JOSEPH HAYDN • Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) – Oratorio for Solo Voices, Chorus and Orchestra, Hob. XXI:3
Duration of concert approx. 2 hours 50 minutes.
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SALZBURG FESTIVAL BLOG
Last year, the newly-introduced concert series Ouverture spirituelle met with a most enthusiastic echo. Also this year, the Salzburg Festival will once again open with sacred music, and again, works by Catholic and Protestant composers will be juxtaposed with another religion – this time, it will be Buddhism, brought to you via traditional and recent music from Japan.
Our program guide offers an overview of all the events pertaining to the Ouverture spirituelle series:
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Untitled, © Eva Schlegel
Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Indian sage Shākyamuni. About 2500 years ago, he began showing humanity a path towards overcoming the pain perceived in this worldly existence and achieving redemption in Nirvāna. At his death (presumably in 483 B.C.) Shākyamuni is said to have travelled this path before us, becoming a Buddha (one of the “enlightened”). During subsequent centuries, his teachings evolved into a complex religion now spread throughout Asia, albeit with major regional differences.
The predominant form of the faith in East Asia is Mahāyāna Buddhism, the teaching of the “Great Vehicle”, which involves transporting all beings across the “sea of suffering” to the “other shore”, i.e. Nirvāna. Around this, a multi-faceted and highly differentiated cult has arisen which has integrated music, dance and theatre in prominent roles. In the grand temple ceremonies of Japanese Buddhism, shōmyō, the ritual chanting of the priests, is of central importance. Since its introduction from the Asian mainland around the middle of the first millennium, it has developed into an independent form of meditative vocal music.
In the concert “Shōmyō – Buddhist Ritual Chants”, the Japanese priests’ choir Karyōbinga Shōmyō Kenkyūkai presents the ceremony Dai Hannya Tendoku’e (“Symbolic Reading of the Great Sūtra of Transcendental Wisdom”). The central ritual of the cursory reading of the Sūtra, staged like an avant-garde sound performance, will be flanked by recitations and shōmyō chants conveying hymns, prayers, confessions of repentance and blessings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Individual instruments, for example the conch, hand bell, bronze bowls, rattle-stick, cymbals and gongs, serve to lend a structure of sound to the proceedings.
Even in historic times, larger instrumental ensembles were used, familiar from the ancient music at the imperial court known as gagaku. The dignified character of this music is understood in the Buddhist context as an image of transcendence in sound. The Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa (b. 1955) hearkens back to this practice in his work New Seeds of Contemplation – Mandala (1986/1995), which will be performed by the Ensemble Yūsei from Tokyo. Here, the ritual and sound sequences of Buddhist ceremonies, complete with their philosophical and spiritual matrix, may be experienced in an artistic arrangement and with a new meaning. Nine musicians are placed on the nine sectors of a mandala carpet: four priests as shōmyō singers and five gagaku musicians. They play characteristic instruments which will also be heard in the first part of the concert in shorter solo and ensemble pieces from the traditional repertoire.
Shōmyō is usually sung as solo or choral chant in unison. Therein, but also in its liturgical function and its age, it resembles the Gregorian chant of the Christian tradition. The concert “Shōmyō and Gregorian Chant” brings together the Buddhist priests’ choir Karyōbinga Shōmyō Kenkyūkai with the Cantori Gregoriani di Cremona directed by Fulvio Rampi. The direct juxtaposition of chants on subjects such as adoration, veneration and contemplation illuminates the common ground and the differences of both traditions.
The shōmyō style of singing also influenced Japanese epic singing, which is accompanied by the lute called biwa and was originally developed by blind lay priests in order to spread the Buddhist teachings among the people. During the 13th century, the Heike epic was added, which tells of the rise and fall of a medieval noble dynasty, using the Buddhist vanitas motif of the Shogyō mujō (“All earthly things are transient”). Zen-Buddhist monks began to use the bamboo flute shakuhachi during the 17th century and used it to create honkyoku, an unusual sound art which was designed to aid meditation. In the concert “Japan: From Tradition to Modernism”, Junko Handa and Tadashi Tajima first present samples from their respective traditional repertoire. In the meantime, composers such as Tōru Takemitsu (1930–1996), who rediscovered Japan’s traditional music in the 1960s, have also created numerous new works. Takemitsu wrote Eclipse (1966) for the two instruments and also transferred his experience with the Japanese sound world to works like Bryce (1976). Toshio Hosokawa’s Voyage X “Nozarashi” (2009) for shakuhachi and a Western instrumental ensemble refers to a Buddhist-sounding haiku poem by Bashō (1644–1694). Tadashi Tajima performs the work together with the ensemble oenm led by Titus Engel.
Translated by Alexa Nieschlag
Disputationes form part of the Ouverture spirituelle
Just like last year, the Herbert Batliner European Institute cooperates with the Salzburg Festival in giving the Ouverture spirituelle a framework of scientific lectures and discussions. Reflecting the Buddhist meditations, ritual chants and the Japanese sound-world of the Festival’s programme, the Disputationes will explore issues of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. The attractiveness of Buddhism for our European world is steadily increasing. One of the reasons for this is a growing spiritual need, a search for divine energy which seems easier to attain through the insight-based Buddhist religion than through Christianity with its dogmatic structure – especially not in our secularized society. Under this aspect, the Ouverture spirituelle as a starting point to examine this phenomenon is essential for our times. Music provides a bridge for comprehending the spiritual diversity of the present.
The opening event takes place on July 19, 2013, followed by three panel discussions as part of the Ouverture spirituelle.
by Alexander Pereira and Florian Wiegand
THE PROGRAMME 2014
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