© Renate Rohlfing. All rights reserved.

Sankt Peter

Happy 2014! After LONGLEASH’s December performance in Austria, I traveled to Germany and spent New Year’s Eve in the beautiful city of Cologne. I wasn’t expecting my German holiday to inspire a new-music related blog post -- but Cologne turned out to be full of surprises. A stronghold of German Catholicism, Cologne is known for its Dom and picturesque views of the Rhein. In the midst of all this, there is a Jesuit church, Sankt Peter – which also happens to be a center for contemporary art and music. The Jesuits’ pledge to educate their community is evident in their contemporary art series, held at the so-called “Kunststation” in the basement level of Sankt Peter. The Kunststation’s concert series often features Sankt Peter’s incredible organ, which has both vertical and horizontal pipes. The organ is the unmistakable visual centerpiece of the sanctuary, and my attention was immediately drawn up toward the organ’s glistening silver pipes, illuminated by stained glass. For Silvester (New Year's Eve), Sankt Peter traditionally hosts a concert featuring the virtuoso organist Domenick Susteck. This year, I was excited to discover that Susteck would perform an all-Ligeti program! This celebration of Ligeti’s work seemed fitting, as the city of Cologne held a special significance in Ligeti’s career. Ligeti worked at the radio station’s electronic studio alongside composers like Stockhausen and Kagel, and this environment inspired the electronic~like acoustic textures found in some of his works. Also -- the organ at Sankt Peter is one of the few in the world that can handle the wind pressure required by Ligeti’s organ writing, so this truly was a rare and valuable opportunity to hear these works. I expected this late-night concert on New Year's Eve to draw a few Ligeti fans and a small section of the contemporary art community. Imagine my surprise, then, at the 200+ audience members who packed into this modest~sized church for the performance! Not only was the music itself wonderful, but the head priest also read selected transcripts of interviews given by Ligeti himself. I will never forget the experience of hearing Ligeti’s organ works performed in Sankt Peter’s superb acoustic, combined with the sounds of New Year’s Eve fireworks. Perhaps LONGLEASH should start a New Year's tradition of its own in New York City. My stay in Cologne proved to me that there is a perpetual desire for great performances of new music, regardless of time or place... even on a cold, bustling New Year's Eve in Germany.