Thomas Simaku performs at 2019 World Music Days

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 17, 2019 13:06

Thomas Simaku performs at 2019 World Music Days

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  • “The most memorable moment of the evening, however, came at the climax of Thomas Simaku’s La Leggiadra Luna (The Beautiful Moon), in which a thundering eight-note chord reverberated around the St Nicholas’ rafters for what felt like an eternity.”

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TIRANA, May 12- The piece La Leggiadra Luna by Albanian composer Thomas Simaku was performed at the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) – World Music Days in Tallinn on 4 May 2019. Composed for mixed choir a cappella, this work is a setting of Sappho’s poem translated from ancient Greek into modern Italian by the Nobel Prize-winning Sicilian poet Salvatore Quasimodo, and has previously received its world premiere by the 24 vocal ensemble at the University of York.

Simaku’s works have been selected by international juries in ten editions of this festival, which has been described as the “Music Olympics.” Founded in 1922, the ISCM Festival is the oldest forum of new music in the world, which takes place every year in a different country. Simaku’s piece in the 2019 edition of ISCM was performed by the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Kaspars Putniņš. The concert was broadcasted live on national radio, and transferred across Europe through the European Broadcasting Union. Thomas Simaku was one of three British composers representing the UK at this prestigious festival this year.

In his review of the concert Timmy Fisher wrote that “the most memorable moment of the evening, however, came at the climax of Thomas Simaku’s La Leggiadra Luna (The Beautiful Moon), in which a thundering eight-note chord reverberated around the St Nicholas’ rafters for what felt like an eternity.”

Simaku was born in Kavaje in 1958 and grew up surrounded by music. He was sent to the music school of Durres when he was 14 years old to study oboe, accordion, harmony & counterpoint. After the music school in Durrës, Simaku enrolled in the State Conservatory of Music in the capital Tirana, studying composition under Tonin Harapi. Then he moved to England in 1991, when he was 33 years old, forced to start his career path all over again. As postgraduate studies he enrolled at York University for a PhD in composition, where he studied with David Blake. Blake introduced him to the Second Viennese School, where Simaku immersed himself into the music banned in Albania. Bartok, Stravinsky, Berio, Boulez, Birtwistle, Xenakis, Lutoslawski et al., have all had their input during his study years at York. But it was with the music of Ligeti and Kurtag that Simaku felt he discovered something very special, which was more than an inspiration to him.

Simaku faced many challenges while trying to settle in UK, both in learning a new language, but also having to miss his father’s funeral because he couldn’t leave the country. Nevertheless, he was the Leonard Bernstein Fellow in Composition at Tanglewood Music Centre, USA studying with Bernard Rands, and a fellow at the Composers’ Workshop, California State University with Brian Ferneyhough. Simaku’s music has been reaching audiences across Europe, the USA and further afield for more than two decades, and it has been awarded a host of accolades for its expressive qualities and its unique blend of intensity and modernism.

His latest piece was written for six musicians of Klangforum Wien. His latest String Quartet (No 5), commissioned by the HCMF and first performed in 2015, was written specifically for Quatuor Diotima, will be recorded later in 2019 for a new CD with the Swedish label BIS Records to be released in 2020. He has also composed The Scream for String orchestra based on the iconic painting by Edvard Munch, which received its world premiere in 2017 performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

“I could say that an important characteristic of my musical language is putting together elements from disparate musical cultures. Often, complex chordal structures or multi-layered textural formats are reduced to just one single note which becomes a kind of ‘atomistic compression’ with a magnetic quality, as it were, around which various colouristic elements orbit freely,” said Simaku regarding his musical language. 

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Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 17, 2019 13:06