EN FACE (2018)

for large orchestra ( perc/harp/pno/ with solo percussion and actor – text (“Einsamkeit[solitude]”) by Bruno Schulz

The solo percussionist has his own space, his own “room” on stage. His instruments are placed and hung around him on four, possibly interconnected high stands. His  instruments are less classic percussion instruments, but more objects.

en face setup.jpg

The solo percussionist plays only with his hands! 2 microphones are attached to his wrists. Hitting the instruments and movements therefore always “zoom in” into a sound, or into an instrument/object. The sounds are taken under a microscope. There are mainly these following ways of using the hand: flat hand (with fingers), palm, fist, knuckles (knocking sound), only fingers and fingernails, also occasionally elbows. In some places, an object is also stimulated with other objects (with cans, stones or even a cow bell on gong, etc.). The hands often make extra movements after the attack to capture resonances, to amplify, and to rhythmize them – for example, circles above the gong or nearer (zoomed in and out) or back and forth between two cymbals. As for gong, cymbals and thunder sheet the result should sound “synthetic” (almost like pure electronic music). The movements are sometimes faster, sometimes slower.

The soloist moves in his room, where he is both protected and defenseless. Basically, this solo part is about a special form of choreography (and coordination). At the same time, inwardness. The soloist has no mallets (the usual “weapon” of a drummer), his hands become ears, he perceives everything very intensely and is vulnerable in his intimacy on stage. The virtuosity is thus of a different kind, it is more of an inner space and a virtuosity of sensibility.

EN FACE rehearsal, photo by Staatstheater Cottbus

The actor sits at a table. Maybe like a kind of false, imaginary reflection of the solo percussionist. Possibly the “I” of the short story. A miniature stage setting.

“Should I tell you that my room is walled up?…In what way might I leave it? Here is how: Goodwill knows no obstacle; nothing can stand before deep desire. I have only to imagine a door, a door old and good, like in the kitchen of my childhood, with an iron latch and bolt. There is no room so walled up that it will not open with such a trusty door, if you have but the strength to insinuate it.”
― Bruno Schulz

The premiere took place at April 5th 2019 at Staatstheater Cottbus – heartfelt thanks to the wonderful soloists: Aleksander Wnuk (percussion) and Jakob Diehl (actor).

Aleksander Wnuk, percussion
Jakob Diehl, actor
Felix Bender, conductor
Philharmonisches Orchester Cottbus

The score is published by Ricordi.


Ricordi with first impression of the World Premiere of Sarah Nemtsov’s EN FACE for percussion solo, actor and orchestra.