Artistic Direction

Biennale Musica 2021-Choruses

Biennale Musica 2021
Dramaturgy of vocal sounds

Venezia, September 17-26 , 2021

The Festival "Choruses" presents the complexity of contemporary choral writing through the performance of some of the most representative works of the last 50 years and the commissioning of new compositions aimed at exploring the dramaturgical potential of the voice. The interaction between the Venetian past and present and the possible renaissance of vocal polyphony through a dialogue between Venetian institutions dedicated to musical production are the fundamental motivations of the Biennale Musica 2021.
The concert venues will be the halls of the Arsenale, the Sala delle Colonne at Ca' Giustinian, Basilica di San Marco, the Teatro La Fenice, the Teatro Malibran, Lo Squero of the Cini Foundation, the Teatro del Parco della Bissuola (Mestre) and Palazzo Pisani, home of the "Benedetto Marcello" Conservatory of Music in Venice.
Important European vocal and choral ensembles will participate, such as the Theatre of Voices from Copenhagen, the Neue Vocalsolisten from Stuttgart, the Accentus choir from Paris, the vocal ensemble Sequenza 9.3 from Paris, the SWR Vokalensemble from Stuttgart, as well as the renowned historical Venetian choirs, the Cappella Marciana di San Marco and the choir of the Teatro La Fenice.
Four young composers, Maria Vincenza Cabizza, Manuel Hidalgo Navas, Jack Sheen and Chonglian Yu, three performers, Agita Reke, Daniele Carcassi and Xu Tong Lee and a new vocal ensemble, The Evo Ensemble, selected as part of the Biennale Musica College, (an international selection of young musicians organised by the Biennale Musica) will complete the programme, expanding the vision of current vocal writing through innovative musical contributions from the new generation.
The Biennale Musica and Rai Radio Tre will produce four "Music Lessons" curated by Paola Damiani and presented by Giovanni Bietti live from the Sala delle Colonne in Ca' Giustinian. The Lessons will explore the history of Venetian vocal polyphony and its relationship with contemporary vocal creation.  Five audio-documentaries will be prepared by Giovanna Natalini and produced by Rai Radio Tre and Biennale Musica to document the compositional and performing workshop generated by the young artists selected by Biennale Musica College, from the conception of their new works to the realization of their projects for Biennale Musica 2021.
The festival programme includes various events linked to vocal production, including a conference by Gianmario Borio, director of the Giorgio Cini Foundation Institute of Music, a meeting with Kaija Saariaho and Tom Service, journalist for the Guardian and important voice of BBC Radio 3, a meeting with Neue Vocalsolisten and Björn Gottstein, artistic director of the Donaueschinger Musiktage. Several meetings on vocal writing with the invited composers are planned at the Conservatorio di Venezia "Benedetto Marcello".
The catalogue will present analytical texts, author's testimonies and studies of the works in the programme commissioned by Biennale Musica.
The festival will open at the Teatro La Fenice with a performance of Oltra mar for choir and orchestra by Kaija Saariaho, winner of the Golden Lion for Music. Her chamber work Only the sound remains will be presented at the Teatro Malibran; Reconnaissance for choir, percussion and double bass and Tag des Jahrs, for choir and electronics, will be performed by the Choir Accentus. All these works offer a panorama of the composer's vocal and choral production and her exceptional creative processes.
The Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Silver Lion for Music, will be present throughout the festival, with world premieres, the production of monumental vocal works and as tutors of the College Biennale Musica.
The festival will present three commissions of the Venice Biennale.  Marta Gentilucci, an internationally trained Italian composer, Doctor of Composition at Harvard and composer in residence at Ircam, has been commissioned to write a processional work for four reciting voices and mixed choir. The work will be performed by the poets who wrote the libretto, Elisa Biagini, Irène Gayraud, Evie Shockley and Shara McCallum, and the vocal ensemble Sequenza 9.3 conducted by Catherine Simonpietri and directed byAntonello Pocetti. This work also marks the beginning of a collaboration between the Biennale Musica and the Conservatorio "Benedetto Marcello" in Venice, through the involvement of the students of the vocal classes in the production.
Another commission from the Biennale Musica is the new composition for voices, recorded and spatialized in the Basilica di San Marco, by the German sound-artist Christina Kubisch, in collaboration with the Cappella Marciana of the  Basilica di San Marco conducted by Marco Gemmani. The voices of the Cappella Marciana generate the compositional material for an unprecedented vocal counterpoint, presented in concert together with historical performances of the Cappella Marciana.
The third commission of Biennale Musica is for a new work by the Afro-diasporic composer George Lewis, professor of composition at Columbia University.  His new piece for vocal ensemble and electronics is dedicated to the legendary figure of the first philosopher of African origin, Anthony William Amo, who lived in the 18th century and was a professor at the universities of Halle and Jena.
In addition to the three commissions of Biennale Musica, the programme includes four other world premieres, commissioned by various European institutions: the premiere of Reconnaissance by Kaija Saariaho commissioned  by the Accentus Choir, a new work of vocal dramaturgy by Sergej Newsky, commissioned by the Neue Vocalsolisten and inspired by the report by the historian Irina Roldugina on "The Simple Ones", the name of the gay movement in Leningrad in the 1920s and the story of the persecution suffered by its activists. Also premiered will be a work by Israeli composer Sivan Eldar for the Accentus Choir and a new choral work by Francesco Filidei on a text by Nanni Balestrini commissioned by the  SWR Vokalensembe.
Other important and representative works for choir and vocal ensemble are by renowned composers such as George Aperghis, David Lang, Sylvano Bussotti, Luca Francesconi, Samir Odeh-Tamimi, Morton Feldman, Arvo Pärt, Hans Abrahamsen and Valentin Silvestrov.
Four concerts for solo voice presented by renowned vocalists and vocal performers will contribute to a broader view of contemporary vocality. The concerts will feature the charismatic Egyptian producer and DJ Ahmed Zuli, the Albanian vocalist Elina Duni, who presents pieces on the idea of detachment and loss of different cultures, accompanying herself on guitar, piano and frame drums. Also on the programme are concerts by the renowned Dublin-based vocalist and composer Jennifer Walshe, who theatricalises the complexity of social media in a performance for voice, film and live electronics entitled Is It Cool To Try Hard Now?, and Swiss-Ghanaian composer and vocalist Joy Frempong, in a project exploring the different performance worlds of spoken-word for voice and live electronics.

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