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Thom Yorke's Classical Debut

The singer of the band Radiohead presents his first classical work »Don’t Fear the Light« at the Elbphilharmonie.

Thom Yorke has influenced the international music scene in recent decades like few other artists have. He shaped Radiohead's forward-looking sound with his distinctive soft falsetto. As their lead singer and songwriter, he has won numerous awards, including several Grammys. Only last week, Radiohead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in recognition of its artistic merits. Yorke, who has never shown much interest in media hype, did not attend the ceremony, explaining that he was too busy with rehearsals for his new piece »Don’t Fear the Light«.

Minimalist Dream House

Video (oben): Einblicke in die Probe und Interview mit dem Ensemble

Foto (unten): Uraufführung von »Don’t Fear the Light« in Paris

Thom Yorke after the premiere on 7 April 2019 in Paris, with Katia and Marielle Labèque, Bryce Dessner (left) and David Chalmin (right)
Thom Yorke after the premiere on 7 April 2019 in Paris, with Katia and Marielle Labèque, Bryce Dessner (left) and David Chalmin (right) © Avatam Studio

This is just like Yorke, who has always preferred working on something new to resting on his laurels. When the Radiohead song »Creep« got hyped up into a worldwide hit, the band responded by deleting it from their live programme. When the record label warned the band in 1997 that releasing the third Radiohead album »OK Computer«, which broke with the traditional Britpop sound, was equivalent to artistic suicide, they went ahead anyways – and the new record was a huge success. In the following years, Radiohead stuck to this pattern and reinvented themselves time after time. And Yorke himself has never stood still for long: last year, for example, he wrote his first film soundtrack – the music to Luca Guadagnino's remake of the cult horror movie »Suspiria«.

Thom Yorke presents his new work on 10 April at the Elbphilharmonie as part of the programme »Minimalist Dream House«.

Discover more about the concert

Thom Yorke: Suspirium (2018)

Thom Yorke

FOR CLASSICAL MUSICIANS AND CONCERT HALLS

And here comes Yorke's next adventure: »Don’t Fear the Light«. For the first time in his career, he has written a piece for performance by classical musicians – and for classical concert halls: after its premiere in the Philharmonie de Paris, the new work was played at the Auditorium in Lyon and in London's Barbican Centre. The 25-minute work was jointly commissioned by the Elbphilharmonie and the three other concert halls. It will be given its first performance in Germany on 10 April in the Elbphilharmonie Grand Hall.

Thom Yorke’s contemporary classical debut is a daring triumph.

Pitchfork

Live Review on Pitchfork.com

It's demanding music, extremely complex in terms of both harmony and rhythm.

Katia Labèque

»Don’t Fear the Light« is orchestrated for two pianos, electronics and modular synthesizers. Yorke has never paid much attention to musical notation: he recorded the composition himself and then sent the recordings to guitarist David Chalmin, who translated them into a written score. »It's demanding music, extremely complex in terms of both harmony and rhythm,« revealed pianist Katia Labèque. Yorke's work is set out in three movements: the first one was inspired by the music of American avant-garde composer Laurie Spiegel, the slow second movement is reminiscent of Radiohead, while the third is based on arpeggios that collide with one another. In »Gawpers«, a second, shorter new piece that Yorke presents at the Elbphilharmonie, he also sings.

Minimalist Dream House

Thom Yorke's appearance is part of the programme »Minimalist Dream House« curated by Katia and Marielle Labèque. The two pianist sisters released an album of the same name back in 2013 that focuses on the pioneers of minimal music and their artistic descendants, who experiment with loops and patterns. At their concert at the Elbphilharmonie, the Labèque sisters perform works by leading lights of today's minimal music scene such as Max Richter, Caroline Shaw, Timothy Andres and David Lang, concentrating on the repertoire for two pianos and two guitars.

Bryce Dessner: »Haven«

Guitarists David Chalmin and Bryce Dessner appear alongside the Labèques, and they both bring some compositions of their own with them. Bryce Dessner already knows the Elbphilharmonie like the back of his hand: back in October 2017, he put on an entire »Reflector Bryce Dessner« weekend, playing together with the Labèque sisters and really making the Grand Hall rock with his band The National. Then the following year, he wrote a concerto for two pianos for Katia and Marielle Labèque, which the sisters premiered, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Now he has dedicated his latest work, »Haven«, to them as well. After all, Dessner says, »they not only play the piano superbly, they are also unbelievably open-minded and adventurous«.

Text: François Kremer, 8 April 2019

They not only play the piano superbly, they are also unbelievably open-minded and adventurous.

Bryce Dessner

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