Thursday 9 April 2020, 8.30pm
Xenia Pestova Bennett / piano
Karlheinz Essl / live electronics
Pioneering Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl offers a radical reinterpretation of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Time-stretched harmonies are manipulated in real time and played back through spatialised loudspeakers in between the variations played by virtuoso pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett, bringing together baroque and contemporary sound worlds. This new reimagining of Bach’s vision juxtaposes the variations in a new strictly symmetrical structure which reflects the binary form of the original aria (a microcosm within a macrocosm with binary divisions commonly found in digital systems). No two performances are the same due to the live algorithmic generation of the electronic interludes. Gold.Berg.Werk transcends itself and becomes a new piece in its own right, creating a sense of space and distance unimaginable in Bach's time.
“an uncompromising artist” – Textura
“one of the leading performers of contemporary, non-conformist music” – HisVoice
Described as “a powerhouse of contemporary keyboard repertoire” (Tempo), “stunning” (Wales Arts Review), “ravishing” (Pizzicato) and “remarkably sensuous” (New Zealand Herald) in the international press, pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett's performances have earned her a reputation as a leading interpreter of uncompromising repertoire alongside masterpieces from the past. Xenia’s commitment to promoting music by living composers inspired her to commission dozens of new works and collaborate with major innovators in contemporary music. Her widely acclaimed recordings of core piano duo works of the Twentieth Century by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen with Pascal Meyer are available on four CDs for Naxos Records. Her evocative solo debut of premiere recordings for the Innova label titled “Shadow Piano” was described as a “terrific album of dark, probing music” by the Chicago Reader. Xenia's own compositions are available on Diatribe Records and TakuRoku. Her full-length album "Atomic Legacies" features Ligeti Quartet and the Magnetic Resonator Piano. Highlighted in Bandcamp's "Best of Contemporary Classical" in 2020, the album was described as "boldly conceived and brilliantly realised... a foretaste of things to come" in The Wire (Julian Cowley), "intoxicating, extraordinarily eerie and evocative” (Bernard Clarke, RTE LyricFM), "melancholy... heart-swells and proper feelings” (Jennifer Lucy Allan, The Quietus) and "a nuclear musical reaction that produces that great, irradiated beauty" (Tom Service, BBC Radio 3). Xenia's subsequent digital EP "Atonal Electronic Chamber Music for Cats" takes an unexpected turn-around, using vintage synthesizers in an exploration of 1990's techno-art-pop nostalgia.