Janiv Oron, Baldur Brönnimann & Laurent Zufferey / Basel Sinfonietta
Bertrand / Þorvaldsdóttir / Bryan / Romitelli / Oron/Waespi
Sportzentrum Pfaffenholz, Saint-Louis (F)/Basel, 2022-06-26
2022-07-17 — Original posting
2022-07-19 — Corrected the year of creation for Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir’s “Dreaming”
Die Basel Sinfonietta beschließt ihre “40+1” Jubiläumssaison unter Mitwirkung eines DJ — Zusammenfassung
Im letzten Konzert der “40+1” Jubiläumssaison zog die Basel Sinfonietta unter ihrem Chief Conductor Baldur Brönnimann noch einmal alle Register. Das Konzert fand im Sportzentrum Pfaffenholz statt, einem von Herzog & de Meuron realisierten Gebäudekomplex, gerade jenseits der Grenze zu Frankreich, in Saint-Louis. Die quer bespielte Dreifachsporthalle bot reichlich Platz, eine ideale Akustik und das richtige Ambiente für die aufgeführten zeitgenössischen Werke.
Die aufgeführten Werke stammen alle aus dem 21. Jahrhundert. Den Anfang machte ein Werk des Franzosen Christophe Bertrand (1981 – 2010): die Orchesterkomposition “Mana“aus dem Jahr 2005. Ein kurzes, virtuoses Werk von packender Stringenz—mitreißend! Nicht minder interessant die Komposition “Dreaming“, der Isländerin Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir (*1977) aus dem Jahre 2010. Es ist eine schillernde, faszinierende Schilderung der im Wesentlichen unbelebten Natur Islands, in welcher die Komponistin eine ihr eigene Spiritualität empfindet.
Das dritte Werk vor der Pause ist ein Werk der Afro-Amerikanerin Courtney Bryan (*1982): “Sanctum“, ein Werk für Orchester und Tonaufnahme aus dem Jahr 2015, setzt sich mit Polizeigewalt und Rassendiskriminierung auseinander, und mit deren Verarbeitung im kirchlichen Umfeld. Es erklingen Klangfetzen von leidenden Opfern, von Straßenprotesten, sowie Ausschnitte aus Predigten. Für diese Komposition stand an der Spitze des Orchesters der Walliser Dirigent Laurent Zufferey (*1993, Assistant Conductor der Basel Sinfonietta).
Nach der Pause erklang vom leider auch früh verstorbenen Italiener Fausto Romitelli (1963 – 2004) die Komposition “Flowing down too slow” (zu langsam herabfließend) für zwei Streichorchester, Schlagzeug und zwei Sampler aus dem Jahre 2001. Mit Ausnahme der Komposition von Christophe Bertrand waren alle Werke schweizer Erstaufführungen.
Das Hauptwerk des Abends
Als Abschluss folgte “Datendieb” für DJ und Orchester. Es ist dies das Resultat einer Zusammenarbeit des DJ und Medienkünstlers Janiv Oron (*1975) mit dem Komponisten Oliver Waespi (*1971). Ersterer hat vor allem aus den Werken von Bertrand und von Romitelli 68 Schnipsel gesammelt (Sampling) und diese mit seinen eigenen Techniken neu aufgemischt (remixed). Die resultierenden 15 Tonsegmente wurden von Oliver Waespi orchestriert. In der Aufführung waltete Janiv Oron dann auch als Musiker / DJ, der die 15 Segmente durch improvisierte “Kadenzen” / Überleitungen am DJ-Synthesizer/Mischpult zu einem Ganzen verband. Dies war die Uraufführung eines Auftragswerks der Basel Sinfonietta.
