Composers Festival spotlight: Georg Friedrich Haas

Georg Friedrich Haas, one of the two distinguished guest composers at the 2017 Mizzou International Composers Festival, is known and respected internationally as one of the major European composers of his generation.

Considered to be a leading exponent of “spectral music” and sometimes compared to György Ligeti for his use of microtonality, Haas has lectured and taught courses on the subject, but also has said he’s uncomfortable being pigeonholed, noting simply that, “I am a composer, not a microtonalist.”

As a distinguished guest composer for the MICF, Haas (pictured) will work with the eight resident composers and resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and will give a public presentation on his music.

Two of his works will be played during the festival. Alarm Will Sound will perform Haas’ “Remix” as part of their concert on Thursday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre, and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will play his “…aus freier Lust…verbunden” during the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 28.

Haas’ compositions range from chamber pieces, including seven string quartets, to orchestral works, operas, and concertos. His hour-long “in vain,” written in 2000 for 24 musicians, has been called “path-breaking” and is regarded as one of the most important new compositions of the 21st century.

Another notable recent work by Haas is “limited approximations” for orchestra and 6 microtuned pianos, which won SWR Symphony Orchestra Composition Prize in 2010. Haas’s opera “Morgen und Abend,” with a libretto by the Norwegian writer Jon Fosse, was jointly commissioned by the Royal Opera House in London and the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and premiered on the main stage of the Royal Opera House in November 2015.

Haas’ music has been performed by ensembles and orchestras all over the world, and his works have been part of festivals including Wien Modern in Vienna, Musikprotokoll in Graz, Witten, Huddersfield, Royaumont, Venice Biennale, and Festival d’Automne in Paris, as well as at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse and the Salzburg Festival 2011.

He has received many national and international awards, including the 2007 Grand Austrian State Prize for Music, the country’s highest artistic honor; the Music Award of the City of Vienna in 2012, the Music Award Salzburg in 2013, and numerous others.

Haas, who will turn 64 next month, was born in Graz, Austria and grew up in Tschagguns, a village in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg. He studied composition, piano, and music pedagogy at the Musikhochschule in Graz, and then did post-graduate study at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna with Friedrich Cerha, who’s been described as “the doyen of Austrian composers.” He also participated in the Darmstädter Ferienkurse in 1980, 1988 and 1990, and the computer music course at IRCAM in 1991.

He began teaching in 1978 at the Musikhochschule, and in 2005 also started lecturing at the Hochschule in Basel, Switzerland. In 2013, he was appointed MacDowell Professor of Music at Columbia University in New York City, where he continues to teach.

For more about Georg Friedrich Haas, watch this video interview from 2015, and read Alex Ross’ 2010 piece about him in The New Yorker and this 2014 article about him from the New York Times. You can hear some of Haas’ music in the embedded players below.

“In Vain” performed by Ensemble Dal Niente, recorded at the Chicago premiere on February 28, 2013 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

“ATTHIS” (2009), performed for the St. Petersburg International New Music Festival by Ensemble for New Music Tallinn, with Merje Roomere and Eva-Maria Sumera (violins), Talvi Nurgamaa (viola), Jarkko Launonen (cello), Kristin Kuldkepp (double bass), Helena Tuuling (clarinet), Sabina Yordanova (bassoon), Jürnas Rähni (horn), and Rainer Kohlberger, visuals and real-time animation, conducted by Arash Yazdani. Recorded on Friday, May 20, 2016 at the Erarta Museum and Galleries of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg.

“Sayaka” performed by Radar Ensemble, with Jonathan Shapiro (percussion) and Felix Kroll (accordion).

“Neues Werk für 8 Posaunen (Octet for eight trombones),” world premiere performance by Trombone Unit Hannover recorded September 10, 2015 at the Basler Münster in Basel, Switzerland

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