Petr Wajsar (*1978) is a highly popular author at the Prague Spring festival. This year only, the festival gave world premiere to two of his compositions – besides Harpsycho, the compulsory piece for the 2nd round of the cembalo competition, it was The Rest Is Song, performed on June 1 at The Trade Fair Palace by the BERG Orchestra.
The festival’s assignment was “following up on Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra from the perspective of today’s young listener through the prism of music of the early twenty-first century”. The chosen title, The Rest Is Song, refers to Alex Ross’s bestseller which tells the history of the music of the 20th century, and it is exactly what Wajsar is doing in the piece, too. Seated comfortably in an armchair in front of the orchestra, he comments on the century’s prominent musical styles and moments from the Second Viennese School, across Les Six, Janáček’s “speech tunes”, the Polish School or the relationship between music and politics demonstrated on the example of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, to American minimalism. His stylized speech is accompanied by a video projection and, most importantly, by the orchestra playing music which imitates the sound of each chosen music style. The piece is thus mainly popularizing in character and it will be interesting to watch whether it will become a part of the regular concert repertory, or rather of the one of specialized events, such as concerts for young people etc. The other pieces on the programme included Pierre Jodlowski’s Respire for 11 instruments, video and tape, and what seemed to be the audience’s favourite, Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra, incredibly colourful in sound, written by Scottish composer Anna Meredith. The indisposed conductor Peter Vrábel was substituted by Jan Kučera.
1 June 2017, Trade Fair Palace, Prague
Petr Wajsar: The Rest Is Song for singing actor, soprano and chamber orchestra (world premiere)
Veronika Vítová, Petr Wajsar, BERG Orchestra, cond. Jan Kučera