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Times of War - Interview about our project “Concert-Centenaire'

Judith Ingolfsson

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Published: December 13, 2013 at 2:29 PM [UTC]

For the project “Concert-Centenaire", my duo, the Ingolfsson-Stoupel Duo, was honored by the French government with the official “Centenaire” label. The label stands for particularly creative and innovative projects and allows the Duo to call attention to the project throughout France and abroad. In France, it is part of the official program in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First World War, which is to be presented on 11 November 2013 by President François Hollande in Elysée Palace.

On November 7, 2013, we presented one of our programs in concert at the State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart, Germany. Ahead of the concert, we were interviewed about the program. I am posting the interview below, as translated from the German by Howard Weiner.

The Program:

Rudi Stephan (1887–1915) - Groteske for violin and piano (1911)
Leoš Janácek (1854–1928) - Sonata for violin and piano (1914)
Albéric Magnard (1865–1914) - Sonata for violin and piano (1901)

“Times of War” - Interview with Judith Ingolfsson, violin & Vladimir Stoupel, piano

What induced you to present composers who were exposed to the extreme dangers of war?

The idea emerged during the course of research for a larger project. Our aim was to present the musical culture of the years before and after the First World War, to show how greatly music changed in those few years. This change continues to have an effect to the present day.

Is there something of topical interest in the selection of works? Or are you more concerned about searching for traces in the music, traces that still have an effect today?

It is a question of what one understands by “topicality.” In the sense of everyday life, certainly not. In the sense of historical awareness, definitely. The title refers to a specific epoch, namely that of the First World War. Of the three composers on the program, two fell victim to this war. It is our goal to bring this music back onto the stage, so that it will again become a permanent part of regular concert life. This, in turn, is not possible without putting it into a modern context. This means that the indescribably strong impact of these compositions should not to be presented in a historicized manner, but rather should open the doors to today’s world. This can be very convincingly realized, especially in the case of Janácek and Rudi Stephan, since their music supplies the basis for expressionism and post-expressionism.

Stephan, Janácek, and Magnard experienced the First World War in different ways. How were these composers involved in the war?

Stephan was considered one of the great hopes of his generation of composers, but fell during the First World War at the age of only twenty-eight. Albéric Magnard fell on the French side at the very beginning of the war when, rifle in hand, he attempted to defend his house against the German soldiers. With these two men, the musical culture, which was hardly on anybody’s mind at that time, suffered irretrievable losses. Janácek was not directly involved in the war. But it is interesting to note that his opera Fenufa was a triumph in Prague in 1916 – in the midst of the war. The Sonata for violin and piano dates to the period between 1913 and 1914, from the beginning of the First World War. It was completed, however, only after eight years and numerous revisions. The sonata’s second movement and the solemn concluding Adagio were the first to be composed. Many have surmised that Janácek depicted the thunder of the Russian artillery in the violin’s brusque interjections (performance instruction: con sordino feroce). As a passionate proponent of Slavism, Janácek welcomed the Russian’s participation in the war, hoping it would finally put an end to the dominion of the hated Habsburgs over the Czech territories. Incidentally, the German premiere of the Sonata was played by no less a violinist than Paul Hindemith.

Are there correspondences between the works? Is the war audible in the compositions?

Yes, in the composers’ biographies. We always try to tell a coherent story. This time, the program is to a certain extent the portrait of an epoch. Except in the Janácek Sonata, the war is not audible. Clear, on the other hand, is the development of the musical and compositional style of Albéric Magnard, who wrote a late-Romantic and very symphonically constructed sonata, up to the expressionistic mindset of Rudi Stephan, and the national-, folklore-oriented Janácek.

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Would you like to hear the concert? You can view it here: This is a link to an album on vimeo.com.

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