About Kent Nagano and the “Wagner Readings” (April 2018)

In the beginning of April 2018 Kent Nagano, Concerto Köln and musicians of the project “Wagner Readings” met for the first music workshop in Cologne. On the occasion of this workshop, Concerto Köln presented a public talk with Kent Nagano and radio presenter Michael Schwalb.

Read here an article about the talk and the development of the Wagner Readings in Cologne’s daily newspaper Kölner Stadtanzeiger. (German language)

Please find parts of this article translated into English below:

Kent Nagano on the “Ring” collaboration with Concerto Köln

“As we began with the workshops, we threw time out the window.” A rather odd expression used by the star conductor, Kent Nagano, in conversation with the WDR editor, Michael Schwalb. Throwing time out the window – how? Usually, Nagano explains, orchestral work is dictated by time: until the performance, both ensemble and conductor must achieve a certain level of interpretation during rehearsals or else there is potential for failure.

However, the scientific-artistic project, “Wagner Readings”, sponsored by the Arts Foundation NRW and launched by the current general music director of the Hamburg State Opera together with the early music ensemble, Concerto Köln, does away with this time pressure completely: “What does Wagner’s ‘Martellato’ indication mean? We discussed this for 45 minutes.” Obviously this wouldn’t be possible within a normal rehearsal time frame.

But the “Wagner Readings” are quite simply not normal: the first performances of the “Ring” are not scheduled to take place until 2021 – and those in a mode that is commonly referred to as “historically-informed.” But what exactly does that entail in the case of this operatic tetralogy? Which vocal and playing techniques did Wagner have in mind? All of this is currently undergoing research and being developed in close collaboration with musicologists. Concerto Köln will subsequently attempt to put it into practice under Nagano’s direction. “There are more questions than answers. We’re linked by the common ground of the unknown”, he candidly admits in the Balloni Hall located in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district.

(Article written by Markus Schwering, translated into English by Jennifer Smyth.)

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