This November at Teatro alla Scala, conductor Markus Stenz leads the world premiere of the highly-anticipated world premiere performance of Fin de Partie, the first and only opera by the beloved, visionary composer György Kurtág, composed at the age of 91. Based on the famous Samuel Beckett play, commonly performed in English as Endgame, the operatic version, to be sung in French, has been more than seven years in the making. At 450 pages, Fin de Partie is by far the largest score ever composed by the reputed “master of the miniature,” who has for several decades maintained the desire of writing a musical treatment for the sparse, sardonically existential work. This production is staged by internationally-acclaimed artistic and theater director, Pierre Audi.
GYÖRGY KURTÁG: Fin de Partie (World Premiere)
Teatro alla Scala
Frode Olsen - Hamm
Leigh Melrose – Clov
Hilary Summers - Nell
Leonardo Corallazzi – Nagg
Markus Stenz, conductor
Pierre Audi, stage director
Following the world premiere in Milan, Stenz and the full cast bring the production of Fin de Partie to the Dutch National Opera in March 2019.
Markus Stenz is, and has been, an invaluable advocate for 20th- and 21st-century music and operas, which has resulted in his conducting a significant list of world premiere performances throughout the classical world, including Detlev Glanert’s Caligula (2006) at Oper Frankfurt and Solaris (2012) at the Festspiele Bregenz, and Hans Werner Henze’s Das verratene Meer (“The Betrayed Sea”) (1990) at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Venus und Adonis (1997) at Bavarian State Opera, and L’Upupa und der Triumph der Sohnesliebe (“The Hoopoe and the Triumph of Filial Love”) (2003) at the Salzburg Festival.
Stenz’s expansive, multi-continental career reflects the breadth of his artistry and international regard as an inspirational collaborator.
Samuel Beckett remains one of the pioneers of the Absurdist’s rise in popularity in the mid-twentieth century. Mr. Kurtág was among the first to experience to the play - he attended the French premiere in 1957 - and promptly obtained a copy of the text, now nearly identical to the opera’s libretto. The four-person cast highlights themes of loneliness, futility, and the cyclicality of life and death, all within the confines of a bare room: the blind and wheelchair-bound Hamm, his servant Clov, whose stiff legs cause him great discomfort, and Hamm’s parents Nell and Nagg, both leg amputees who are left to decay in trash bins. Clov struggles with his personal desires to leave the tyrannical Hamm, while knowing his role as caretaker may be the only hope of survival for the three immobilized, as well as his own, as Hamm possesses stores of food that have been the quartet’s only source of sustenance. “Extremely little happens in Beckett’s play – and Kurtág matches this musically. Both have mastered the art of saying a great amount with very few notes or words,” is how Stenz outlines the score and the stage action. “The sounds that Kurtág finds for the story are inspiring and colourful: concentrated psychograms made up of both pessimistic and humorous colours.”
Markus Stenz currently serves as Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony, and Conductor-in-Residence of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, in addition to his extensive international guest conducting engagements. His previous positions have included General Music Director of the City of Cologne and Gürzenich-Kapellmeister, Principal Guest Conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, Music Director of the Montepulciano Festival, Principal Conductor of the London Sinfonietta – one of the most renowned ensembles for contemporary music – and Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. In his North American home of Baltimore, The Baltimore Sun has said of the conductor, “Stenz exuded endless energy from the podium. Even in moments of lyrical reflection, he kept a sense of tension going, so that the music seemed capable of sprinting off again at any moment.” In addition to Stenz’s regular duties with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, his North American engagements include performances with the Pittsburgh, Oregon, and Nashville Symphonies, with acclaimed soloists such as violinist Vivane Hagner and pianists Behzod Abduraimov and Juho Pohjonen. Highlights of Maestro Stenz’s previous season included guest conducting engagements with the symphony orchestras of St. Louis, Minnesota, Utah, San Diego, and Colorado.
About Gyorgy Kurtag
Kurtág was born at Lugos (Lugoj in Romania) on 19 February 1926. From 1940 he took piano lessons from Magda Kardos and studied composition with Max Eisikovits in Timisoara. Moving to Budapest, he enrolled at the Academy of Music in 1946 where his teachers included Sándor Veress and Ferenc Farkas (composition), Pál Kadosa (piano) and Leó Weiner (chamber music).
In 1957-58 Kurtág studied in Paris with Marianne Stein and attended the courses of Messiaen and Milhaud. As a result, he rethought his ideas on composition and marked the first work he wrote after his return to Budapest, a string quartet, as his opus 1.
In 1958-63 Kurtág worked as a répétiteur with the Béla Bartók Music Secondary School in Budapest. In 1960-80 he was répétiteur with soloists of the National Philhamonia. From 1967 he was assistant to Pál Kadosa at the Academy of Music, and the following year he was appointed professor of chamber music. He held this post until his retirement in 1986 and subsequently continued to teach at the Academy until 1993.
With increased freedom of movement in the 1990s he has worked increasingly outside Hungary, as composer in residence with the Berlin Philharmonic (1993-1994), with the Vienna Konzerthaus (1995), in the Netherlands (1996-98), in Berlin again (1998-99), and a Paris residency at the invitation of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Cité de la Musique and the Festival d’Automne.
Kurtág won the prestigious 2006 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his '...concertante...'.György Kurtág is published by Boosey & Hawkes
"Stenz led a powerful, surging performance with brilliant playing from the musicians across all sections that put across the sonic fury of Glanert's writing. Stenz also drew a wide dynamic range, the pianissimos barely auditble yet registering clearly on an unusually quiet downtown evening." Chicago Classical Review
“Stenz makes the orchestra play beyond itself, and future appearances should not be missed.” – The Washington Post
At the Concertgebouw Markus Stenz and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic - "their Elektra was volcanic, seething and spitting from one terrifying eruption to the other." Opera Today
“Conductor Markus Stenz stressed the ruthless savagery of the music, but also made it glimmer with dark beauty.” – Bachtrack (Wozzek at Concertgebouw)
“Markus Stenz is a master of the German repertoire, as demonstrated from the first notes of Wagner’s “Parsifal,” played with beauty and clarity, through the triumphant final notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. He led without a baton, using his expressive hands to communicate to the furthest corners of the stage. The large and diverse audience responded enthusiastically throughout.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Markus Stenz made this account of a familiar staple of the concert hall choral repertory memorable. His vigorous yet completely detailed direction was clearly driven by Mozart's vibrant setting of the Requiem text, sharply illuminating its kaleidoscopic changes and chiaroscuro voicing." San Diego Story
"These studio recordings underline Stenz's credential as a conductor of the Second Viennese School" ". Perfect control from master conductor Stenz" - The Guardian
Hartmann Simplicius Simplicissimus (BBC Music Direct) Netherlands Radio Philharmonic: "Markus Stenz proves himself an ideal exponent of this music, drawing a performance of conviction and intensity". - BBC Music
Glanert Requiem for Hieronymous Bosch (RCO live) Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra:
"The performance under Stenz has tremendous dramatic intensity." - The Guardian