Table of Contents
- Das Hauptwerk des Abends
- Concert & Review
- Pre-Concert Introduction
- Christophe Bertrand: Mana , for Orchestra
- Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir: Dreaming , for Orchestra
- Courtney Bryan: Sanctum , for Orchestra and Sound Recording
- Fausto Romitelli: Flowing down too slow , for Strings, Percussion, 2 Samplers
- Janiv Oron / Oliver Waespi: Datendieb , for DJ and Orchestra
- Outlook into the Season 2022/23
|Venue, Date & Time||Sportzentrum Pfaffenholz, Saint-Louis/Basel, 2022-06-26 19:00h|
|Series / Title||6th Subscription Concert — Im Flow (In the Flow)|
|Reviews from related events||Previous concerts with this orchestra|
Previous concerts with Baldur Brönnimann
Over the past years, the Basel Sinfonietta has employed a large variety of non-standard / unusual concert venues, outdoor as well as indoor. For the final concert in its “40+1” anniversary season (“40+1” because due to the pandemic, there were severe restrictions in the 40th season activities), the orchestra selected the Pfaffenholz Sports Centre, built in 1996 exactly on the border between Basel and Saint-Louis (F). Architects: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel—a firm with excellent reputation all over the world, founded in 1978.
That sports center features a large triple hall, vast space for orchestra and audience, as well as the “right” atmosphere for this concert / this music. Actually also the acoustics are decent (if not excellent) for contemporary music:
Neither the orchestra, the Basel Sinfonietta (see also Wikipedia), nor its Principal Conductor, Baldur Brönnimann (*1968, see also Wikipedia) need an introduction here (see the links above). In this program, the concertmaster was Simone Zgraggen.
The Israel-born Janiv Oron (*1975) is a composer of experimental music, who now lives and works in Basel. He also is a media artist and DJ. In these functions, he develops a large field of activities, and he appears as a part of the formations Goldfinger Brothers and Anklin | Oron, as well as other ensembles. In this concert, he was involved both as (part) composer, as well as artist (DJ)—more on that below.
A while ago, the Basel Sinfonietta announced the new function of an assistant conductor, for one complementing Baldur Brönnimann’s position as principal conductor, but also offering a chance for young, upcoming conductors to gain experience in working with a large symphonic orchestra. In this concert, the assistant conductor Laurent Zufferey (*1993) stood at the helm of the orchestra for one of the works (Sanctum, by Courtney Bryan).
Laurent Zufferey is a Swiss conductor (born in Sion, Valais) who graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (UK). He is assistant conductor with several orchestras, including the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and he has been working with conductors such as Vasily Petrenko (*1976), Omer Meir Wellber (*1981) and Joshua Weilerstein (*1987). For full detail see the artist’s on-line biography.
- Pre-Concert Introduction (18:15h)
- Christophe Bertrand (1981 – 2010): Mana, for orchestra (2005)
- Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir (*1977): Dreaming, for orchestra (2008, Swiss first)
- Courtney Bryan (*1982): Sanctum, for orchestra and sound recording (2015, Swiss first)
- Fausto Romitelli (1963 – 2004): Flowing down too slow, for string orchestra, percussion, two samplers (2001, Swiss first)
- Janiv Oron (*1975) / Oliver Waespi (*1971): Datendieb (Data Thief), for DJ and Orchestra (2022, World premiere)
My seat was at the left of row 3 in the parquet seating consisting of chairs in 4 rows. The ascending part of the audience featured small rubber mats on concrete steps.
Concert & Review
As usual (always) in its concert, the Basel Sinfonietta offered a half-hour, informal introduction into the upcoming performance (45 minutes prior to the official beginning). This time, the introduction was led by Werner Hoppe (PR & Marketing), who started by introducing the venue.
Werner Hoppe then did an interview with Baldur Brönnimann, who first explained his interest in unusual concert locations. As he stated (and I can confirm this for myself), when people talk about past concerts, they are far more likely to remember the atmosphere, the venue, the circumstances, rather than the names of specific works or composers. He also mentioned that most concert halls (such as the Stadtcasino Basel) were built in the 19th century, and for the audiences, the social situation of that time. He wants to take contemporary music out of that context, perform it in locations that reflect the context in which these works were composed.
The introduction then turned towards the works of the concert, and their composers (see the descriptions below). A major segment dealt with the last and major work of the evening, Datendieb by Janiv Oron and Oliver Waespi. The creation of this work was particularly intricate and complex and deserved an explanation. In order to avoid duplication, I have placed the information provided in the relevant section below.
Christophe Bertrand: Mana, for Orchestra
The French pianist and composer Christophe Bertrand (1981 – 2010, see also legacy Website) grew up in Wissembourg. He spent most of his life in Strasbourg. At the Conservatoire de Strasbourg, he earned gold medals as pianist and chamber musician, and he studied composition starting in 1996, finishing with a diploma in 2000. His works have been performed by prominent artists and ensembles. His career as composer was fulminant, but short, as in 2010, Christophe Bertrand took his own life, in Strasbourg.
