Kati Agócs is an award-winning composer from Ontario, Canada, who at the moment serves on the composition college at New England Conservatory. Her physique of labor speaks to a profound relationship with lyricism and environment; though tonality and orchestration have their very own consistencies in her compositions, the largest throughline is her capacity to write down lovely, but sudden melodies. Her compositions may be virtuosic, however they’re usually extra involved with creating and resolving dramatic rigidity, which makes the listening expertise extraordinarily cathartic.
Agócs has accomplished two concerto commissions since 2018, and her third, Transluminescence — Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, will premiere on Feb. 1 on the Centennial Live performance Corridor in Winnipeg with Nicolas Namoradze (piano), Daniel Raiskin (conductor), and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The work was commissioned by the Esther Honens Piano Competitors for Namoradze (2018 Honens Prize Laureate), and was written in reminiscence of Bruce McKinnon (1974-2007).
Transluminescence is your third concerto. What about this particular style appeals to you as an artist?
Solely a concerto brings collectively solo writing and writing for orchestra. I’ve collaborated carefully with soloists in solo and chamber works to develop particular approaches to their devices; I’ve additionally written quite a bit for orchestra — for me it’s the final medium. Merging these two creates an expertise that engages all of us — the composer, the soloist, the conductor, the orchestra, and the viewers.
Bringing the historical past and custom of the concerto style into the current day presents many alternatives. The unique intention of a concerto was to indicate off the virtuosity of the soloist. The piano concerto style is particular as a result of the piano may be an equal match to the orchestra. Within the case of my piano concerto, virtuosity shouldn’t be the principle place to begin. Though the genesis of the fee in a contest may recommend heightened virtuosity, there are layers that transcend this, which I’ll handle later.
To what extent is the method of writing a concerto collaborative for you?
My objective is to have a good time the solo instrument and to push the envelope the correct quantity by way of what is feasible to play. Towards this finish, I work one-on-one with the soloist that I’m writing for. The method may contain listening to them play my first concepts reside quickly after I sketch them, read-throughs of your complete half when it’s extra developed, and even having a studying with orchestra — a uncommon luxurious. I seek the advice of with different gamers as nicely to listen to an alternate viewpoint.
For Transluminescence, Nicolas and I met often between Germany and Boston with him taking part in by the preliminary concepts for me over Zoom. He then came visiting to my home and browse by a draft. I used to be completely, viscerally overwhelmed listening to the solo half performed reside for the primary time! Later, Nicolas visited the New England Conservatory, the place I train, and I sat in the back of one of many halls whereas he did a full run-through. Listening that manner, I might think about how the piano would mix and stability with the orchestra. Pretty late within the course of, we did one other full run-through over Zoom; this helped me to refine weights, densities, and pacing in each the piano and the orchestra components. Since Nicolas is a composer, we mentioned compositional selections, and I imagine that our collaboration influenced the harmonic language of the piece. All through this course of, it is vital for the composer to develop into a vessel — to remain open to one thing sudden getting into that one hasn’t considered earlier than.
Being lucky to work with nice soloists on my concertos has modified the best way that I hear for his or her instrument by suggesting articulative or timbral features that I may not have considered in any other case. If I get it proper, they wish to play it extra, as a result of it makes them sound good. So it’s a win-win.
As composers and gamers, we’re all at an thrilling time proper now. The extent of the taking part in rises with every new technology. When Berio wrote his Sequenze, solely a handful of individuals might play them. Solo items of mine commissioned by buddies 15 years in the past, resembling Each Lover is a Warrior (harp) and As Biddeth thy Tongue (saxophone) — which just one particular person might play on the time — have now develop into competitors items, and younger gamers all around the nation are studying them.
Writing a concerto requires a composer to consider the orchestra, the conductor, and the soloist. How has your strategy of working inside these parameters modified over time?
Once I was first beginning out as a composer, I had many orchestral readings. I wrote for each studying that I presumably might. These early works had been formidable and experimental. In writing for orchestra, I’ve develop into way more disciplined and sure of what I’m going to listen to, however I additionally wish to retain the spirit of these first readings.
