Described as a composer of “emotionally dense” works by Sonograma, Uruguayan-born Sergio Cervetti, a longtime PARMA friend, and artist, has firmly established himself in the New Music scene, winning several prizes for his compositions and having them performed for international audiences, and in films, including Natural Born Killers. Today Cervetti is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?
When I was seven years old my older sister Sofía wanted me to listen to Petrushka on the radio and I simply fell in love with it. I was studying the piano then and my father who was a clarinetist made me practice two hours every day, mainly those horrid Hanon exercises. However, when he was away from the piano room I fancied banging the keyboard with clusters and bits of melodies trying to imitate those of Petrushka. I did not realize it then but I was already composing at that tender age. Stravinsky’s score made a strong and lasting impression.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
The most unusual performance must have been PRISONS at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin in 1969. It was a score composed for a dance performance by the Berlin Dance Ensemble that Kenneth Rinker and myself had founded there. It was an apt title that also described the feeling I had while living in a walled and isolated West Berlin having been invited as a composer-in-residence by the DAAD. The stage was small and the dancers, a mime, singers, musicians and myself conducting had to share that tiny space. I could not totally see the dancers’ cues so a few mishaps occurred. The reception at the end was short of a riot, lots of applause and bravos as well as loud boos, customary for German audiences at least in those days.
If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?
Writing music. That would be it. Otherwise, I would love to be a sommelier in a chic restaurant in Paris such as La Tour d’Argent with its extensively stocked cave.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
Fancy retreats, beach resorts, and big cities are a distraction for me. I would choose a place with deep historical and musical roots and traditions such as Dresden or Prague, cities that I have visited several times in my life. For some reason, they inspire me in unexpected ways with something new within the familiar.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
I have at least three. 1. The last apocalyptic measures of the Trumpet Concerto with busy strings pitted against the trumpet using the Harmond mute. 2. The last movement of the Piano Quintet when it moves from a sprightly beginning slowly towards the somber quote from J.S. Bach’s last chorale. 3. The third section of The Hay Wain, Demons Construct a Tower, with its unusual metallic percussion.
Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?
Yes. When composing the final movement of the Piano Quintet my oldest sister Sofía passed away suddenly. I was grieving for quite some time for she and I were very close. It was then that the idea of incorporating one of Bach’s Chorales which she happened to love took hold of me. It had to be incorporated into the texture of the final movement with ease and logic. I discarded several sketches before settling on the finished score, and I admit that it moves me on hearing this wonderful recorded performance. Following the Chorale quote, the music moves towards a near-tonal ending, the acceptance of death as it were, toward the abyss.