The concert handout mentions key influences for Bertrand’s compositions, such as the tradition of French composers, from Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937), up to Pascal Dusapin (*1955), of Bertrand’s admiration for Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949). Bertrand also liked composers such as Luciano Berio (1925 – 2003) and Steve Reich (*1936), as well as—most importantly—György Ligeti (1923 – 2006). And also the spectral music by Gérard Grisey (1946 – 1998) was an important point-of-reference.
Christophe Bertrand’s oeuvre of around 40 compositions comprises mostly chamber music works. Mana, for large orchestra (2005) is an exception to this—his first orchestral composition. It premiered in Lucerne, under the direction of Pierre Boulez (1925 – 2016), who is also the dedicatee. Rather than condensing the composer’s program notes into a paragraph, I decided to translate Christophe Bertrand’s text into plain English (using the free version of Deepl.com), available here as PDF.
In the introduction, Baldur Brönnimann talked about energy, acceleration, speed, and virtuosity. That’s the only input that I considered while listening to the music. In other words: my listening experience is essentially not related to the composer’s own description of Mana.
The piece opens with rapid, rolling figures on the flutes (a flock of birds?), structured by high-pitch percussion sounds. Other woodwinds, strings, brass instruments join in, forming a chit-chat that rapidly builds up, until big drums open a new wave. Now, a rich percussion set (xylophone, metallophone, etc.) forms a dense, rapid and mesmerizing web of pattern. The resulting “audio machinery” momentarily reminds of minimal music. Or rather, competing, simultaneous trails of minimal music, building up density and complexity, up to a climax.
As the sounds (and the pitch) appear to collapse, “external events” suddenly break in / descent from the air, like a rapid succession of attacks by a circling flock of birds. The target consists deep sirens (bassoons, brass) and rumbling. The attacks grow in severity, become rhythmic—is that now maybe debris falling down onto devastation?
“Swarm life” comes to mind, unrest, collapse and anxiety—and a spontaneous association: did Bertrand anticipate the Russian attack on Ukraine? There appears to be fighting (drum set, snares), pain, suffering. Then, gradually, upwards movements / scales / glissandi emerge, prevail. Trembling crescendo, collapse, leading to (almost) spiritual moments / experiences, transfiguration in ascending glissandi, bells, density growing again, intermittent scenes of serenity in nature, bird singing—a sudden, rumbling eruption, end.
I noted three key words: “swarm”, “nature”, “spirituality”. The synthesis of these led to a truly unique, impressive, enthralling experience!
Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir: Dreaming, for Orchestra
The first time when I experienced music by Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir (or Thorvaldsdottir, *1977, see also Wikipedia) was on the occasion of my first encounter with the Basel Sinfonietta, in a concert in the Tonhalle Zurich, on 2015-10-03, under the direction of Daníel Bjarnason (*1979). I still have vivid memories from that concert and Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir’s composition “Aerality” from 2011.
In the pre-concert introduction, Baldur Brönnimann described Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir as a person who draws spirituality from the nature in her home country, Iceland. This implies not so much plants and animals, but landscapes, “proportions, rivers (flows), textures and structures”. The composer states that her works don’t depict a romanticized view of nature. Rather, “nature can be powerful and dramatic, but also subtle and rich in nuances. There are so many intermediate tones. I find these highly inspiring.“
In each chord there is a world of collective sounds where the small sound particles dissolve and create their own world. By attending to the various qualities of the sound the perception can be changed from one moment to the next.
The composer’s online program notes includes a complete score preview with extensive performance notes.
Resting, high-pitch resonances. My first note: nature morte—not in the sense of something dead, rather still life in a painting. Holding, silence, listening, quasi-static, very slow, if any movement, suspense—the infinitely slow breathing of a landscape / non-living nature. Ravishingly enchanting. Still silence, big breath, momentary flow of winds, light, maybe, harp sounds, marimba. Broad, flat structures (quasi-unstructured, except for the calm breathing. Life appears hidden underneath, subordinate: spiritual (pantheism?), reflexion, “talking through being / sheer existence”. The mystery of silent landscapes, peace / peaceful, shimmering, “aeolian mood”, ample resonating, and always this big breath!
