Interviews

Matias Vestergård Debut

Matias Vestergård (b. 1989) has already written a chamber opera, a children's ballet, an orchestra work and several chamber- and choir works. On 23 March he graduates from the Royal Danish Academy of Music with a debut concert that according to the composer himself unites the lyrical, the profound and the silly. We spoke with Matias Vestergård about his work.

 "I always think of my music as melodies or polyphony, but it isn't fully satisfactory to me, just to write a beautiful melody," Matias Vestergård tells about his approach to instrumental music. "I like it when the melody is constrained by some kind of obstacle that makes it particularly precious." Matias Vestergård finds these obstacles in the specific instruments he writes for:

 "It is exciting to identify the completely individual opportunities and challenges of each instrument and then explore and exploit them musically," he says. Examples of this can be heard in the work OBSTACLE (2019) for cello and piano, which Vestergård describes as quite an obstacle course for the cellist. "Throughout the piece, there is a battle going on between the cello and the piano, and the piece is really hard to play, in particular for the cellist," Matias Vestergård explains. "And then in the end it is all redeemed in a cheesy melody." In the string quartet TRÆK (2019), the strings at some point play on both sides of the bridge to create a sonorous illusion of two string quartets. In KORTE BREVE FRA EN LANG REJSE (2022), the clarinettist plays two clarinets at once, a technique that both looks silly and is extremely challenging for the musician, but which results in music that is extra special. 

"To me, there is a certain poetry inherent in the technical features that belong to one specific instrument. That idea has a great influence on my instrumental works," Matias Vestergård concludes. And how do the musicians react to the extra challenges? Mostly quite well. "I normally don't get any complaints from the musicians - at least not to my face," Matias Vestergård laughs. "Usually, the struggle seems justified by the music it results in - when they get there," he adds.

A text like a blueprint

 The programme for the debut concert includes two vocal works: the choral work REQUIEM (2020) with texts by the author Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) and the audio drama KORTE BREVE FRA EN LANG REJSE based on a travelogue by the Danish author Ingeborg Stuckenberg (1866-1904). Matias Vestergård's approach to writing vocal music is very different from the approach to instrumental music: "As soon as text is involved, I am much more at ease when it comes to writing melodies," he says.

 “A text is like an architect's drawing. If the text really speaks to you, it's like looking at a blueprint, and all you have to do is build the house. Of course, you have to decide for yourself whether the door should be green or blue, but the entire structure is already there," Matias Vestergård explains.

 Matias Vestergård has collaborated with the author Lea Marie Løppenthin for a number of his works, including his first opera, TITANIC. She has been a great source of inspiration for him since he first read her poems. "Her texts contain a great mix of something lyrical, something extremely silly and something profound. These are all elements in my personality, but previously I have struggled to figure out how to embrace this in my music. My encounter with Lea's writing helped me on my way to exploring what at first glance seems like a rather silly approach to the instruments, which can suddenly trigger something profound and beautiful.”

"The texts in REQUIEM are from Rainer Marie Rilke's first Duineser Elegie. It is such a beautiful and poetic text with an existentialistic and very powerful opening," Matias Vestergård says. "When writing the music for this I tried to stay in the background, creating various colours or backdrops that the text could unfold upon without getting in the way of the text or taking something away from it. To me, this was an exercise in moderation."

KORTE BREVE FRA EN LANG REJSE is an audio drama presenting Ingeborg Stuckenberg's text in various voices - an actor, a singer, a male choir and an orchestra. "When I read the text the first time five or six years ago, I thought right away that I wanted to use this for my debut concert. Her writing contains some of the same distinctions as Lea Marie Løppenthin's; the combination of the lyrical and... not exactly silly, but sarcastic tone - a poetic climax and a down to earth observation are never far apart in her text.”

The real world awaits

On the other side of the debut concert, "the real world" awaits, but for Matias Vestergård upcoming performances and commissions are already on the calendar. "It is an amazing privilege to be a student at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. You receive so much help and support in terms of having your music performed," Matias Vestergård says and continues: "But I feel that the time is right for me to leave the school. I have been extremely lucky that people are interested in my work and I already have various upcoming projects and commissions."

Most recently, he just finished writing the opera LISBON FLOOR with libretto by Lea Marie Løppenthin. Matias Vestergård describes it as a horror-comedy: "Seven people move into a shared apartment. It is a luxury building that was never completed because the financing went bad, and on that note, the building is haunted by evil spirits. With Lea Marie Løppenthin's writing, the story and the portrayal of the characters are SO funny," Matias Vestergård states. LISBON FLOOR will be premiered at the Copenhagen Opera Festival in August 2022.

Matias Vestergård: Debut

Wednesday 23 March, 19:30 Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen (DK) 

Performed by Andrew Power, cello; Filip Štrauch, piano; NOVO Quartet; Det Unge VokalEnsemble; Poul Emborg, conductor; Signe Asmussen, singer; Signe Thielsen, actor; Johan Klint Sandberg, director; Clément Mao Takacs, conductor; DKDM Sinfonietta; Yaw Darko, light; Svend Hjelholt, sound.

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