Big Ears, Wolf’s Shadows and a Wunderkind

The Carinthischer Sommer opens with Robert Pfaller and the twelve-year-old composer Alma Deutscher

Michael Cerha

Villach – The Carinthischer Sommer has become more poetic, carefree and playful.

In the second year of the directorship of Holger Bleck, some still had fading Saturday Night Fever from the previous day’s crossover party in the old Brauhaus, as Martha Labil, alias Laschkolnig, danced down a rope on the Villach Congress Center at the formal opening of the festival.

The mayors of the affected communities had warned against deviating from anchoring the Carinthischer Sommer on the Drau and Lake Ossiach. The discourse on small scale local patriotism was dealt with by the culture philosopher Robert Pfaller in the ceremonial opening speech as he called for art to inject liveliness into all of society.

The horizon was so broad that the appeal by Minister of Culture Thomas Drozda to maintain the social state didn’t even sound like election campaigning, but rather a permissible stretching of the term “culture”.

Carinthia’s provincial Minister of Culture Christian Benger welcomed the sacred above secular power, as if Henry IV were still on his pilgrimage to Canossa. But the time expressions at the ceremony were displaced anyway: provincial Governor Peter Kaiser declared the buffet to be open after it had long since been stormed and soon the Vienna Chamber Orchestra under Joji Hattori enchanted the guests with a unique visit to the totally anachronistic, thereby thoroughly beautiful children’s music room of the twelve-year-old English girl, Alma Deutscher.

Everything will be OK

Pfaller was right. His philosophical deliberations about art as a catalyst for liveliness coming to a point: “I’ve forgotten everything that has happened in my life. But I’ve been to the Carinthischer Sommer. I have lived!”

It would be petty to go into a discussion about contemporary style. Alma Deutscher uses naive harmonies to relate stories from her fairy tale world so that all seriousness leaves the faces of the orchestra musicians. The enjoyment that Joji Hattori visibly shares from the podium encompasses the whole audience. Everyone’s ears become bigger.

When the wolf’s shadow appears here and there, the certainty always remains that all will be well in the end: in the first, partially newly revised Violin Concerto from 2015 and in the premiere of the Piano Concerto No.1, written this year.

In both pieces, the exceptional young musician was at the forefront, first with the violin and then at the piano, on which she demonstrated her improvisational art as an encore. The audience cheered.

Translation by John Allan Moffat