A visit to CoPeCo

In my day job in charge of the masters programmes in music at the RCS, I can’t help but be interested in innovative new models of postgraduate study. So I was very happy to be able to visit Hamburg this week to observe the CoPeCo programme in action. This is a joint European masters in contemporary performance and composition, where the students study in four different institutions in Estonia, Sweden, France and Germany. The first cohort of the programme are just finishing up at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, where I was able to attend a concert involving two of the current students, Émilie Girard-Charest (cello) and Sylvain Devaux (oboe), joined by HfMT student Fanis Gioles (percussion).

Speaking with them afterwards they were at pains to point out that this concert tonight was perhaps not typical, featuring as it did mostly precomposed music rather than devised, improvised, or collaborative work. For all that, it was a deeply engrossing evening. The first work was Mauricio Kagel’s Con Voce, ‘for three mute players’. The clue is in the title, with the work opening like a putative companion piece to Cage’s 4’33, the three players intense, motionless and… utterly silent. For a very long time! Or, until, as Kagel’s direction has it ‘the listeners’ level of attention is in danger of crumbling’. A piece that demands, and was given, great commitment and concentration from the players.

The next piece was the premier of a new composition by American composer Heather Stebbins, who it seems had crossed paths with the CoPeCo cohort in Tallin. A great piece, called Crow song, a duet for oboe and cello, working from tentative, unvoiced sounds through to something approaching a melodic shape, and back again. Émilie then gave a performance of Enno Poppe‘s work for solo cello Herz, all microtones and glisses, beautifully played with an ethereal and un-cello-like tone.

The last piece was Dmaathen by Iannis Xenakis, for oboe and percussion. I do enjoy this kind of piece, but admittedly an odd combination: I found my attention drawn more to the percussion writing than to perhaps rather dominated oboe.

I’m looking forward later this week to meeting up with Konstantina Orlandatou who coordinates the CoPeCo programme in Hamburg. Of course, this is a tragically bad time to be even thinking about European collaborations, but… it would be great if we could set up some sort of partnerships along these lines beteen the RCS and comparable institutions on the continent.

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