Ouverture Spirituelle · Pax
Pax: Following on from transfiguration, passion and tears, the Ouverture spirituelle 2020 will address the idea of peace — both communal peace, fractured by the wars that ravage our world, and inner peace, threatened by ourselves.
We probably experience the value of peace most strongly by way of its antithesis, war, which leaves a bloody trace through the centuries. Given the bloodshed of two world wars, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is both a lamentation and indictment; Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps, premiered by the composer and other prisoners of war held by the Wehrmacht at a camp near Görlitz, proclaims everlasting peace; and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Inori is an opera with dance and prayer instead of singing. Steve Reich confronts the Holocaust in Different Trains, while Luigi Dallapiccola wrote his Canti di prigionia in response to Mussolini’s racial laws. The Dutch struggle for freedom in Beethoven’s Egmont continues to raise challenging questions about the legitimate use of force, and in his Missa solemnis the plea for peace has trouble asserting itself against the sudden outbreak of noisy battle. A lingering sound to Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli with its reflection on the Napoleonic threat. The score of George Crumb’s Black Angels, written during the Vietnam War, is likewise inscribed with Haydn’s phrase ‘in tempore belli’ (‘in times of war’), while Monteverdi’s romantic liaisons, set against the backdrop of the First Crusade, come to a bloody end. And why, might we ask, were countless masses, including some of the greatest examples from the Renaissance, written as settings of the melody ‘L’homme armé’, the ‘armed man’?
‘Quod est pax?’ asks Klaus Huber in his work of the same name, a question also invoked by Arnold Schoenberg in Friede auf Erden or, in three different languages, by Giacinto Scelsi’s Konx-Om-Pax. Where does peace lie? In Luigi Nono’s ‘nostalgic utopian future distance’? Even with peace as the aim, there are no paths to follow, only the journey.