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August 28, 2011 4:53 pm

New Music at the Lucerne Festival, Various venues, Lucerne

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Theatrical: Charlotte Hug creates an eerie sound

Theatrical: Charlotte Hug creates an eerie sound

For five hours, Charlotte Hug stood in the dockyard in Cork, Ireland, as the water rose to her throat. She played and sang the entire time. In a less dramatic but more extreme experiment, she had herself locked into a Zurich sleep laboratory for 40 hours, playing, singing and drawing without a break for the entire period.

This year’s artist-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival does nothing by halves. Both the above experiences inspired “Slipway to Galaxies”, her solo performance in the Lucerne Museum of Art. In sepulchral gloom, surrounded by the translucent ribbons of her graphic “Son-Icons”, Hug makes eerie noises with her voice and viola. She is tall, rake-thin and wild-haired, and struts between the metres-long pages of her self-drawn “scores” with assured theatricality. She hoots and howls, squeaks and moans, sometimes sings two notes at once. She undoes the screw at the end of her bow and wraps the loosened horsehair around all four strings to produce unearthly chords. Then she lets the heel of her unfastened bow fall on the wooden floor, and adds the effect like a drum.

“Insomnia” is the title of Hug’s installation at the museum and also of a series of concerts at this year’s Lucerne Festival, where the overarching theme is “Night”. Dark and gloom also infuse Swiss composer Hanspeter Kyburz’s Double Points: OYTIS , given its world premiere in this form at Lucerne Hall. Kyburz calls his dreamlike interaction for singer, dancer, video, instrumental ensemble and live electronics an “experimental opera”. It is as good a name as any for this multidisciplinary musing on Penelope (soprano) and Odysseus (dancer), separate for four segments and tentatively reunited in the fifth.

The former, embodied by the extraordinary Susanne Elmark, laments her fate to evocative texts by Sabine Marienberg with athletic precision. The latter, danced powerfully by Emio Greco, creates sounds both through the motion of his body and with the aid of electronic points strapped on to his limbs. One adventures, the other waits, while instruments and technology weave a hallucinogenic universe around them.

Georg Friedrich Haas, the festival’s composer-in-residence this year, features in a number of concerts. The Hagen Quartet gave hypnotic voice to his 6th String Quartet (2010) at the Church of St Luke. Haas plays with impressionistic washes of sound, depending for his effects on eerie microtonal effects and a ferociously intense concentration of tone. The Hagens deliver both in spades.

Lucerne, unique in its ability to keep a solid core of new music at the heart of a festival that depends entirely on private funding, has assembled a programme that combines adventure with aural pleasure, where consistently gorgeous sounds are tinged with a darker, wilder edge.

5 stars

Lucerne Festival

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