© Ralf Brunner

A big band and a symphony orchestra are like a penguin and a polar bear – two things that just don’t go together. But what if they do?

About the concert

A big band and a symphony orchestra are like a penguin and a polar bear – two things that just don’t go together. Well, hardly ever: the freedom to improvise in jazz and the complex construction of classical compositions represent two entirely different approaches to music-making which composers rarely combine. But what if they do?

The fact that an alien musical language can also drive creativity forwardis proven by Sofia Gubaidulina, whose music is primarily associated with religious and spiritual depth and not with jazz or entertainment. Her ghostly and ironic Revue Music is like a Tartar mystic’s perspective on the aesthetic of Hollywood film scores from the 1970s – written in the middle of the Cold War. A rarely-heard coup from the modest grande dame of contemporary music, which lends her an additional dimension of mystery. 

Equally at home in both worlds is the jazz percussionist and composer Michael Wertmüller. He has already opened up the floodgates to stylistic crossover in his experimental opera space D•I•E at Ruhrtriennale 2021. In his latest work Shlimazl, he now seizes on the big band tradition and, forming a closed sound machine together with a symphony orchestra, makes it take off like a gigantic UFO. Driven on by two wonderful jazz virtuosos, it combines complexity and coolness to create a polymetric tour de force as if linear time had never existed.

The spectacle in Simon Steen-Andersen’s TRIO is both crazy and vast. The three parts in his trio are not a combination like violin, cello and piano, but choir, orchestra and big band. These are the tools of a breath-taking audio-visual time machine in which musical history and present, snippets of archive film material and live music form a crazy metaphysical organism – guided, of course, by the mastermind Steen-Andersen himself: intensely focussed on his performance like a puppeteer, the Danish composer and installation artist holds all the strings and makes his characters dance a fantastic and quirky dance.

Shlimazl by Michael Wertmüller was commissioned by Ruhrtriennale and Sonfonietta Basel.

Co-produced by Ruhrtriennale and Sinfonietta Basel.


Revue Music for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Band

Shlimazl for Symphony Orchestra and Big band
World premiere

TRIO for orchestra, big band, choir and video

Excerpt of »TRIO« for orchestra, choir, big band and video by Simon Steen-Andersen from the premiere at Donaueschinger Musiktage, October 2019.

Dates and tickets

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