The Bettison Blast

The quarterly Dag in de Branding Festival of Saturday 15 Ocotober 2016 in The Hague, The Netherlands was named after the brand new composition of British/American composer Oscar Bettison, The Presence of Absence. Oscar Bettison himself came over from New York a week early to work with the performers of his two pieces: String Quartet, a Dutch premiere, and the mentioned The Presence of Absence, a World premiere. Of course Oscar is not unknown in his country having studied at the The Hague Royal Conservatoire with Martijn Padding and Louis Andriessen. Louis was present at the concert. Bettison is not your standard contemporary composer. He incorporates influences from non-classical music styles; uses extraordinary 'objects' in his instrumentation and electronics. So writing a string quartet came to the surprise of many a people in the contemporary music scene. This was best expressed by first violist Maria-Paula Majoor, who adressed the public before her The Matangi Quartet performed this Bettison piece. Maria-Paula: said:"With this new difficult compostion we as musicians thought the piece would deal with existential topics. No, it deals with the little daughter of Oscar. Part one intonates his little girl's toys and associated sounds; of course rather dynamic music. Part two deals with the quiet respiration of a newborn child; the violin impersonating the sleeping newborn. While part three deals with the insomnia of parents with a little baby. Partly unisono, with fading sounds. But also some forte and pizzicato elements. With a stilled viola outfading the piece. Beside Maria-Paula the Quartet consists of second violist Karsten Kleijer, Daniel Torrico Manacho - viola and Arno van der Vuurst - cello.

Then The Matangi Quartet, Ensemble Klang and soprano Michaela Riener took the stage to perform Oscar's The Presence of Absence. A commision by Ensemble Klang, Festival Dag in de Branding and the Zuiderstrandtheater the composition took control over Bettison's writing in evolving into a mega compostion of which the first part was premiered. Based upon a medieval poem The Ruin from the Exeter Book (10th century) describing a ancient Roman ruin. The piece shows the greatness of cities and buildings by pointing out what is left, better what once was, of ancient civilisations. It all starts with depicting the ruin with serene sounds. But soon to befollowed by typical Bettison heavy sounds. When Michaela Riener joins in the music gets a kind of semi-sacred music. With alto-saxophone later followed by the cello producing signal sounds the viola and violin joining, the trombone plays a basic tone and finally the soprano joins in again. At the same time Michaela also has to conduct for a while. Soprano saxophones introduce a quite dynamic sequence. But then again softer tones. But with many a 'eruption' by piano, saxes and percussion. Percussion objetcs included a.o. a flat stone played by two lengthy wire rods a saw and random pieces of unprepared wood. Afterwards everyone queued to congratulate the composer a.o. fellow composers Louis Andriessen, Peter Adriaansz and Pete Harden and former director of the Royal Conservatoire Wim Vos. A smashing experience this brilliant performance of this brilliant composition.

Ensemble Klang is Pete Harden - electric guitar, Saskia Lankhoorn - piano and keyboard, Anton van Houten - trombone, Joey Marijs - percussion and saxophonists Michel van Dijk and Erik-Jan de With.

And that is not all for this year. At the next Festival Dag in de Branding, 3 December 2016, Oscar Bettison will again be featured. Ensemble Klang will play Oscar's requiem 'O Death' in extenso.

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