was premiered September 5-7, 2019 at Porgy
& Bess, Vienna, Austria. Since the Jazz
Composer's Orchestra Update and Comment
C'est projects (both presented as well as recorded at Porgy &
Bess in 2013 and 2016 respectively) Michael Mantler continued working
on orchestral reinterpretations and further re-processing of older works.
The result was this series of suites. As with the Jazz Composer's Orchestra
Update, these new pieces again present an entirely new view of some
of his life's work. A CD, entitled CODA,
will be released by ECM Records on September 3, 2021. Scores of all compositions
are available here
and preview audio excerpts can be listened to here.
Ulrike Greuter, Diane Pascal, Tomas Novak,
Simon Frick, Maximilian Bratt, Magdalena Zenz, Emily Stewart
Anna Magdalena Siakala,
Daniel Moser, Tamara Stajner (violas)
Valcic, Arne Kircher (celli)
Philipp Kienberger (basses)
Bjarne Roupé (guitar)
ABOUT THE PROJECT / AN INTERVIEW
is the concept of Orchestra Suites?
It is somewhat similar to my recent
Jazz Composer's Orchestra Update. At that time, I had re-acquainted
myself with my music from the early Sixties. I was impressed by how fresh
and exciting it still sounded, and It seemed that this music should perhaps
be allowed to have a new (and different) life, reaching a new audience
that would probably never have known it. During this re-processing it
turned out that certain of the compositions remained relatively close
to their original versions, albeit with different soloists, while some
were so extensively revised that one could consider them almost as new
With Orchestra Suites, that
concept was even more drastically applied, very selectively choosing material
for more updates of different musics that were particularly dear to me
(so to say "the best of"
), taking bits and pieces from
various other periods in my career, to be shaped into entirely new musical
Which older works are your referring to?
After careful consideration, there
were quite a few, from various albums, with very diverse instrumentations
and concepts, such as Thirteen
(a work for two orchestras plus piano soloist, from 1975), Alien
(a studio production with only synthesizer tracks and trumpet, 1985),
Seeing All This (an album mostly featuring a string quartet, 1992),
un Paese Innocente (a suite of songs with words by Giuseppe Ungaretti,
plus big band and string quartet, 1994, but now used instrumentally only),
and Seek (a chamber opera with texts by Paul Auster, 2000, now
also used without voices), and For
Two (a series of duets for piano and guitar, 2010).
What kind of instrumentation are you using now
I have always considered myself an
orchestral composer, even when, mostly economical, circumstances dictated
smaller ensembles, at times even down-sized to the absolute minimum, such
as the duets of Alien and For Two. This time I did not retain
the original instrumentations, but settled on what seems to be my current
favorite - a chamber orchestra consisting of flute, oboe, clarinet, bass
clarinet, trumpet, french horn, trombone, tuba, guitar, piano, marimba
/ vibraphone, plus a string section, normally a string quintet, as used
on my previous album Comment C'est, but this time enlarged to 16
Unlike the Big Band used for the Jazz
Composer's Orchestra Update, very much a jazz-based ensemble with
a more or less traditional rhythm section, the orchestra used for the
current suites consists mostly of classical musicians with a smaller number
of jazz musicians/soloists included, which still anchors the music in
an environment clearly coming from jazz.
Do you actually prefer updating and revising
older music instead of writing new music?
Re-using material from my own musical
universe is a conscious decision and has, as a matter of fact, been my
compositional procedure for a long time. Musicologists could have an interesting
time divining what in my music has come from where and how it might have
been re-shaped and recycled
something I myself, however, never
consider again and immediately forget. Almost always, when I start a new
composition, I begin with materials from the previous work, sometimes
perhaps with elements that had been discarded at the time, which I may
end up not actually using, but more often than not, that procedure would
at least start me off on a new line of musical thought from which to continue.
The role of soloists and/or improvisation?
As always, still some improvisation,
incorporated into the continuous flow of a composition, moving, perhaps
almost imperceptibly at times, between actual improvisation and loosely
interpreted notated sequences. Instrumental soloists have here often replaced,
that is, "sung," what were vocal melodies from some of the original
An orchestra and soloists, employing a total
of 27 musicians plus a conductor - how does a large production such as
this come into being?
As so often, already since as far
back as 2006, it has been made possible through the effort and co-operation
of Christoph Huber at Porgy & Bess, a supreme concert venue in Vienna,
which not only made available the necessary funds, a rehearsal and concert
space, but also recording facilities, enabling an eventual album release
of this material.
Any plans for further updates?
Absolutely not. I think I have exploited
my own universe as much as I feel is desirable or necessary.
New compositions then?
No. I think I've said what I have
to say. Which doesn't mean it shouldn't be said more often than in the
past. There exists plenty of material that has been presented publicly
only once. More performances would certainly be possible and interesting.
Apart from the rare exception, my
projects have always been initiated and carried through fruition by myself,
and at this time I have neither the need nor the will to do it yet again.
Nevertheless, should a serious approach ever be made to create a new work,
the mere fact of being asked to do something could possibly, though, generate
enough excitement to at least consider it. Who knows ...