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Max Richter performs at the Teatros del Canal in Madrid on Sunday 19 June.

Max Richter, the postminimalist German composer who became a British citizen, performs this Sunday 19 June at 19:30 in the main hall, Sala Roja, of the Teatros del Canal in Madrid, with a programme that includes two of his most important works from the beginning of his solo career, Infra and The Blue Notebooks, characterised, moreover, by their politically anti-war nature.

Chronologically, the first of these is The Blue Notebooks, his second solo album after leaving Piano Circus – the six-piano ensemble co-founded by Richter (Hamelin, Lower Saxony, 1966) in 1989 and which he quit ten years later – and which was released in February 2004. Infra, on the other hand, appeared as an album in 2010, but was originally a 25-minute piece created for a dance performance choreographed in 2008 by Wayne McGregor for the Royal Ballet in London.

Richter composed The Blue Notebooks as a protest against what then, in early 2003, seemed like the impending war in Iraq – finally unleashed on 20 March of that year. The Blue Notebooks was a meditation on violence and its consequences, and with his compositions Richter created a space for reflection that touched the conscience and hearts of many listeners. The composer himself explained at the time that The Blue Notebooks was “an album against violence […] a subtle and peaceful protest against political, social and private brutality, which unfortunately is still omnipresent today”, says Max Richter.

The five monologues declaimed by Tilda Swinton on the album are taken from the poems Hymn of the Pearl and Unattainable Earth by Poland’s Czesław Miłosz (winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature) and from the eight little blue notebooks (which give the album its title) written by Franz Kafka between 1917 and 1919 and published in 1953, almost thirty years after the writer’s death, under the title The Blue Octavo Notebooks, which contained short texts, more philosophical and literary than those in Kafka’s personal diaries.

With a simple score for string quintet, piano and Swinton’s recitative, The Blue Notebooks concentrates on simple themes. Swinton and her typewriter in one, the piano in another, the quintet elsewhere, resulting in a delicate and imaginative album. One of the tracks on this album, On the Nature of Daylight, would eventually become one of the most iconic of Richter’s career, and has been used in both Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (2010) and Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi film Arrival (2016).

As for Infra, it is another anti-war composition created for a ballet by Wayne McGregor inspired by the moments of terror caused by the four bombs set off by Islamic suicide bombers on London’s public transport system on 7 July 2005, which premiered on 13 November 2008 at London’s Royal Opera House.

© Photograph by Mike Terry downloaded from the Teatros del Canal website.