domingo, 29 de abril de 2007

Happy Birthday, David del Puerto

Tomorrow the 30th is the birthday of my friend and one of the most prominent Spanish composer of today, David del Puerto. This previous week has been indeed a "Del Puerto week" : our CD of his Second Symphony "Nusantara" and Violin Concerto has at last arrived in the Spanish shops ; I performed many of his piano pieces at the Spanish Residence (a historical place where Ravel, Stravinsky and others had stayed and presented their works when they were alive) last Thursday, and on Friday his ethereal, dark and deeply moving orchestral work "Variations in memory of Gonzalo de Olavide" was succesfully premiered, and repeated during the next two days. I could only go to the general rehearsal in the morning previous to the concert since I had to leave back home after lunch, but it was already excellently played by a young promising and highly talented conductor with whom we went out for lunch afterwards, Pablo Gonzalez. And he is very very nice as well, so he has a double merit ! The orchestra, by the way, was Orquesta Nacional de España who sounded brilliant under his baton, who I also heard with Beethoven's Second , to end the program.
I have known David for more than 12 years now. During those years our collaboration has given birth to many piano and chamber works, and culminated (but hopefully won't be the last !) in his masterpiece "Nusantara" for piano and orchestra. Now "Nusantara" has been hailed as "the great Spanish symphony", but I consider it as THE great Indonesian symphony as well, since it deals with many issues and even musical material from my country. It is rather ironic, isn't it, that the first symphony in history dealing with Indonesia is written by a Spanish composer ?
We both are a big fan of Death in Venice (both Thomas Mann's novel and Benjamin Britten's opera), and we took these photos during the Italian premiere of "Nusantara" in Teatro La Fenice, Venice last October 2006. That was the hotel where Mann was inspired to write his masterpiece ( it was David who told me that Tadzio was inspired by a real boy bathing at the beach right in front of the hotel) and also where Diaghliev died in one of its room. And we visited the tomb of our other idol, Igor the greatest, at the memorable Isola di San Marco. During this visit, David was inspired to write his Third Symphony, which he is writing now. Hopefully another masterpiece from the 43-year-young great composer.

lunes, 23 de abril de 2007

Orchestral spring

There has been a lot of world premieres of orchestral pieces here in Spain during this month, and I heard that they are very exciting. I haven't heard any of them (spent too much here among the hills writing my own music !), but hope to listen to them when the Radio Clasica broadcast them in a few weeks time.
The first was Apertura by Santiago Lanchares. The title, meaning "Opening" refers to the commissioner, which is the new Auditorium of Music in Valladolid to house the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon. The conductor was the Columbian Alejandro Posada
Then there was Hyperion II by Jesus Rueda, also commissioned by the same orchestra mentioned above and done by the same conductor. Jesus Rueda's "Tierra" ("Earth") will be premiered by the Orquesta Sinfonica de Sevilla next month with Pedro Halffter conducting. This piece, hopefully, will compliment the missing planet of Gustav Holst's "The Planets", although naturally the musical language of both composers are very different.
And in 3 days I hope to hear David del Puerto's Variaciones en memoriam de Gonzalo De Olavide , played by the Orquesta Nacional de España in Madrid. Also next month is the premiere of Santiago Lanchares' 3 episodes from Castor & Pollux, by the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, conducted by the woman conductor Gloria Isabel Ramos .

Here in Spain we are back in the period like in the 1950s, where everybody was excited to hear the new things of Britten, Shostakovich and Stravinsky. And another war is going on, unfortunately -- although not in Spain, but Spain is very much involved --, and not a cold one. But musically speaking, we are so lucky to have our brilliant composers hanging around here, writing brilliant masterpieces to be enjoyed equally as we enjoyed music by dead composers. And orchestras and musicians being enthusiastic in playing them, and those composers having lots of fans of their music.