Gradually and moderately, the volume builds up. Low percussion sounds: distant earthquakes or eruptions—fading again, a heartbeat in the marimbas, more rumbling in waves, and back to the spirits of the landscape.
Solemn, soft singing in cellos and bassoons in an endless melody—eternal harmony, “aeolian” resonances—the accompaniment to a peaceful procession in an open landscape. “Strange but friendly” noises from the string instruments, mutating into scratching (earth spirits?). Shimmering light—and still / always this broad, pervasive breathing, fading into near-silence. Whispering cello, distant, isolated, distant tones & noises from the solo cello (Martina Brodbeck), fading: nature that simply “is”, irreproachable, eternal…
Enthralling, enchanting, beautiful, deeply spiritual—and stunning, for sure!
Courtney Bryan: Sanctum, for Orchestra and Sound Recording
The American composer and pianist Courtney Bryan (*1982, see also Wikipedia) grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. 2004, she obtained a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin College in Ohio (the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the U.S., founded 1833). From there, she moved to Rutgers University, where she obtained her Master of Music in 2007. She finished her education in 2014, as Doctor of Musical Arts from Columbia University.
Courtney Bryan holds a position of assistant professor in the Newcomb College department of music at Tulane University of Louisiana. According to Wikipedia, Courtney Bryan’s compositions combine influences from jazz and gospel. For a list of Courtney Bryan’s works see the composer’s Website.
Sanctum, for orchestra and sound recording is a composition from 2015 (performed here as Swiss first). The concert booklet featured the translation of the composer’s own description of the work. Rather than translating that back to English, let just quote the original here (thanks to Werner Hoppe, Basel Sinfonietta, for forwarding it). I added additional interpunctuations / italics for better readability:
«Sanctum explores the sound of improvisation in Holiness-preaching traditions. I draw inspiration from recorded sermons, ”The Praying Slave Lady“ by Pastor Shirley Caesar and ”The Eagle Stirs Her Nest” by Reverend C. L. Franklin, and Reverend Charles Albert Tindley’s hymn, ”Stand By Me“. Included are the voices of Marlene Pinnock and of activists in Ferguson, Missouri from 2014. By employing techniques of layered repetition, rhythmic intensity, sounds of moaning and whooping, Sanctum invokes solace found in the midst of persecution and tribulation.»
Sanctum was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra. It is a reaction to racism and police brutality (particularly towards the African American population) in the United States.
The orchestra’s assistant conductor, Laurent Zufferey, was leading the performance of this work:
Courtney Bryan lets her piece emerge from silence—distant tones, in waves, intermittent noises like dripping / falling water. A stark crescendo (dominated by percussion and brass) sets the initial tone—a kind of opening exclamation mark. Cello and bass pizzicato approaches, chatter from the high strings, brass sounds form the image of people flocking together, uniting to a crowd with a multitude of voices.
These retract, in order to leave room for a recording from the loudspeakers: heavy breathing, a voice in pain, complaining, suffering, panting, anxiety, despair. Clarinet and brass, later string sounds joining in appear to offer solace through religious singing. Brass instruments with a chorale / spiritual like melody, which gradually turns into the accompaniment of a mix of street protesting and distant worshipping from the loudspeakers. Mourning music, picking up intensity and volume in waves. Voices from the past? Marching rhythms (snare, then drums, etc.) set the signal for street protests, the caricature of a funeral music, uprising. Finally slow chorale—praising / worshipping or funeral?
To the European, unbiased ear, some of this may remotely sound like carnivalesque sceneries. However, there is no doubt that Courtney Bryan’s composition is very pictorial, concrete, and fact-based, highly political, engaged indeed.
After the highly mystical / imaginative compositions by Christophe Bertrand and Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir, this felt like a move to the “other end of the spectrum”, towards very concrete depiction of the situation of black people in the Unites States. In a way, this resembled seeing a photograph next to a highly abstract painting that triggers the fantasy, the imagination of the viewer.
