It is important to have a secret, a premonition of things unknown. It fills life with something impersonal, a numinosum. - C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
This album features works by composers for whom the conception and creation of music was intimately bound up with a religious attitude towards the world. Before the birth of aesthetics in the 18th century, the symbolic or “external” meanings of music resided in the music itself; neither its expressiveness nor its purpose as an integral part of social and religious rituals were separated from a larger context of moral and spiritual considerations. In this sense, although their tonal languages and forms differ greatly, later composers such as Liszt, Franck and Messiaen followed the spirit of Bach, reflecting a musical philosophy in which musical means and theological ends were deeply intertwined, if not one and the same.
What impact does a greater awareness of the symbolic realities of religious thought, which inspired the music in the first place, have on how we — the interpreter and the listener — hear the music, and what meanings we find within it? In the accompanying essay on the following pages, I offer some observations about the program and about art more generally from a philosophical and metaphysical perspective. I propose that the experience of art — which, like the religious experience, is an encounter with the world and the inexplicable — has the potential of challenging the boundaries between self and other.
In those instances where the pull towards something other is of such magnitude that it renders the self utterly powerless and will-less, we are in the presence of the numinosum. The numinous quality resides in the phenomenon itself and is a dynamic force that takes hold of and acts upon the subject. The word derives from the Latin numen, meaning ‘divine power’ or ‘spirit’, and was coined by Rudolf Otto in his book Das Heilige, which explores the non-rational elements underpinning personal belief, and the role that spontaneous, immediate experiences play in this respect. In its adjective form, the numinous evokes the words luminous and ominous; it hints at both emanating light and at the overwhelming sense of the unknown.
The recording of the album took place in the winter of 2020 in a church on the remote Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. During the so-called mørketid — literally “dark-time” or dark season — the light which illuminates the skies from below the horizon for only a few hours a day holds a greater meaning. This atmosphere was, I believe, very appropriate to this particular music, and certainly had an impact on the sessions. In the North, the sense that light acquires its significance from its absence or negation is more visceral. If darkness is the great unknown, something without properties and beyond measurement, its meta-physical presence is often what inspires the more immediate qualities of experience. And as illumination stands forth in contrast with the obscure, it is also within the unknown that possibility and becoming lie.
The Norwegian pianist Joachim Carr has over the past few years established himself as one of the most exciting musicians to emerge from Scandinavia.
He is the winner of several international prizes, including the First Prize, the Audience Award as well as the Orchestra Prize of the Bergen Philharmonic at the 14th International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition in 2014. The previous year, he had received the coup de coeur Prize for his recital at the 25th Concours Clara Haskil. Following his debut recital at the Oslo University Aula in 2015 – a long- standing tradition in Norwegian musical life – he received the Robert Levin Prize. For several years, he has also been a recipient of the Norwegian Government Grant for Artists.
A versatile chamber musician, he won several prizes in duo and trio formations, most notably the First Prizes at the 10th Concours International de Musique de Chambre de Lyon and at the Boris Pergamenschikow Prize for contemporary chamber music in Berlin. His chamber music partners have included Antje Weithaas, Radovan Vlatkovic, Lars Anders Tomter, Bruno Philippe, Hayoung Choi, Ingrid Fliter, Bertrand Chamayou and the Doric String Quartet.
As a recitalist and in various chamber music formations he has performed at the Klavierfestival Ruhr, Zermatt Festival, Bergen International Festival, Lofoten Piano Festival, Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, Bach Festival Moscow, PODIUM Festival Esslingen, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Salzburger Kammermusikfestival.
With concerto repertoire, he has appeared with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, the Arctic Philharmonic and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, collaborating with conductors such as Alexander Vedernikov, Gintaras Rinkevicius, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Arvid Engegård, Eivind Aadland and Bjarte Engeset. At the closing concert of the Bergen International Festival in 2017, he had the honour of performing the Grieg Concerto with the Bergen Philharmonic under John Storgårds.
Born 1988 in Bergen, Carr received important musical impulses in his youth from pianists Jan Henrik Kayser, Håvard Gimse and Leif Ove Andsnes. After studies at the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo with Czech pedagogue Jiri Hlinka, he moved to Berlin and continued his postgraduate studies with Eldar Nebolsin at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler”. In later years he has received invaluable advice from Ferenc Rados and Rita Wagner.
His debut album for Claves Records, released in 2014, and featuring early works by Schumann, Brahms and Berg was highly praised by critics, receiving the 5 Diapason accolade by the French magazine. He has since recorded for Naxos (works by Liszt and Halfdan Cleve); and for Avi- music (Live Recordings, Klavierfestival Ruhr).
Apart from performing the classical repertoire, with a special emphasis on the Romantic and early 20th century epochs, he is committed to including his own improvisations into concert programs. He regularly cooperates with jazz and folk musicians, and is also a member of the Glorvigen Tango Quartet.
On the sensory and metaphysical realities of music
An essay in three parts (ENG) by Joachim Carr
Read it in the booklet