Kurt Schwertsik: new orchestral work at Leipzig Gewandhaus
On 26 March the MDR Symphony Orchestra premieres the latest work by Kurt Schwertsik. His new divertimento Muertes en Relajo, influenced by the art of Frida Kahlo, is the latest collaboration between the composer and conductor Dennis Russell Davies.
Since the 1980s, Dennis Russell Davies has performed numerous works by Viennese composer Kurt Schwertsik and conducted them many times on the concert platform and in the theatre. Now, as principal conductor of the MDR Symphony Orchestra, he is back on the podium for the world premiere of Schwertsik’s Muertes en Relajo, programmed in his morning concert at the Leipzig Gewandhaus on Sunday 26 March. Subtitled ‘Divertimento for Chamber Orchestra’, the new work, with a duration of 20 minutes, is conceived as an ironic, Mexican-inspired dance of death in eight short movements.
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The title (loosely translated as ‘Deaths in a Relaxed Gathering’) is taken from the diaries of Frida Kahlo. On one of the last pages she filled shortly before her death, the artist left an ink drawing under this heading that evokes the ‘Día de los Muertos’, the Day of the Dead. It shows skeleton-like figures presumably performing a dance - the one in the centre is wearing a Mexican traditional skirt, with a large colourful bird above her.
Schwertsik had already dealt with Frida Kahlo's work and suffering in 1992, in the music he composed for Johann Kresnik's biographical dance theatre work about the painter produced at the Bremen Theatre. In view of Kurt Schwertsik's fascination with Erik Satie, the current title of the work also brings to mind Satie's ground-breaking ballet Relâche of 1924, which broke artistic boundaries. Schwertsik's new divertimento is a seemingly cheerful orchestral dance in the face of inevitable death.
Notable world premieres of Schwertsik’s music conducted by Dennis Russell Davies in the past include his operas The Wondrous Tale of Fanferlizzy Sunnyfeet in Stuttgart (1983) and Der ewige Frieden in Bonn (1995), the ballet Kafka Amerika in Linz (2009) and orchestral works Sinfonia-Sinfonietta (1996) and Violin Concerto No.2: Albayzin and Sacromonte (2000).
Kurt Schwertsik’s 90th birthday is celebrated in 2025.
> Further information on Work: Muertes en Relajo
Photo: Karl Kleemayr