Utah Symphony and Music Director Thierry Fischer Present Second World Premiere in One Week, “Longing from Afar” By Dai Fujikura, Recorded Live on Zoom
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (May 29, 2020) – Utah Symphony musicians and Music Director Thierry Fischer are presenting the world premiere by composer Dai Fujikura, a tele-performed orchestra version of his piece entitled, “Longing From Afar,” which was recorded while the 22 musicians performed together on video conferencing tool Zoom. The world premiere will take place on Saturday, May 30 at 11 AM (MST) on YouTube and Facebook.
This marks the Utah Symphony’s second virtual world premiere of a new work by a contemporary composer in one week. Last Friday, May 22, the orchestra streamed a world premiere of “Fanfare for Hope and Solidarity” by Chicago-based composer Augusta Read Thomas on YouTube and Facebook.
“As a result of social distancing during the Covid 19 pandemic, I was considering how all musicians make sound together even when we are all physically far apart…[performing] at home due to lockdown,” said Mr. Fujikura from his home in London, England. “Inspired by this, I designed this work to be performed with a conductor, which is unlike many other open score works. The conductor has a direct influence on the sound of the music working in ensemble with other musicians.”
Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer collaborated in 2009 with Mr. Fujikura on his Piano Concerto AMPERE with Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. In mid-April, Mr. Fujikura wrote to him and asked if he wanted to collaborate on the world premiere of an orchestral version of “Longing From Afar,” an open score piece he originally debuted in March with frequent Utah Symphony guest conductor Kazuki Yamada and his choir.
“As music director what a privilege it was to have a rehearsal working with the musicians of the orchestra and then to record this live with them just three days later,” said Maestro Fischer, from his home in Geneva, Switzerland. “I was thankful that technology was able to put us together to interact at the same time in different places on the planet. To capture a live moment between a music director in Europe and musicians in America creating music together, it was very special for me. I loved it.”
Mr. Fujikura’s previous work reflects precision in every single element of rhythm and pitch. It was a new experience for him to relinquish aspects of control in his composition, incorporating and embracing the current global circumstances that push the envelope of music he would normally write.
“Part of the beauty of the piece is that our ability to play rhythms together is totally impossible, giving the music a haunting, disconnected feel. Listening to ‘Longing From Afar’ is a spacious, meditative experience. The musicians are striving to be together, and yet Dai’s piece embraces a sense of displacement,” said Principal Keyboard Jason Hardink, who is closely involved in the creative and artistic process behind the project, which was orchestrated for 22 Utah Symphony orchestra members.
“The world has momentarily stopped. Our desire for creativity is multiplied,” said Maestro Fischer, whose active support of contemporary composers has been one of the calling cards of his decade-long tenure as music director. “New music is a call to look, listen, and guess what is rarely said. New music reveals the gods and demons hiding in the depths of our souls, and then transforms them into a ‘transfiguring beauty’.“
Because of lag time and other variables of online platforms like Zoom, the recording of “Longing From Afar” creates a beautiful atmospheric sound that affects the fabric of the music in a fluid, cohesive, and very live way. “It almost sounds like we are playing in a digital echo chamber,” explained Mr. Hardink. “It is an act of reaching, of trying to connect, to play together in rhythm. Fujikura embraces the limitations of physical separation to create poignant and highly expressive music.”
The experience and ethos of the piece is one of contemplation and emotional bonds that reach across physical distance, represented by a community transcending space and distance. The simplicity of this is depicted in the musical and emotional connection achieved between the musicians who are playing together on Zoom while being physically apart.
“’Longing from afar’ is my first composition which has some freedom left to the musicians. Also the work celebrates the ‘latency’ of the internet, as it was designed to be tele-performed. All musicians are playing from their own homes, but playing together through the internet. This brings the orchestration to whole new level,” said Mr. Fujikura. “It is so interesting every conductor would shape this work differently, and I am so glad that Thierry and Utah Symphony is the first symphony orchestra to play this work.
A video to accompany the music was created by Andrea Peterson. Utah Symphony musicians recorded the music in their homes, and Mr. Fujikura mixed, mastered and edited the audio. Said Mr. Fujikura: “The act of trying to be together and not succeeding IS the piece.”
Since his appointment as Music Director in 2009, Maestro Fischer has expressed an ongoing commitment to commissioning new music for orchestra from today’s leading generations of composers both established and new voices. During his tenure, the orchestra has commissioned and premiered works by Simon Holt, Michael Jarrell, and Tristan Murail, among other composers. In February 2015, Ms. Thomas wrote a Utah Symphony-commissioned piece entitled “EOS (Goddess of the Dawn), A Ballet for Orchestra,” which she said, “exhibits a kaleidoscopic variety of rhythmic syntaxes, radiant colors, and resonant harmonic fields.” The orchestra later released a live recording of the world premiere of “Dawn to Dust” along with works by two other contemporary American composers: “Control (Five Landscapes for Orchestra)” by Nico Muhly, and “Switch,” a percussion concerto by Andrew Norman with soloist Colin Currie. During the 2020-21 season, Maestro Fischer and the Utah Symphony have commissioned composer Arlene Sierra’s “Bird Symphony,” which is scheduled to be premiered at its April 23 & 24, 2021 performances at Abravanel Hall.