Winner of the 2011 Composition Award: Gerald Resch

As a cursory glance at his biography reveals, Gerald Resch is an all-round talent. Born in Linz in 1975, he has been active as a composer, music theorist, instrumentalist, teacher, musicologist, author and organiser. Before his graduation in composition and musicology from the University of Music and Performing Arts and the University of Vienna, he went through multi-faceted training: Resch acted as organist in Lichtenberg, Upper Austria, where he grew up, while he studied Early Music as well as the organ, harpsichord and viola da gamba in Linz.

Notwithstanding his love for tradition, it soon became clear in several ways that he felt drawn primarily to contemporary music. “I’ve always wanted to be a composer”, Resch says, and the subject of his musicology dissertation – German string quartets of the 1980s – also documents his fundamental interest in new music. It is only fitting, then, that after completing his composition studies with Iván Eröd and Michael Jarrell in Vienna, he continued his postgraduate training with Beat Furrer in Graz.

Furthermore, the musician is extremely fond of fine arts – in addition to musicology and philosophy, Resch also studied art history – a penchant, which has left traces in many of his pieces. “I’m more the visual type”, he admits. The offspring of a family of teachers, it was completely natural for him to one day also teach – currently as university professor of music analysis at the Bruckner University in Linz and as senior lecturer of music theory, study of musical form and aural training at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

Through the interconnection of artistic and scientific perspectives – as an artist, Resch was a scholarship holder at the Paris Conservatory; as a scientist, he did research at the Austrian Historical Institute in Rome – he “gained a new view of musical developments and fashions”, the Upper Austrian reveals. “So I feel quite independent.” In addition to his stylistic independence, another distinctive characteristic that warrants emphasis is his communicative side. Resch is not only a keenly interested visitor of events, but also plays an active role in the musical life of the Austrian capital: as music curator in the Vienna art association Alte Schmiede, where he has already presented a host of concerts, or as founding member of the composers’ group GEGENKLANG, in which seven colleagues joined forces to create better performance opportunities for themselves and, moreover, took the initiative to set up their own music publishing house, edition 21.

Writing has always been one of Resch’s central talents, but following several years of busy publishing activities, he now rather considers it as a “side-line”. Instead, his focus is clearly on composing. Those looking for initial clues of it, however, will soon be successful, thanks to Resch’s articulateness: Exactitude, Lightness, Clearness, Multiplicity and Quickness are, for example, the names of the five movements in his work Fünf Versuche nach Italo Calvino – terms that the music critic Walter Weidringer regards as “a kind of maxim of his music”. Resch himself has also repeatedly put the principles of his composing into words, most recently, when he said that he was mainly interested in “making a lot out of a little, because I like to develop things organically”. His efforts to continuously work with derivations from a few elements, such as deriving sequences of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic nature from a figure, are “more or less in keeping with Viennese tradition”, says the composer, referring to Alban Berg’s constructive techniques. Irrespective of aesthetic affinity, they also play an important role for him.

Text: Daniel Ender