Perspectives from Afar: Kupka at Darmstadt!

Kupka's Piano has sent something of a reconnaissance team to the famous (or infamous) Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music this year. After about five days of the course, Alex Raineri reflects on the experience so far and gives an outline of what we're doing over here... Alex and Angus receive coaching from composer Georges Aperghis and percussionist Christian Dierstein during a masterclass at the Darmstadt Summer Festival.

I’m finishing up this blog post from my cozy little hotel room in the town of Darmstadt, Germany where Hannah, Angus, Liam, Michael and myself are almost a week into the frenetic and overwhelmingly wonderful 47th International Summer Course for New Music!

This trip is very special for Kupka’s Piano for a number of reasons. July was a huge month for the ensemble having played two very substantial programs Tempi Espressivi and Crippled Symmetry, as well as each of us having rather hectic performance and teaching commitments outside of the ensemble. Thus, it’s super exciting to finally be in full swing of the much-anticipated Darmstadt Festival.

The repertoire we’ve prepared for performances and workshops here are among some of the most challenging and rewarding repertoire the ensemble has ever tackled. Pieces such as Liam’s Flenady’s monstrously virtuosic Quite Early Morning no. 2, George Aperghis’ quirky Quatre Pièces Fébriles, Beat Furrer’s punchy Presto con Fuoco, Tristan Murail’s sensual La Mandragore and Brian Ferneyhough’s enchanting Cassandra’s Dream Song have been a long time in the practice room and the prospect of presenting these in this kind of international forum is both scary and exhilarating!

Other pieces on the menu are much more fresh! Within a few of the festival projects, Angus, Hannah and I are working with some of our European colleagues and counterparts that we’ve only recently met in pieces by Eun-Ji Lee, Chaya Czernowin, Misato Mochizuki and others…!

The Darmstadt festival represents for us an enormously exciting opportunity to both collaborate and learn from our colleagues and mentors. Such luminaries and giants in the new music scene that we have the privilege to work with are Nicholas Hodges, Christian Dierstein, Eva Furrer, Yukiko Sugawara, Ensemble Nikel, Uli Fussenegger and composers such as Tristan Murail, Helmut Lachenmann, Georges Aperghis, Brian Ferneyhough, Pierluigi Billone, Peter Ablinger, Clemens Gadenstätter, Oliver Schneller…the list goes on for days!

As well as this, it’s a chance for Kupka to bring our music and ideas to an international forum to benchmark our own standards against those of our European counterparts. Also it’s a wonderful opportunity to soak up some of the contemporary music culture that is so much more prevalent and developed over this side of the world.

I find that it’s often very difficult to find perspective from afar but at the same time this can be a blessing as it helps to remove a rigid sense of framework and conservative performance traditions and their associated limitations.

We’ll be posting some post-festival reflections on the blog over the next month or two but during the festival keep an eye out for our Instragram (@kupkagram) account for heaps of pictures of us meeting awesome people and drinking German beer. Hurrah!