Now, who said that the orchestra is a thing of the past ?? C'mon, get serious.

sábado, 21 de abril de 2007

Sabbatical over, Ars Amatoria not over yet

Practically my sabbatical period was over yesterday, and I closed it by going to the hospital to do some check up. Who knows that composing is not good for your health ! Am happy that my health is ok, but unfortunately I would need one or two weeks more to finish Ars Amatoria. But in the end, I have done more than AA, since I did set to music many more poems of Sapardi Djoko Damono which I definitely took out from the cantata, and put them in cycles for voice and piano. And 70% - 80% of AA also exist in versions for voice (solo or duet or choir) and accompaniments of piano, piano 4-hands or string quartet. Those versions will be premiered during the JCOM Fest in August in Jakarta, and in summer I will have to finish AA completely. Perhaps the performances in August will do it good, since I will listen to it "live" and will give me a chance to revise things to improve it.

I always thought that composition is exactly like architecture. Once the structural plan is done, one can just write based on it, minute by minute. It has been like that for me in the past. But apparently it's not like it this time. Since Ars Amatoria is the biggest piece I have done until now (more than 30 minutes long), some things twisted by itself and took their own paths during its creative process, and even worse, sometimes they are the "paths less taken". It seems as if the piece has a life of itself, like a child who grows up and starts to rebel against her parents. That's why poems are substituted and orders are changed. But until now I am happy with the result . And I learned a lot from writing this.

Next week I will recover my stage presence in Madrid, playing Ravel and David del Puerto (who with me are enjoying a good acceptance for our "Nusantara" Symphony CD), and the week after that I have to perform in Vigo (that's near Portugal) with an all-György Ligeti program .

lunes, 16 de abril de 2007

Frozen trees, inspired moments and triumph of the youth

Good poems make good music ? Hopefully so. I was so inspired yesterday that it seemed every sentence, every phrase that I saw could turn into music. When I drank coffee and visited my friend Dian Rosita (Tita)'s blog, which always combine her fantastic photographs with poems (her's is one of my favorite blogs which I visited every few days), I found an exquisite, poignant picture of Frozen Trees with a poem by an unknown author. Suddenly I found my hands already writing the music. It is for SATB choir, and I gave the altos the melody. Its low register with quite a far distance from the sopranos gives the piece a dark & brooding colour & mood . In fact, the poem could be by Robert Frost ; it had that sort of lonely feeling of his. It is appropriately dedicated to Tita who had indirectly provided me with the inspiration, a combination of the poem and the photograph. Today I had a look again at the music, and it sounded fresh, simple and contained some delicious harmonies, so I decided to keep it.

I am imagining what would happen to great composers of the past if blogs would have been invented then. Britten, for example, would have had the time of his life. By the way, you might be interested in visiting Tita's blog :

Yesterday was indeed a good day. Another friend of mine, a very young but very talented soprano Deta Astari who is now studying in Utrecht Conservatory won the First Prize of the Princess Cristina Concours. I knew she would ; I had good vibrations about it (besides I heard her in a recital in Jakarta which confirmed her great talent to me) which I told her a few days before through email. No, this is not a kind of Nostradamus-ian prophecy which are always realized AFTER the real event has occured. I just had good premonitions, that's all. In fact I had prepared a gift for her, a song cycle based on poems by ... yes, who else ... my one and only Sapardi Djoko Damono . Deta is also a big fan of his poems. So, these are his poems which I really wanted to set to music, but are not included in my cantata Ars Amatoria . It's mostly about rain (and other wet things, like the lake !) and of course about love. 6 songs in total. Can't wait to hear Deta singing them . Congratulations, and bravissima, Deta Astari.

And spring is definitely here to stay. Life is beautiful, don't you think ?

sábado, 14 de abril de 2007

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

That's what Borg always says. They are the no.1 enemy of any living being, member of the Federation of Planets. Even Captain Jean Luc Picard was once captured and assimilated by them. Assimilation is very powerful.

But I want to talk about gamelan music. What Debussy did, what Britten did, what Geoffrey King did and the most recent, David del Puerto. Our new CD of his Symphony no. 2 "Nusantara", by the way, is doing quite well in Italy, but it hasn't arrived at the Spanish CD shops ! Just yesterday David got a phone call from Juan Lucas, director of the Spanish distributor Diverdi, who has received the CDs from Milan and was absolutely, crazily, madly IN LOVE with his Symphony. David del Puerto will be featured in the next month's magazine of Diverdi, and they will start distributing them very soon. Anyway, it can be purchased at .

