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The unknown Kafka to music

As part of the eighth International Pharos Contemporary Music Festival and the Cyprus premiere of Gyorgy Kurtag’s masterpiece Kafka Fragments on Wednesday The Matchstick Man – an atmospheric profile affording a perceptive and illuminating glimpse into Kurtag’s world – will be screened tonight at the Shoe Factory in Nicosia.

A very private man who usually shies away from discussing himself and his work, Kurtag communicates his all-consuming passion for music and deep involvement in the world of sound to director Judit Kele. He is seen teaching and working with musicians and conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

The film will be followed with the Cyprus premiere of Kurtag’s 70-minute masterpiece performed by mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg and violinist Aisha Orazbayeva on Wednesday. The work is based on Kafka’s texts taken from his notebooks, diaries and letters.

It was during his brief exile in Paris that Kurtag became fascinated with the writings of Kafka, especially his Metamorphosis. At the same time, he was familiarised with the contemporary music scene of the West, and studied with Messiaen and Milhaud. In the following years, the composer assembled random fragments of Kafka’s writings – not excerpts from the published works but fragmented texts from his notebooks, diaries and letters, which he would eventually use as the basis of the 40 pieces that constitute his masterpiece for voice and violin, Kafka Fragments.

This theatrical work might also be regarded as a personal diary of both Kafka and Kurtag, with the music and dramatic utterances of the vocalist and violinist complementing and accentuating Kafka’s texts and his innermost thoughts. Ranging from miniature parables to existential metaphors, these all-embracing texts are sometimes witty, sometimes soul-searching, yet always all-pervading into the human state of isolation, physical and emotional torment, life, love and creativity.

Born in the UK, Lixenberg has performed widely in opera, concert repertoire and music-theatre, and she has collaborated with many leading composers. She has performed internationally at a number of festivals including those of Salzburg, Lucerne, Aldeburgh, Wien Modern, Oslo Ultima and the London Symphony Orchestra Cage Festival. She has appeared with orchestras and ensembles including the Halle, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Danish National Symphony Orchestra and the Swedish Radio Orchestra.

She has collaborated with and performed the works (often the world premieres) of composers such as Georges Aperghis, Bent Sorensen, Helmut Oehring, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Gyorgy Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Beat Furrer, Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell-Davies. She has also been active as a director and a composer herself, and she has recorded the premiere of the complete Cage’s Songbooks for Sub Rosa on CD, as well as Frederic Acquaviva’s Aatie on CD/DVD.

Violinist Orazbayeva is in high demand in a repertoire extending from Bach and Telemann to Lachenmann and Nono. As a soloist she has performed at the Aldeburgh, Radio France Montpellier, Reykjavik Art, Klangspuren and Latitude festivals, and in venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York, Superdeluxe in Tokyo and La Maison de Radio France in Paris. Her two solo albums, Outside on Nonclassical and The Hand Gallery on PRAH recordings, have gained international audience and critical acclaim.

Kurtag – The Matchstick Man
The Pharos Foundation presents the screening of the documentary, directed by Judit Kele. October 11. The Shoe Factory, Nicosia. 8.30pm. Free. Tel: 22-663871

Kafka Fragments – Lore Lixenberg and Aisha Orazbayeva
The Pharos Foundation presents the Cyprus premiere of Kurtag’s monumental masterpiece for voice and violin. October 12. The Shoe Factory, Nicosia. 8.30pm. €10. Tel: 22-663871



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