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Johannes Maria Staud in Portrait at Miller Theatre

Mar. 30, 2017

Johannes Maria Staud in Portrait at Miller Theatre

On April 8, Miller Theatre at Columbia University presents a portrait concert of Austrian composer Johannes Maria Staud, featuring five solo and chamber works covering a span of nearly two decades. Performers include members of Ensemble Signal, led by Brad Lubman.

Black Moon for bass clarinet was composed in 1998, inspired by the 1975 Louis Malle film of the same title. Staud was fascinated with Malle’s application of the principles of “écriture automatique” to cinematography, and Black Moon represents his attempt to “translate the basic atmosphere (or rather, the feelings the film evoked in me) into musical gestures.”

Listen to a recording of Staud's Black Moon, performed by clarinnetist Ernesto Molinari and released on KAIROS Records:

Par Ici! was originally commissioned and performed in 2011 by Ensemble Intercontemporain with George Benjamin as conductor, and then expanded in 2013 on commission from the Mozarteum Foundation for the 2013 Mozartwoche. The piece deals extensively with microtonality, retuning, and a musical map of highly detailed minute sonic gestures.

Following the completion of his opera Berenice in 2004, Staud composed Towards a Brighter Hue for solo violin. The piece borrows motifs from the opera that are developed “in a wholly different – and much more dramatic – manner,” and draws inspiration from the wooden sculptures of British artist David Nash that Staud discovered in an exhibition at the Tate St. Ives gallery.

Sydenham Music takes its name from the 1871 Camille Pissarro painting “The Avenue, Sydenham”, and its instrumentation from Debussy’s Sonata for flute, viola and harp. Staud states, “What unites both works for me is the ambiguity between fragility and brightness, precision and blurred lines, melancholy and optimism, pastoral interest and a rational mind.” Sydenham Music is Staud’s “tribute to this inspiring suburban area of London” that he lived and worked in for two and a half years.

This concert also marks the New York premiere of Wheat, not oats, dear. I’m afraid., a work for seven instrumentalists from 2015. The title is borrowed from the poem Letter to N.Y. by Elizabeth Bishop, transmuting her words into a sonic palette of colorful and complex textures amid winds, strings, and percussion.

For more information on Johannes Maria Staud, visit

Johannes Maria Staud
Black Moon (1998)
for bass clarinet

Toward a Brighter Hue (2004)
for violin

Sydenham Music (2007)
for flute, viola, and harp

Par ici! (2011)
for ensemble

Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid (2015)
for seven instruments