Like the Borg (no plural, please. They are one.), assimilation is always done to "improve the life quality". Britten was stuck, you see, when he wrote his great ballet Prince of the Pagodas. In the middle of the (un-)creative process he travelled to Indonesia with Peter Pears, heard gamelan and then discovered how he should continue with the piece. Well, Debussy, David del Puerto and Geoffrey King haven't been to Indonesia, nevertheless they were very much influenced by gamelan music in some of their pieces. It's not just borrowing ; it's assimilation. Assimilation of different cultures. Not like Borg, and not like MacDonald or George W. Assimilation, not colonization. That's the future of classical music, I believe. Now that avantgarde is dying, and proved to be completely useless, assimilation is a good path to follow. Resistance is futile ! But let's talk about it in a few days time .... I have been composing many hours today and not feeling like sitting again in front of my computer ! I'll have a walk in my garden which now is totally covered with flowers of spring.

jueves, 12 de abril de 2007

Help me find a title (in Indonesian)

Having a break from writing Ars Amatoria, Kit Kat is not enough. So I travelled to Frankfurt (among others rehearsing with my friend, the violinist Jagdish Mistry of Ensemble Modern) and to Amsterdam with Chendra, where we worked out my new songs about the four seasons (not so original, eh ?) . Mixing business with pleasure is one of my specialties, you see. He has written the poems, and I set it to music. You can read the poems in his blog ( ) .

Now, I need your advice, you guys out there. My habit is putting a title for my cycles of songs according to the initials of the poets, relating to the characters of (most of) the poems. So, my cycle of 3 Walt Whitman poems is called Whispering Wind , and the one of 4 Goenawan Mohamad's is Gemuruhnya Malam. Chendra's initials are C E P (Chendra Effendy Panatan) , and we both have thought of titles such as Cuaca Empat Pergantian or something like that, but nothing has satisfied us completely. The title should relate to the four seasons.

Can someone help me out ? As my gratitude, if I use your title I will dedicate one of those songs for you. Not "Spring" though, since it was already dedicated to my friend and patron Mr. Dedi Panigoro, whose birthday is just around the beginning of spring, last March. But you can choose among the other three seasons. It will be put above the title in the published score, and also will always be mentioned in the programs every time they are performed (by the way, those songs should always be performed as a unity, not separately -- unlike Vivaldi's ! ). AND ... I will give you one (sorry, I can only promise one !) free ticket for the premiere of the piece, by the baritone Reinier Revireino and myself accompanying the piano, on the 12th of August in Jakarta.

miércoles, 11 de abril de 2007

Article on Australia New Music

This was an interview done to me last year (April 2006), and published at the end of the year 2006. Since the magazine is now expired, you can read it here.

Now, the times of political troubles between Indonesia and Australia don't seem to hinder you from keeping your activities involving Australian music.

Ananda Sukarlan (AS) : Of course not. Music, and art in general, doesn't have anything to do with politics. Even real life should not have anything to do with politics, but unfortunately many people suffer and become victims of the selfishness of greedy politicians.

Tell us about your new Peter Sculthorpe recording.

AS : The most exciting thing of course is that this is the first time I did a recording "with myself" 4-hands, with Peter's Four Little Pieces. It wasn't as easy as I imagined ! Recording 4-hands, I realized that I am already a different person just one hour after I recorded "the other me". Apart from that, I also did the World Premiere Recording of that moving piece Peter dedicated to me, "Little Passacaglia", commemorating the victims of Bali terrorist attack October 2002. Other works I included are Mountains, Night Pieces, and the short and exquisite Sometimes when I'm dreaming (which, if I am not mistaken, is also a world premere recording). To fill up the CD I recorded with 2 fantastic string players from Plural Ensemble, two trios of Peter (Night Song and From Irkanda III) and some duo pieces. The CD is already released as a supplement of "Sibila" cultural magazine (I am sure you can get a copy of it at any Spanish embassies or cultural centres) this April, but this summer (which means winter in the southern hemisphere !) it will be released by the company Verso. By the way, my recording of the Complete Piano Works by Santiago Lanchares with this company has already won the Best Contemporary Music CD of the Year 2005 by the classical music magazine CD Compact in Spain. This is my second CD with them. So, I have great expectations !

