William Lang: exceptional musician performing Xenakis during Ostrava days! or what means being an artist

Ostrava centre for new music is organizing an exceptional biennial event, Ostrava days of new music, lasting for three weeks (including residential program for composers offering space to experience and share their work with colleagues from all over the world and listen to lectures and have individual lessons with masters in this domain)! The official beginning of this festival starts with the first concert that this year took place the 21st August followed by a row of exceptional concerts bringing pieces you can rarely listen to elsewhere or they have been world premiers (here I would like to underline the opportunity of the residents to present their works interpreted by Ostravská banda – ensemble of unique musicians, contemporary music lovers and amazing individuals in one!).

William Lang, photo: archive of Ostrava centre for new music

William Lang, photo: archive of Ostrava centre for new music

I personally experienced some of the best musical events of my life during the festival. One of them was concert on 26th of August 8.30 pm in Philharmonic hall. Namely because of having opportunity to listen to (or better: to experience) Iannis Xenakis “Troorkh” performed by American trombonist William Lang and Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra. This piece is enormously difficult, probably the most difficult piece for solo trombone therefore so rarely performed (probably just 4 times except the one from Ostrava). I do not know the piece so I can hardly compare Lang´s interpretation to others, anyway, in this case it would not be relevant. What I could very well observe that night was a man with open spirit and incredible courage to make the best out of this piece and bring its essence to public in the most direct way and honest way. One would be tempted to feed own ego being able to interpret this piece on such a level, fortunately this has never happened in William´s case and therefore all of us could become one channel of flowing energy that this piece undoubtedly contains in big amounts. There was no more orchestra, no more soloist, no more public and no more conductor. Just perfect message which connected all of us in one whole and charged us with pure energy. Humility and respect of this musician was the core for making this possible. Not only he had to make it technically, that I guess just few of the musicians in the world would be able to, he had to deal with orchestra and take it on his wave that might not be easy many times. Well-known Romanian pianist and teacher once said: you need to play it as you would walk with bare chest towards the loaded barrel of battle tank!

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Vilém Veverka, photo: archive of Ostrava centre for new music

One piece before we could listen to Morton Feldman´s piece called “Oboe and orchestra” interpreted by Vilém Veverka. We literally could see the bare chest too… This oboe player is mastering exceptional technical qualities. However still did not reach what William Lang´s mastered greatly: his function in all this happening called interpretation what is a pity as long as he has really technical possibilities allowing him being a great part of the masterpiece. It has been quite difficult to focus on piece itself as long as all his efforts leaded public´s attention to his person that shown up necessity for admiration and attention. I would gladly do it if this handsome man would focus on the message of the music instead.

Let´s see what happens psychologically in both cases. If interpret has need to attract attention to himself he is forcing this comparison between himself and people in the audience. And there are so many different characters among people in audience. Probably small percentage can enjoy admiring a handsome man dealing with difficult piece. Nevertheless, there is a big amount of them who came to listen to music and this disturbance might turn really annoying – such situation requires to make an effort to overcome interpret´s ego and try to focus on music, imagining how it would sound without this disturbing unit. The result: pointless energy loss.

In case of William Lang we were all invited to enjoy this challenging piece and somehow join him effortlessly. We could have charged ourselves with a great deal of energy brought by all his personal qualities and positive emotions reflected in the piece. The result: energy win!

Great artists know their function is being a perfect channel for music and medium to transmit it further, not to block it around their own ego.

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