There was, for instance, Ligeti’s piece for organ “Volumina” written in 1961/62 that the composer and organist Wolfgang Mitterer performed in a highly imaginative and virtuoso interpretation. The piece opens with a cluster in plein jeu, a screaming pile of sounds produced by pulling all stops and with the organist pressing as many keys and pedals as possible with his forearms and with his feet placed sideways. And it fades away in a whimper because it only ends when the motor of the organ is switched off and the bellow system has emitted its last sigh. In between, the organist sweeps across the manuals like a wild animal – including the fifth keyboard which controls a remote organ in the ceiling of the hall.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
On the one hand, he is a hermit, this man – one simply doesn’t meet him that often. On the other hand, Wolfgang Mitterer is sighted in very different places. For a festival of classical music he writes a piece of forest music for three woodcutters. On other days you can hear him in jazz clubs performing on the keyboard in love with clusters and extraordinary squeaking and whining sounds. He writes pieces like Fisis in which three conductors have to wiggle their batons, but also presents his audience with a Sunday morning of organ emotions in which he, among other things, evokes the baroque loftiness of Bach and Frescobaldi. Mitterer? He is a representative of this very rare species of flexible musical minds and an inhabitant of very different sound planets.
Der Standard, Wien
Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Mitterer – an unequal pair, you might think. What unites the famous baroque genius and the contemporary musician is not only their predilection for keys and their triple function of composer, performer and improviser, but also their courage to risk something new (…) “Vox acuta”. Here pedal clusters reverberate as if a giant tidal wave were rushing in, driving nervously flickering melodies in front of it (…)
Lifting the top of your skull We now have to report a great moment (…) Right at the beginning when the credits appeared, the organ already began to howl, and by the time electronic sound samples evoked opera arias and artificial sound scratches gave a final blow to the balance of our perceptions, one thing became clear: Here someone is drowning in his own terrors instead of just illustrating the horror on the screen. Mitterer did so knowing Murnau’s film very thoroughly, and his disciplined internalization of the material enabled him to improvise all the more freely then (…) The audience, which included many young people whose tastes had been formed by Hollywood’s horror films, was overwhelmed. An expert of “Wien Modern” said: “it lifts the top of your skull”.
Der Standard, Wien
Horror spills from the organ Soundtrack to Murnau’s Nosferatu. A vision of sounds of penetrating, throat-grabbing intensity which is terrifying when it reaches a climax – all the more so as this music does not cuddle up to the image on the screen as run-of-the-mill soundtracks do, providing nothing more than mere illustration. It is music that goes its own extreme ways, probing the secret chasms of the images, drawing on its own “power” and creating a world of (horrific) tone colour in its own right. Horror is spilling from the organ. In his music Mitterer offers a fascinating analysis of the rhythm of the film; he dives into the helplessness and restlessness of the faces and into the film’s ever-changing emotions. A huge success!
Kronen Zeitung, Wien
Nobody is quarrelling any longer in Donaueschingen; what is predominant is the expression of annoyance on many faces, and strangely enough this becomes worse when finally something really new is happening (…) Even the few people who were familiar with Wolfgang Mitterer’s music were surprised by the performance of his group. The Mitterer Group communicates (…) in a way that amazes people the more they listen (…). So it is on the frequently neglected fringe that Donaueschingen re-invents itself in 2002. (…) whoever returns to the mainstream after that, can recognize the difference between Mitterer’s relaxed style of presentation and the prevalent tension exhibited by a large part of the avant-garde.
Darmstadt: Sound experiment “Ka und der Pavian” (Ka and the Pavian). The experience of sound that Mitterer provided for his audience with the help of the excellent opera choir and various instrumentalists distributed around the hall could not have been more holistic and overwhelming. Live sounds merged completely with a 16-channel sound sample of computer-generated sounds and noises, creating a landscape of sound which induced a unique experience in every listener. The terrifying proximity to any of the musical elements in this space was never predictable or easy to localize (…) A work of art could hardly be more contemporary.
Allgemeine Zeitung, Mainz
Music by a counter musician During the concert I was reminded of a caricature that was published in a Budapest newspaper in occasion of the first performance of Mahler’s First Symphony which depicts the composer among hooting horns, screaming cats and other noise-producing animals. Mitterer is something of a modern Mahler. He also confronts a poetic counter world of “natural sounds”, of cow bells, musical boxes and midnight voices (…) and the reflections of the real sound garbage that surrounds us daily (…) Mitterer’s music has power because programme and spontaneity are intentionally coupled (…)