Photo: Zlatko Micic


Composition Commission issued to Bernd Richard Deutsch

Basel Sinfonietta, Switzerland

The Basel Sinfonietta is giving a commission to Austrian composer Bernd Richard Deutsch with support from the EvS Music Foundation for a piece for sheng and orchestra. He is one of the first European composers to write for the East-Asian instrument, the sheng. This came about due to his contact with the Korean composer Unsuk Chin, now living in Germany. The work will be premiered by the Chinese sheng-virtuoso Wu Wei. Deutsch writes of his work, “When I was recently asked by Wu Wei whether I could imagine writing a piece for sheng and orchestra, I was immediately filled with excitement. This project offered me the unique opportunity to really go back to step 1. It was clear to me that I would need to be familiar with the instrument. It was simply unthinkable to write a solo part that would then need to be interpreted and edited by the performer. Through daily study of the instrument, the initially complex and illogical fingering system opened itself up to the possibilities of its 36 chromatic tones. Twelve tones or more can be played simultaneously, with complicated ton-combinations in unusual registers. It is even possible to play three easily differentiated registers at the same time. When passing from one harmonic constellation to the next, one must be careful of the sheng’s unique limitations. This offers a composer the chance to develop the piece’s harmony out of the instrument itself. The tone and dynamic palette stretches from a spectral ppp to a harsh and shrill fff, while the possible combinations with different orchestral instruments are seemingly unlimited. As the timbre of the sheng (similar to an organ) is difficult to alter, there is the risk of a certain monotony. As such, a key element of the compositional process is to avoid this outcome and instead to present the instrument’s multi-faceted sound world in combination and interaction with the tone colours of the orchestra.”

5th May 2019
Pantheon Muttenz, Basel, Switzerland

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