There may be people in Europe who don’t want to know about or actively ignore police brutality and racism, obsession with guns, gun violence, economic disparity, racial or gender supremacy and discrimination. Some of these may not want their nose rubbed in all this misery. I’m certainly not among these: the situation in the USA does not leave me untouched, and there is actually enough of this already in Europe. Plus, we currently face the catastrophe of an ongoing war.
One problem is that I can contribute very little, if anything, to changing the issues that Courtney Bryan is addressing. In that sense, while I’m impressed by that composition, how it is built / structured, how it orchestrates and depicts the situation of black people in the U.S., I don’t feel a need to go to a concert to learn about all this. Conclusion: not all music works equally well in all environments.
Fausto Romitelli: Flowing down too slow, for Strings, Percussion, 2 Samplers
Born in Gorizia, the Italian composer Fausto Romitelli (1963 – 2004) studied first in Milan (Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi), then in Siena (Accademia Chigiana di Siena). 1991 he moved to Paris, to study with student of Hugues Dufourt (*1943) and Gérard Grisey (1946 – 1998). Consequently, spectralism had a major influence on his work. From 1993 to 1995 he was compositeur en recherche at IRCAM. Sadly, 2004, Fausto Romitelli lost his battle against cancer in Milan, aged only 41.
Flowing down too slow, for string orchestra, percussion, two samplers (2001, performed here as Swiss first) is a late work in Romitelli’s limited oeuvre of less than 50 compositions. The concert handout (and Baldur Brönnimann’s explanations in the introduction) talk not just about spectralism, but also about esthetic impact and high musical quality. «In his search for music that adequately reflects the present times, Romitelli ended up using violence in combining material from high culture with punk / heavy metal subculture: heavily distorted E-guitar sounds, heavy percussion, techno sounds. (…)».
Baldur Brönnimann also mentioned that adopting Romitelli’s composition for the concert proved tricky, came with its own set of challenges. The audio material that came along with the score was created with and for equipment that (after a mere 21 years) is no longer available, other than in museums.
The composition requires dividing the strings into two separate entities on opposite sides of the stage. Each is complemented with a sampler. In the center of the stage, one finds a double bass, as well as sampled and acoustic percussion instruments. From the concert handout: «The central group presents sound objects. The peripheral ensembles read those objects, analyze, process and distort these objects, mix them with new content. The latter is again fed into a loop.»
The mix of strings and sampled sounds creates an eerie soundscape. Alienated / distorted electronic sounds, mixed with “featureless” tones from “bowed metallophones” in discourse with ascending, wide-range glissandi. The “triggers” from the central group and the associated responses from the lateral orchestras create a “wavy” pattern. I did not sense a “big breath” (as in some of the compositions above), rather contrasting areas in an abstract painting. Textures (enriched / refined by the sampled electronic sounds) more than colors—yet highly imaginative.
Gradually, the strings turn more melodic, the discourse / dialog mutates into a kind of orchestral recitative,”music talking slowly”—at a large scale, in permanent, but variable flow. Baldur Brönnimann’s big arm and body gestures perfectly matched the semi-static nature of this music and its large waves.
A descending, tonal string scale leads into a segment with almost “baroque moments”. The piece acquired more and more melodic components in dense discourse, a polyphonic web of melody snippets. At the same time, the ascending glissandi evoke resonating waves. Constant, but almost glacial flow, combined with energy flowing to and fro, like a huge pendulum. At the same time, that big, swaying motion retain irregularity, like the unpredictability of big waves at sea.
Abstract, reflective and subtle, yet highly suggestive / imaginative music—and a beautiful, fascinating soundscape!
Janiv Oron / Oliver Waespi: Datendieb, for DJ and Orchestra
The process of creating the composition Datendieb (data thief) was short, but complex. It involved material from existing compositions performed in this concert, and two people to actually build the work for this performance:
I have given information on Janiv Oron (*1975) in his function as artist in the section above. In this concert, Janiv Oron was involved both as artist (DJ), as well as composer—see the work description below.
The Swiss composer, arranger, conductor, and lawyer Oliver Waespi (*1971, see also Wikipedia) grew up in Zurich. I have written about him in a review from a concert in Basel, on 2021-06-27 (also with the Basel Sinfonietta). In this performance, Oliver Waespi’s function was that of an orchestrator and arranger—see again below.