It’s essential to think about the conductor’s expertise and what they want from a sensible standpoint to carry the piece collectively. This informs how I notate. I seek the advice of with conductor buddies, and generally conduct by myself.
I additionally take into consideration how the piece will get up in numerous contexts. Listening to my concertos performed by totally different ranges of orchestras in numerous areas has honed each the readability of my orchestration and the notation. My objective is to write down a chunk that many several types of orchestras might play, and that may get up in numerous musical contexts. Our trendy concertos are sometimes performed alongside commonplace repertoire. My concerti are very a lot in my very own voice, however additionally they must reside beside Beethoven, Mozart, or J.S. Bach.
Concertos historically ask the soloist to interpret a comparatively strict set of musical directions, however the pianist dictates when and the way Transluminescence concludes. Are you able to converse to making a stability between the liberty of performers and your individual musical imaginative and prescient on this context?
Transluminescence ends with the pianist taking part in a transfigured model of the work’s opening chords, and the soloist deciding when and the way the piece ought to finish. Cyclic in nature, it retains the normal three-movement concerto kind, however because the actions stream collectively with out pause, this creates a extra immersive structure. The opening chord development is picked up and diverse all through all three actions. The primary motion is ceremonial, with a dialogue between soloist and orchestra that intensifies because it unfolds; the second is meditative, reaching into pellucid and fragile areas of each vulnerability and energy; and the third is a perpetual movement chorus which builds to an apotheosis. So, the act of letting the pianist take over with an “open kind” part comes on the finish of a 20-minute metanarrative.
The choice to do that got here quite late within the course of. This work was written in reminiscence of a good friend who died younger. I used to be with him close to the very finish. We talked about what was going to occur, however I used to be not capable of absolutely face it on the time. Scripting this piece compelled me now to come back face-to-face with my very own mortality. Giving the soloist the harmonies from earlier within the piece, and permitting him to dictate when to finish it and the way, was a manner of giving the soloist company — a symbolic gesture.
This brings us into the realm of the sacred — issues which are unseen. How one can sense that the reminiscence of somebody is there with you, with none tangible signal. How somebody can go on influencing you thru “vitality” alone. Sacred music is the rationale that I started writing live performance music within the first place, and it’s all the time on the core of my artwork. On this piece, I confront the query of tips on how to be non secular with out being explicitly non secular. Once we consider repertoire from Liszt by Ives, there are qualities of resonance of the piano, the purity of sonority, and the timbral vary that lend themselves to the metaphysical.
The title Transluminescence means “that which permits gentle to shine by.” For me, this piece is about permitting that affect — musically, spiritually — about being a conduit, or about surrendering to one thing greater than me.
Do you’ve another upcoming premieres or concert events you’d like to say?
Proper earlier than this premiere, the Kalamazoo Symphony will carry out my Horn Concerto with James Sommerville as soloist. They’re one in every of a consortium of 5 orchestras within the U.S. and Canada who co-commissioned this work. In April, Third Sound ensemble and vocalist Lucy Dhegrae will reprise my cantata Voices of the Immaculate — initially written for my portrait live performance in 2021 at Miller Theatre in New York — with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. The New England Conservatory Philharmonia just lately carried out Perpetual Summer season, a piece for giant orchestra with amplified string sextet. Apart from bringing features of the Baroque concerto grosso into the massive orchestra, this work offers with environmental points, one thing that I’m very keen about in my work mentoring youthful generations of composers, and in addition because the dad or mum of an 11-year-old. Perpetual Summer season at NEC was knowledgeable by a efficiency tradition that serves the genesis of recent music — a real symbiosis between composers and performers. I hear this day-after-day as I stroll by the halls. Over my 15 years on the composition college, it’s a pleasure to mentor younger composers, a lot of whom have gone on to illustrious careers of their very own. Working with the NEC pupil orchestra, I used to be blown away by the best way that they invested utterly within the rating. Once I wrote Perpetual Summer season, 12 years in the past, I might by no means have imagined the pace through which the topic would have gained a lot urgency.
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