Mauricio Kagel's Match for two cellos and percussion
performed at Staunton Music Festival
August 12, 2018
Blackfriars Playhouse, Staunton, VA
Michael Unterman, cello
Jan Mueller-Szeraws, cello
I-Jen Fang, percussion
video by Stewart Searle
About the Music
Sports often borrow the language and metaphors of war: one team “defends,” another “launches an all-out attack,” opponents go “head-to-head” until a winner is crowned. Even music has had recourse to such analogies, as when a concerto soloist “battles” against the larger ensemble or when we speak of a composer’s “strategy” in a particular work. But it’s a rarity when all three of those arenas overlap: conflict, sports, and music. Match by Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008) is one such case. Composed in 1964, Match features three players in an aural and visual tennis match; think Federer vs. Nadal with Stradivarii. Two cellists face-off under the watchful eye of a percussionist functioning—as you might guess—as the chair umpire. All three performers are called upon to produce a dizzying variety of nontraditional sounds. For the cellists this means trilling harmonics, col legno, aggressive pizzicato, use of fingernails, and striking the body of the instrument. The percussionist is more accustomed to such physicality. In addition to officiating the unruly cellists, she is also called upon to provide rhythmic pulse throughout.
Beyond all musical aspects, there is clearly a great deal of theatricality involved in Kagel’s conception. Born in Argentina to Russian parents who had fled the Soviet Union in the 1920s, Kagel spent the majority of his life in Germany. He taught for many years at the famous Darmstadt Summer Institute alongside people like John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, and other voices of the avant-garde. He did compose works in traditional genres, but his absurdist works that involve visual spectacle and physical interaction between musicians have become his trademark. Kagel’s style, so evocatively expressed in Match, embraces the confrontational polemics of Dadaism, openly questioning the role of art in modern society.
© Jason Stell, 2018
Michael Unterman enjoys a busy performing career on both modern and baroque cellos, primarily as a member of A Far Cry and as principal cellist of Boston Baroque, earning Grammy nominations with both groups in 2019. As a cellist who thrives in all types of musical roles, Michael has received critical praise for his “nuanced, sensitive, and wholly gorgeous collaboration” (Classical Scene). His programs for A Far Cry have been singled out as “just the kind of imaginative artistic agenda that more groups should be prodded to try” (Boston Globe). In addition to degrees from New England Conservatory and the Juilliard School, Michael was a Fulbright Scholar to Barcelona in 2008.
Cellist and Artist-in-Residence at the College of the Holy Cross, Jan Müller-Szeraws' solo-engagements have included performances with the New England Philharmonic, Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Orquesta Sinfónica de Chile with repertoire ranging from traditional concertos to contemporary compositions. He is member of Boston Musica Viva and can be heard frequently in recitals across New England and abroad. Recently he has been pairing Bach’s Cello Suites with works by Shirish Korde in his project “Bach & Ragas”. He has been guest professor at the Universidad Católica de Chile, as well as guest principal cellist for the Bamberg Symphony in Germany.
I-Jen Fang joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 2005 and as the Principal Timpanist and Percussionist of the Charlottesville Symphony. She received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University, MM from Northwestern University and DMA degree from the University of North Texas. I-Jen has performed or recorded with artists such as Keiko Abe, William Cahn, Christopher Deane, Mark Ford, Mike Mainieri, Attacca Percussion Group, and Da Capo Chamber Players. She has performed as marimba soloist in Taiwan, U.S., Austria, France, Hungary, Romania, and South Africa and appeared as a featured performer at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. I-Jen Fang is an Innovative Percussion Artist.
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