Datendieb (Data Thief), for DJ and Orchestra (2022) was a world premiere—and a very special / experimental project. It’s easiest if I translate Janiv Oron’s own description (as published in the concert handout):
In my case, “composing” means “sampling”. I’m interested in the encounter of diverse sound bodies, the “sound clash” between electronics and orchestra, between (un-amplified) sounds, moving loudspeakers, and a DIY sound system.
Hereby, I collagate existing music, transform “old” to “new”. I have extracted material from Fausto Romitelli’s Flowing down too slow and Christophe Bertrand’s Mana. Both orchestral works were dissected into components, sounds, chords, and noises, fragmenting partial moments, splinters, or forms that I created using artificial intelligence. I filtered quotes, rhythmic figures and structured snippets following predefined parameters. I sliced up musical structures, transposed instrumental colors, composed new auditive reactions. This left gaps and undefinable sound fragments, which one can hear as autonomous codes, or as references onto the underlying music.
The connection between the sound bodies involves turntables and dub sirens. In the broadest sense, it’s all a remix. A collection of 68 snippets forms an archive that I arranged for the piece as DJ, like recordings, and which the composer Oliver Waespi arranged for orchestra. For the transitions I invented new electronic sounds and colors.
My experimenting means working with sounds that accumulate to a composition.
Addendum (Information from the Introduction)
Out of the 68 sampled snippets, Janiv Oron ultimately produced 15 “merged” segments, which Oliver Waespi orchestrated. Waespi described his work as making Janiv Oron’s material playable for orchestra (with apparently only three rehearsals!). He sees this as “media rupture” (Medienbruch) that reverts electronic material back into a score for (analog) orchestra. The result is a confrontation of orchestral segments and Janiv Oron’s improvised “transitions” in the gaps between the pieces. With this, the listener experiences a confrontation between the expressive depth of the traditional orchestra with the artificial sounds from Janiv Oron’s DJ equipment.
Structural Complexity / Diversity and Perception
A composition / performance so diverse that it is impossible to describe in the context of this review. There are 15 orchestrated snippets / segments, which alone creates a lot of diversity.
The segments feature built-in references to the pieces by Christophe Bertrand and Fausto Romitelli (hence the title “Data Thief”). However, for the first-time listener, these are hardly identifiable, given the diversity of the four compositions presented so far, and the fact that the samplings are heavily “processed” / mixed / distorted, and finally re-orchestrated. Moreover, Janiv Oron linked all these segments with improvised / newly invented, electronic transitions / cadenzas. These form a set of separate, completely different, but equally diverse musical pattern / ideas. With this, my performance notes below can only be partial and very fragmentary.
One can characterize the beginning of the first segment as a sequence of clusters, short waves / eruptions. The sampling technique then comes through in repeated, eruptive percussion pattern, similarly then in repeated, ascending motifs in violins and basses. The transition to the second segment was short—repetitive, mid-frequency booming from the synthesizer (for the transitions I need to switch to past tense, as these were real-time improvisations).
The second “sampling segment” is a sequence of broad sound planes, siren-like. A cadenza with lowest frequency, stomach-shaking rumbling led to the next segment: high frequency (wind and percussion) chit-chat, like an aleatoric exchange of signals.
Next transition: howling synthesizer noise / wobble, artful, reverberating synthetic sounds, DJ scratching.
Repeated percussion beats, mixed with ascending glissandi (wind and percussion)—one (rare) spot that one can instantly relate to Romitelli’s composition.
Janiv Oron’s inventiveness on the synthesizer seems unlimited: there were no two cadenzas that resembled each other. There were also snippets of protest speeches, exclamations, rapping, sampled and remixed.
There is also at least one segment that—albeit short—seems to fall into the domain of minimal music. Other segments have at least strong links to that genre. The final segment(s) consist of isolated, scarce motifs, wind staccato, and isolated, resting tones with higher-pitch responses—scarcification, “dilution”—end.
I tried to think of a “conventional analogy” to describe this final work. “Rondo” is not appropriate, as there is no repeated Rondo theme. “Cycle of variations” doesn’t fit either, as there is no single, recurring theme / pattern. The closest analogy I could think of is in the “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky (1839 – 1881): 15 pictures, all different, and all (or most) linked with a “transition piece”, “Promenade“. Except that here, the transition links were as diverse as the 15 pictures themselves.
