PRESS RELEASE Brno, February 5th 2021
A Line Above the Sky. This is the title of Symphony no. 3, composed by Thomas Larcher for a prestigious commission by six orchestras from six European countries, including Filharmonie Brno. And Brno shall be the first to perform it. One of the most renowned contemporary composers in the world, Larcher’s symphony refers to a climbing route in a cave near Marmolada in the Dolomites, and to the story of Tom Ballard, who created the route in 2015 at what was then the highest grade of climbing difficulty. “Tom was one of the most extraordinary and best mountaineers of his generation. He died two years ago during an attempt to climb the ninth highest mountain in the world, Nanga Parbat,” says the Austrian composer.
The symphony was to have its premiere last May in Amsterdam, while Brno Filharmonie was to perform it in November. “Because of current events, however, it hasn’t been performed yet. We’re filming it for Czech Radio Vltava, which is broadcasting a recording of it. I am truly grateful not just to Czech Radio, but also to my orchestra, that we’ve been able to embark on this project,” says Filharmonie Brno Chief Conductor, Dennis Russell Davies.
The title of the symphony refers to a climbing route by Tom Ballard, once considered the most difficult in the world, in a cave from which you can look out into the Dolomites at the sky and mountains in all their incomprehensible beauty. Ballard died in 2019 attempting to climb Nanga Parbat. „I have been close to the mountains for many years and through them have been inspired, enlightened and consoled. I also feel close to Ballard and his passion, but I have always failed to find an answer how one can put oneself deliberately at such extreme risk. Thinking about this leads to the question of what life is, and how much life is worth to a person (and what one’s life might be worth to others).This symphony became a testimony to the intensity of life in the first movement, and a “Trauermusik” in the second,“ says Larcher.
In order to evoke the required atmosphere, it makes use of unconventional instruments. Percussionists play dozens of drums, timpani, cymbals, bells, but also empty barrels, baking paper, flexatones, thunder sheets and imitate the crack of whips. “Larcher prescribed specific notes for different unpitched instruments, so we had to, for example, sand down wooden blocks to sound as demanded. We also have specific notes prescribed for the bongo and unusual glissandos on the timpani,” says Lukáš Krejčí, head percussionist. Some of the instruments which are not particularly common for symphonies include the cymbal, accordion and the special contrabass clarinet. “This has been brought over from Austria, because we don’t have the right one in Czech Republic. The one I have doesn’t cover the lowest notes in the symphony,” says Jindřich Pavliš from Clarinet Factory, who plays the loaned instrument. Brass players, besides their usual instruments, will also be playing four waterphones, metal bowls filled with water, whose protruding rods are vibrated using a bow.
In Davies´ opinion is Larcher´s symphony in a unique way a child of the pandemic. Corona restrictions eliminated all previously scheduled performances including ours in November last year. However, we at the Filharmonie Brno felt strongly that the composer needed to hear his work and that we could prepare it for him. I am very grateful to my orchestra and to Český rozhlas for making this project possible,“ says Davies, who has been friends with a larcher for over 25 years. His music is like a personal description of the man: generous, innovative, spontaneous, highly disciplined. „Thomas is splendid product of his country, his home in Tirol, and his generation, he hates racism, oppression and social injustice of any kind,“ says Davies. He also appreciates that as pianist and music manager Larcher tirelessly supports other new composers and efforts to reach new audiences.
Media contact Kateřina Konečná, Filharmonie Brno Head of PR and Marketing
+420 775 426 040 firstname.lastname@example.org