Marek Piaček, Peter Zagar – About Požoň sentimentál

Pozon sentimental was formed spontaneously in 1994 by members of the VENI ensemble, a contemporary music ensemble in Bratislava. The ensemble takes up the traditions of this region, in particular of the old trilingual town of Presporok/Pozsony/Pressburg (now Bratislava), performing music which was written by composers living or working in Pozsony in the past and also by contemporary composers from Bratislava. One of our activities was a call-for-scores, followed by responses from older established and younger Slovak composers who wrote for us pieces respecting the poetics of the group (Vladimír Bokes, Martin Burlas, Juraj Hatrik, Jan Boleslav Kladivo, Ladislav Kupkovic, Ludovit Rajter, Pavol Simai, Iris Szeghy, Ilja Zeljenka).

Our music is based in this region, e. g. it is intended to promote the traditions, the styles and, in a more general sense, the atmosphere of Central Europe. Of course, this part of the world is exceptionally suited to accommodate the polystylistic approach to music, for it has always been the melting pot of various cultures.
What Pozon sentimental tries to establish is a return in aesthetics to the initial function of music, e. g. a straightforward musical experience unbiased by intellectual constructions. It is a search for a way out of the stalemate brought about by the complicated musical de-velopment over the last fifty years, involving post-serial music, where musical value depended on the amount of information, reaction to this attitude as expressed by the minimalists, the neue Einfachkeit movement in Germany, and supported by post-modern thought.

The focus is not anymore on music itself, music becomes an object of every-day life. Neither music, nor the composer is given a special status. „Old Masters“ tend to be tabooed in a sense that if you arrange a piece, let’s say, by Schubert, classically educated musicologists consider it a breach of the music’s aura. We, on the contrary, think that it is an attempt to include Schubert into the contemporary music discourse of today. With this in mind we also took a song by Michael Jackson and transplanted it into what is generally known as chamber music. The result is an equivocal musical statement which represents the very essence of our musical thinking. However, today’s mass-media treat the old master in the same way as they treat music from commer-cials or muzak. His music is being „abused“. You can easily hear Mahler’s First Symphony in a commercial for a soap, not to mention Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Orff, Schubert, Brahms, Dvorak and other classical favourites.
The reaction to this phenomenon is at the centre of our attention. When we perform a song by Jackson, the given contexts of our instruments and of the Central-European environment transforms it into a completely new piece with a „message“ that is different from that of the original. The same applies to our arrangement of a romantic piece, which in this shape ac-quires new meanings and becomes an independent entity. This crucial issue arouses controversy between classically educated musicologists and Pozon sentimental.

Having mentioned that, it is clear, that the originality of material is not central to our thought, context is important. The choice of material is broad: music of old mas-ters, pop music, traditional music, „stolen“ music, recycled music as well as original music composed by members of the ensemble.
Art is, according to our position, a platform where something „bad“, banal, senseless (e.g. kitsch) can be transformed into something positive, „good“, full of sense.
Ultimately, we are trying to find a new level of contact with the audience, a contact in a space „with no centre“. Pozon sentimental tries to establish such an envi-ronment by getting rid of attitudes which place a certain musical genre in the centre, leaving the rest at the periphery.
The repertoire of the ensemble consist mainly of original compositions by its members (composers Lubomir Burgr, Marek Piacek and Peter Zagar but comoses also accordion player Boris Lenko) and other spiritually allied composers of various generations: Burlas, Bokes, Boros, Corej, Kupkovic, Szeghy, Simai, Zeljenka. (Here again, we encounter the difficulty of discerning between „original“ and „derived from“ or „borrowed from“, even „stolen from“.) One of the features of our music is the complete irrevelance of the material used in the process of compositon. Compare for instance the opening of Zagar’s I Was Waiting For You at the Carlton and its conclusion; the former exploits the technique of bitonality, the latter is a simple Hungarian dance, as if taken from one of Bratislava’s cafés. Piacek’s Desirée recycles a Serbian traditional tune as arranged by Dezider Lauko, a Slovak composer of the early 20th century, and follows it by a more straightforward extraction of the harmonic essence of Lauko’s piece.

Big attention is given to the revitali-zation of music by older composers living in Bratislava, or in a broader sense in the whole Central-European region. The focus includes ancient music, such as Daniel Georg Speer’s Turkish Eulenspiegel, major classical composers, whose careers are connected with Bratislava and the surroundings (Liszt, Schubert, Beet-hoven), and Slovak composers of the late 19th-, early 20th-century period (Bella, Lauko, Moyzes), as well as young contemporary composers.

Another of activities of the Middle-class Chamber Orchestra Pozon Sentimental is the concert series Lapsansky in STOKA in collaboration with STOKA Theatre Bratislava featuring famous Slovak and Czech stars like pianist Marian Lapsansky, cellist Jiri Barta and soprano Magdalena Hajossyova. The arrangements of most important works of classical music are on programme (e. g. Grieg, Saint-Saens, Dvorak, Schubert, Mozart, Orff – for details see the complete list of repertory).

English translation (c) Peter Zagar, 1998