our ears found cool frequencies, while the drums vibrated like reeds. Kotík played a completely solo stretch of absolute tranquility, joined by the violin for a combined drag. These absolute contrasts have become the heart of this work, the movement from one kingdom to another being precisely in balance. Muted bones burst into the peace screaming, while the flute remained uncompromising. A gong hammered on a metal plate signaled another breed of gentleness, as the mutes came to an end.
Bassist Franti ?? ek Výrostko is a regular member of this festival’s house collective, Ostravská Banda, and is originally from Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. He took his BraCk Players for an orgy of sturdy, harshly amplified and rubbed string pieces by Pauline Kim, Matej Sloboda and James Ilgenfritz, all written over the past two years. The fierce focus of the players passed through Kim’s dramatic and scorching glass lens. Výrostko played bass up front, supported by a cello, viola and two violins, but the music sounded far more aggressive than it would suggest, loaded with hard-drawn bows and expressing rawness. Ilgenfritz Real and unreal irreversibilities (2020) greeted the darkest bass sound of all, a primordial terror spreading, contemplating horror. The fear within was brushed aside, sobbing, as others slyly, slightly active, encroached upon the primordial textures. Flayed shots led to harassment from pizzicato, like Iannis Herrmann in a barren skate park. Sloboda’s piece revolved around very slow resonances, with thin violin detail emanating from searing fury.
Morton In The Morning repeated last year’s awakening with a 1978 10am reading from Feldman Why motives? Kotík’s flute joined by Ivo Kahánek’s piano and Chris Nappi’s percussions. The three faced each other, inward, intertwining in a circular ebb and flow, a swelling of emphasis on a particular instrument passing intangibly from one to the other, phrases often repeated and continuing their life through the next player. The duration of 40 minutes flew away, subjectively accelerated by the experience of this realization of slow passage. These contemplative conclusions from Feldman to The Long Night look is fast becoming a tradition.
A few hours later, at 4 p.m., the Electronic Music Minimarathon was underway at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, a more conventional setting after that of Michal Coal ine in 2019. It only lasted seven hours and more. is mostly focused on the electronic transformation of acoustic foundations.
Jan Du ?? ek and Pavel Duda performed on their digital keyboards, with piano sounds tuned in quarter-tones, revisiting innovative works from the period between 1924 and ’34, by Charles Ives, Karel Ančerl and Ivan Wyschnegradski. These were technically interesting for a short time, but eventually produced a nauseous state of frustration, which caused your scribe to take time off before the end. He prefers his micro-tonalism when found in the more organic and spontaneous form of western free improvisation or traditional eastern hovering. These piano works were too close to what many ears were forced to expect, so close they sounded “out of tune,” lacking the complete non-mathematical roaming of free or folk.
The following ensemble had a contrasting character of energized ecstasy. Steve Reich’s Violin phase(1967) and Piano phase (1967) preceded a masterful achievement of Different trains(1988), with two other digital pianists (Michal Nejtek, Roman Pallas), violinist David Danel and the string quartet Fama Q. The small audience seated or standing were crammed into the small upper gallery, creating the crackle of a concert of rock, as high volume train and vocals filled the space, the strings offering manic, strafed intensity. , the grim tale of the work was fully communicated in a way that seemed genuinely and totally unknown, as if it had premiered this year, rather than 1988.