You just came back, with your duo partner the cellist Rohan de Saram from Edinburgh, doing a program of Australasian music.

AS : Yes, it was an invitation from the Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust. After Rohan left the Arditti Quartet last November 2005 we have been intensely performing as a duo. In Edinburgh we did the new piece, "Cathedral" Barry Conyngham wrote for us. Also Matthew Hindson's fun and funky "Jungle Fever" of course provided us an upbeat closing piece for the recital ; it was an arrangement of an earlier piece for french horn and piano, but it works perfectly in the new instrumentation. Both are brilliant pieces, wonderful additions for the repertoire for cello and piano which is quite poor comparing, for example, to the repertory of violin and piano, or even piano trio. That is why we are actively asking composers to write for us. We are going to repeat the performances of those pieces at the new Queen Sofia Center, Madrid later this year, together with other pieces we commissioned by Santiago Lanchares, Polo Vallejo, Jesus Rueda and Tapio Tuomela.

Where and when did you and Rohan meet ?

AS : It was when he was still with the Arditti Quartet. We did a program of Jesus Rueda's music for quartets and quintets during the Alicante Festival, and then we recorded them for a double CD in London (adding his duos and trios). This recording became the last recording of Arditti Quartet with Rohan de Saram as their cellist. We also do mixed classical and contemporary program, since we believe that that is the best way to get public to listen and discover good contemporary music : they come to hear us play Beethoven or Brahms, and then find two or three contemporary pieces in the program, and hopefully find out that they are not bad at all ! Of course we are very selective in choosing which contemporary pieces should be programmed in those "classical" concerts.

Are you now concentrating more in your duo projects ?

Not really, although we are performing a lot as a duo. We both are still very much soloists ! I am now very much looking forward to the new Piano Concerto Barry Conyngham is writing for me. I'll premiere it in November 2007. Meanwhile, there is another Piano Concerto due to be premiered by me next week, closer to home. It will be in Madrid, and it is a big Symphony for Piano and Orchestra called "Nusantara" (the old name of the Indonesian archipelago) by the Spanish National Music Award winner, David del Puerto, which I hope to play the first movement (which can be played separately) together with Barry's new Concerto next year with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

martes, 10 de abril de 2007

New discovery, this time REALLY embarrassing

You remember last January when I "discovered" Sapardi Djoko Damono and his poems, right ? Well, this time, it's a contemporary composer. I heard it for the first time at a dinner at Jeroen Kohnstamm's (a friend of Chendra, and now a friend of mine as well) beautiful house beside the river Vecht. He was cooking a very nice meal based on chicken, salad and some pasta, and we were drinking wine in his living room (Geoffrey King, Chendra Panatan and Iman Ahimsa -- a photographer and ex-fashion designer he is a friend of Jeroen and someone new to me who I was happy to get to know). In the background was the Dutch classical radio (oh yes, I forgot to tell you that I am writing this in Amsterdam) . At one moment sounded an incredibly beautiful, exquisite choir piece (we were talking so we didn't listen to the presenter), and silence dawned on us . Everybody was asking to himself who that damned composer was, and Geoffrey was the one who told us it was John Rutter (although he didn't know exactly what piece it was) .

So, "one of the world's leading pianists of new music" (that's what Sydney Morning Herald wrote about me, as well as some other newspapers) ..... and I didn't know John Rutter until 3 days ago . My God, now THAT is music.

In fact, I should confess that a few weeks ago I received a program of an English flutist who played my piece "You Had me at Hello" and she also played a piece by John Rutter. But since I thought that he was just a fake composer like a few other thousands who are comfortable writing avantgarde music, I didn't bother to check him out. Oh, well, nice to know that there are many good composers I still haven't discovered .... in fact, I am sure that many people have not discovered Geoffrey King. He is a really fantastic composer, and I will talk about his music in a few days when I am not in a rush like now . By the way, Chendra made a blog for him so he can have fun while taking breaks from his composing. Check it out at