News and Events
Sacrum Profanum Festival 2015
Publication date: 2015-09-02
13-19 September 2015
On the Right Track
The event has long been skilfully combining contemporary classical music with alternative and electronic avant-garde. It also continues to attract new audiences and expand its formula. This year’s Sacrum Profanum (13-19 September) consistently bets on inconsistencies.
Landscape wit a hawk
The British post-rock group These New Puritans continues to travel beyond musical horizons. Their album Field of Reeds, released two years ago, shows the perfect marriage of neoclassical style with art rock. The musicians were joined during the recording by the Berlin collective stargaze and one of the finest ensembles interpreting contemporary music: Synergy Vocals. The album features strings, wind instruments, a choir, and a hawk named Shiloh – you can hear the flutter of its wings in the title track. A live performance of the entire album opens this year’s festival on 13 September. The fluid harmonies crash against rocky rocks, intertwining contemporary classical music… Perfect for an Indian summer.
These New Puritans, photo by Willy Vanderperre
They have a unique, emotional style, and have been hailed as one of the most important rock groups today – but this time The National reveal a brand new aspect. The leaders of the American ensemble are twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner. The former has strong inclinations towards classical music. He works with outstanding contemporary composers and musicians (Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Kronos Quartet), and composes himself. On 14 September he appears in Kraków alongside Sinfonietta Cracovia, the Sō Percussion ensemble, and of course his brother, presenting Bryce’s own compositions for guitar, percussion and strings.
Aaron Dessner, photo by Kim Metso
The following day (15 September), the Dessner brothers support another rocker who also successfully dabbles in classics. Richard Reed Parry is best known for his work with the Canadian group Arcade Fire, but he is also a versatile instrumentalist and unconventional composer, specialising in chamber music. During Sacrum Profanum, we will hear material from his album Music for Heart and Breath, with the formation stargaze joining in the performance and Parry himself playing double bass.
Chopin: a new era
What links Chopin and the series Broadchurch? The Icelandic composer and multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds, a regular visitor to Polish festivals and concerts. He took piano lessons as a child, but he didn’t really enjoy them. When he was a teenager, he started playing drums in a punk band with the evocative name Fighting Shit. He regained his sentiment for classical music when he saw The Green Mile and became interested in film soundtracks and started composing himself. As a creator of nostalgic musical illustrations, he was quickly snapped up by cinema and TV producers. His latest album The Chopin Project is a fascinating journey in reinterpretations of our compatriot’s compositions. During his performance on 16 September, Arnalds is in charge of electronics, with Alice Sara Ott on piano. They will be accompanied by a string quintet. Take a seat, relax, close your eyes, and let the music flow over you.
Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott, The Chopin Project, photo by Hedinn Eiriksson
The second concert presenting the power of creative reinterpretations of classics will be the joint performance of ensembles Matmos and Sō Percussion. They have a fascination with creating music from all manner of noises, dissonances, hums, bangs and other sound effects. Matmos have created a recording patched together from sounds of surgical theatres, while Sō Percussion have gone as far as using a cactus to create music. The groups join forces on 17 September to pay homage to John Cage, the pioneer of using unconventional sounds in music. The concert We Are All Going In Different Directions promises to be quite something!
Sō Percussion, photo by Janette Beckman
“All concerts should be a cathartic experience for listeners. I want my compositions to stir changes on an alchemical or magical level. You could say I make religious music,” says Jóhann Jóhannsson. He gained widespread recognition when he was awarded the Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for his score for The Theory of Everything, telling Stephen Hawking’s life story. Meanwhile, connoisseurs of neoclassical and ambient music have been long been captivated by his achievements. They include participants in Sacrum Profanum, which the composer visited two years ago. This year, Jóhannsson comes to Kraków to celebrate his Drone Mass. It is a contemporary oratorio for electronics, strings and vocal, based on the Coptic Gnostic Gospel. We’ll find out how this translates into sound on 18 September. The artist is accompanied by the New York formation ACME and the Theatre of Voices, making a welcome return to Kraków.
Jóhann Jóhannsson, photo by Antje Taiga Jandrig
Australian contemporary music is presented by the young composer Kate Moore. We will hear compositions from two of her most important albums. The first is Dances and Canons – a collection of pieces for piano, performed by the Dutch musician Saskia Lankhoorn. Moore’s latest album, Stories for Ocean Shells, is the result of a collaboration between the composer and the cellist Ashley Bathgate, known to fans of the festival from her performances with Bang on a Can All-Stars. We’ll discover how integral such a collaboration can be on 19 September.
Kate Moore, photo by William Hall
Creating an opera based on Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain? The idea seemed insurmountable at first, but Paweł Mykietyn faced up to the challenge. “I wanted music the music to be all-immersing, like in cinema. I also wanted to use sounds from outside the usual realm of music, reaching for cinematic effects such as rumbling trains, slamming doors and ticking clocks. Electronics provide the perfect tool for my current challenge – playing with time through music,” says Paweł Mykietyn in an interview in “Tygodnik Powszechny”. But music isn’t the only element of the spectacle. For Andrzej Chyra, it’s a second attempt at directing an opera, after The Gamblers by Shostakovich/Meyer. Mirosław Bałka hasn’t created a classical operatic stage, but rather he has tamed the space holding the performance. The difficult task of penning the libretto was entrusted to the dramaturgist Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk. We will discover the results of the collaboration between the four artists on 19 September. The organisers of Sacrum Profanum also promise that the finale will provide a glimpse into future editions of the festival.
All concerts of this year’s Sacrum Profanum will be held at ICE Kraków. (Artur Jackowski, "Karnet" monthly)
13th Sacrum Profanum Festival
Artistic Director: Filip Berkowicz
Organiser: Krakow Festival Office