Janiv Oron / Oliver Waespi’s composition is not only highly complex and imaginative, but also equally diverse and entertaining, featuring a mind-boggling variety of elements. If there are downsides to this work, then it’s in the lower degree of internal coherence, say, compared to the compositions by Christophe Bertrand, or by Anna S. Þorvaldsdóttir. It was / is a highly interesting experience nevertheless.
Outlook into the Season 2022/23
As announced previously, Baldur Brönnimann will step down from his position as Principal Conductor of the Basel Sinfonietta. The coming season 2022/2023 will be his last one with the orchestra. During that season, the orchestra will again offer six subscription concerts, and it will perform tours to Belgium, to Cologne, and to Geneva. Most of the subscription concerts will be in the Stadtcasino Basel and/or under the direction of Baldur Brönnimann:
2022-09-18, Stadtcasino Basel
- John Cage (1942 – 1992): Imaginary Landscape No.1, for piano, percussion, and electronics (1939)
- Hans Abrahamsen (*1952): Let me tell you, for soprano and orchestra (2013)
- Kaija Saariaho (1952 – 2023): Ciel d’hiver, for orchestra ( 2013)
- Michael Jarrell (*1958): … Le ciel, tout à l’heure encore si limpide, soudain se trouble horriblement, for orchestra (2009)
Ilse Eerens (soprano), Baldur Brönnimann (conductor)
2022-11-06, Burghof Lörrach (DE)
- György Ligeti (1923 – 2008): San Francisco Polyphony, for orchestra (1973/74)
- Mauro Hertig (*1989): Losing the Red Queen’s Race, for orchestra (2022, commissioned by Basel Sinfonietta)
- Julian Anderson (*1987): The Stations of the Sun, for orchestra (1998)
- Simon Steen-Andersen (*1978): Concerto for Piano, Sampler, Orchestra, and Video (2014)
Nicolas Hodges (piano), Baldur Brönnimann (conductor)
Also performed in Belgium (Antwerp, 2022-11-30, and Gent, 2022-12-01)
2023-01-15, Museum Tinguely, Basel
- Anna Sowa (*1987): New work for orchestra (2022, commissioned by Basel Sinfonietta)
- Henri Dutilleux (1916 – 2013): Mystère de l’instant, for 24 string instruments, cymbalum, and percussion (1986 – 1989)
- Louis Andriessen (1939 – 2021): Mysteriën, for orchestra (2013)
Pablo Rus Broseta (conductor)
2023-04-02, Stadtcasino Basel
- Asia Ahmetjanova (*1992): New work for orchestra (2023, commissioned by Basel Sinfonietta)
- Oscar Bianchi (*1975): 6 db, concerto for 6 double basses and orchestra (2021)
- Ashley Fure (*1982): Bound to the Bow, for orchestra and electronics (2016)
6 double basses, Baldur Brönnimann (conductor)
Also performed in Geneva (2023-04-03)
2023-05-07, Stadtcasino Basel
- Michael Pelzel (*1978): Carnatic Pandora, for violin and orchestra (2023, commissioned by Basel Sinfonietta)
- Helmut Lachenmann (*1935): Accanto, for clarinet and orchestra (1975/76)
- Yiqing Zhu (*1989): Deep Grey, for orchestra (2021)
Carolin Widmann (violin), Boglárka Pecze (clarinet), Peter Rundel (conductor)
Also performed in Cologne (2023-05-06)
2023-06-11, Stadtcasino Basel
- Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901 – 1953): Music for small orchestra (1926)
- Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901 – 1953): Rissolty Rossolty, for orchestra (1939)
- George Lewis (*1952): Memex, for orchestra (2014)
- Charles Ives (1874 – 1954): Symphony No.4, for choir and orchestra (1898 – 1916, rev. 1921 – 1925)
Ludovic Van Hellemont (piano), Basler Bach-Chor, Baldur Brönnimann / Laurent Zufferey (conductors)
The author would like to express his gratitude to the team of Basel Sinfonietta (in particular Werner Hoppe, PR and Marketing) for the press ticket to this concert, and for providing access to an extensive set of concert photos. The latter were all created by Marc Doradzillo, The images are all cropped for this posting.