At Radial Systems V: Reviewing Inside Partita

It was going to take quite a performance on Sunday for the audience of Inside Partita not to regret coming inside on a beautiful evening. Hosted at Radial Systems V, the audience sat on cardboard boxes that encircled the darkened performance space with only sparse lighting effects. But Inside Partita had ambitious aims. Described as a multi-dimensional ‘Klangraum’ for violin, dance and electronics, it aimed to give a new definition of Bach’s Partitas for solo violin in drawing together three artists from three different mediums.

This combination of music from an older era (Bach’s) with contemporary dance and electronic music was an adventurous one, and it had mixed results. What was interesting was how the different mediums related to one another. One part would frequently highlight or change our perception of something else in another. For example, the concert opened with composer Fabian Russ’s heavy electronic music. Its heavy, beating bass was unnerving. This made for an even more striking contrast when Baroque violinist Midori Seiler made her first entrance. Aided by Seiler’s positioning off-stage, the violin sounded distant. Bach’s normally intimate work for solo violin became full of lament and loneliness.

The interaction between Seiler and dancer/choreographer Renate Graziadie was enrapturing to watch too. Although Seiler remained attached to her violin, her physical presence also played an important role. Watching the two performers look into each other’s eyes with unrelenting concentration, or observing Seiler play as though she were speaking to Graziadie made the audience feel they were witnessing an extremely personal interaction. Though this imagined interaction was removed from our real world, it actually drew us in further. We wanted to know the nature of their relationship, or even, what exactly were they saying to each other?

Bach’s Partitas are abstract musical pieces. There is no narrative, and the listener gains satisfaction purely from listening to the work’s internal musical logic. Perhaps unexpectedly, Inside Partita did not use the addition of dance or electronic music to add some kind of narrative to Bach’s music. There was therefore a danger that Inside Partita could become directionless – something that was not altogether avoided. In some moments there was too much going on. I wanted to focus on the violin or the dancer, but instead they distracted from each other. In contrast, near the end of the concert we were able to concentrate fully on Seiler’s playing, as she moved into a hidden corner to play alone. While initially pleasing, this went on for some time. It felt as though Bach’s music was now something to get through, rather than something to think about anew.

Inside Partita took Bach’s Partitas as a starting point. Dance and electronic music was then added to them. This is not necessarily a bad idea, but the reasons why extra parts should be added to Bach’s already perfectly complete music should be good ones – Bach’s Partitas are not exactly demanding an update. A better method might have been to start the other way around: to begin with the new (dance and electronic music) then show how the old can change it.

Violin Midori Seiler
Composition, electronics and sound concept Fabian Russ
Dance and choreography Renate Graziadei/ laborgras
Choreography and dramaturgy Arthur Stäldi / laborgras
Idea and Dramaturgy Folkert Uhde
Costume Chantal Margiotta
Lighting Lutz Deppe
Sound technology Carlo Grippa
Software Egor Poliakov

Radial Systems V

Hazel is a an arts and culture writer based in Berlin. Classical music might be her speciality, but all things artsy, cultural and interesting also fit her palette. Follow her on Twitter with @hazel_rowland or read her blog here.

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