Date / Place I

17 December 2023 Gare du Nord, Basel

Date / Place II

18 December 2023 Gare du Nord, Basel




Phœnix Satellite 2022/2023


Edgar Varèse (1883–1965) “Octandre” for 8 instruments (1923) – 8’ Thomas Bruttger (*1954) “Monolith” for 8 instruments (1991) – 9’ Asia Ahmetjanova (*1992) “Ich möchte aufhören zu singen (I want to stop singing)” for piccolo and 7 instruments (2023, WP, commission EPhB) – 10’ Francesca Gaza (*1995) “ruhe zur lautesten stunde (quietness at the loudest hour)” for 8 instruments (2023, WP, commission EPhB) – 12’ Tze Yeung Ho (*1992) “hortensia” for 8 instruments (2023, WP, commission EPhB) – 20’


Jürg Henneberger
Christoph Bösch
flute, piccolo, bass flute
Antje Thierbach
oboe, baritone oboe
Toshiko Sakakibara
clarinet, clarinet in Eb, bass clarinet
Lucas Rößner
bassoon, contraforte
Aurélien Tschopp
Nenad Marković
Michael Büttler
trombone, bass trombone
Aleksander Gabryś
double bass

Program description

With “Octandre” Edgar Varèse wrote an epoch-making work for a large chamber music ensemble and at the same time founded a new genre: Four woodwinds and three brass instruments are supplemented by a double bass to form an octet – with the complete omission of keyboard instruments, percussion and high strings. In our competition for young musicians “Phoenix Satellite” we have set the task of composing a new work in this instrumentation that in some way refers to “Octandre” and circles this work like a satellite. As a conclusion of this workshop with the Ensemble Phoenix Basel and Detlev Müller-Siemens (in October with Johannes Schöllhorn for the ill Detlev Müller-Siemens) as composition coach, the three prize winners will present their new “Satellite” compositions together with “Octandre” by Edgar Varèse.
The work “Monolith” by the German composer Thomas Bruttger was commissioned by the “Ensemble Aventure” (Freiburg i. Br.) in 1991.


Edgar Varèse: “Octandre”

“Octandre” was written for eight instruments (seven wind instruments and a double bass) and was composed in the same year as Igor Stravinsky’s Octet. Together with “Density 21,5”, it is the only work by Varèse that does without percussion. It is also the only one that is divided into consecutive movements. Nevertheless, it is typical of the style and technique of the composer, who consciously moved outside of tradition, was a fierce enemy of development and for whom timbre, the most important parameter of composition, was considered a structural element. “What is striking from the outset,” writes Arthur Hoérée, “is the unusual instrumentation on which the composition is based. The flute rises to C sharp 6, the oboe to G 5 and the bassoon to C 4, the trombone moves in the middle regions of the trumpet. The flutter tongue (rolling with the tongue, which produces a vibrating sound) is used regularly. Each of the movements of “Octandre” opens with an instrumental solo, which proves that the melodic line is nevertheless not unimportant. The first movement (Assez lent) begins and ends with an oboe solo, which is supported by the clarinet and double bass in the introduction. The second movement (Very lively and nervous) is introduced by a piccolo solo in a low register (!). It moves into the third movement (Grave) by sustaining a high note from the double bass, followed by an opening solo from the bassoon, which precedes a ‘lively and jubilant’ fugato passage with successive entries from the bassoon and clarinet – imitating the oboe.

(Myriam Chimènes)


Thomas Bruttger: “Monolith”

The title is to be understood not only in free association with some parts of my piece, but also in the sense of structural processing as “as if chiseled from a block”. The starting point of the composition is a static-repetitive “central sound” composed of three layers, which in the further course of the piece undergoes a multitude of prismatic refractions into smaller individual sounds up to the complete dissolution of the block-like-vertical events into successive-horizontal individual particles. The piece unfolds in eight large sections, which in their block-like nature have a habitus of immobility, and thus the musical form appears as a constant change of different aggregate states, similar to chemical fermentation processes, with varying degrees of density. On the other hand, there is a dynamic, process-like principle of linking, in such a way that from section to section the experiences of the previous parts of the form are taken up in order to develop them further, either continuously or discontinuously.
The piece learns from itself, so to speak, in order to constantly generate itself anew.

(Thomas Bruttger)


3 winners of the “Satellite” workshop 2023:

1st prize:

Asia Ahmetjanova: “Ich möchte aufhören zu singen”

The piece “Ich möchte aufhören zu singen” (I want to stop singing) with the full title “Ich möchte aufhören zu singen, damit mein Lied von den anderen übernommen wird” (I want to stop singing so that my song is taken over by the others) tells the story of an individual’s journey through life.
Christoph Bösch – piccolo flute – represents the main character, who goes through different phases of life and experiences his role anew at each stage. The priorities change through different encounters. The ability to imitate and adapt shapes decisions and the nature of activities. One’s own voice resembles many things, except oneself.
Is it inevitable to feel the need to become part of the whole?
What happens to the individual’s world when he or she radically takes on responsibility?
Decisive repetitions.
Sometimes the silent voice is the most authentic.
It goes on, everything starts all over again, but in a different key – we have slipped down a minor third.

(Asia Ahmetjanova)


2nd prize ex aequo:

Francesca Gaza: “ruhe zur lautesten stunde”

“ruhe zur lautesten stunde” (quietness at the loudest hour) was inspired by a scene I saw a few months ago in the Negev Desert. From an elevated vantage point, I looked down on calm, silence and great emptiness, but when I entered it, I found that it was full of colorful, buzzing insects and sounds that made the apparent emptiness and silence come alive loudly and explosively. These contrasts of loud silence and filled tranquillity significantly inspired the work. Color and coloration are the central elements that functioned as a satellite to Varèse’s “Octandre”.

(Francesca Gaza)


Tze Yeung Ho: “hortensia”

“Hortensia” works with metaphorically inverted motivic fragments loaned from Edgar Varèse’s “Octandre”. The various fragments are pieced together in eight short sections marked by tempo changes across three movements. The eight short sections are derived from the “H-chapter” or the eighth section of Danish poet Inger Christensen’s “Alfabet”. The eight selected words, taken from the Norwegian translation of the book, are as follows: “hage” (garden), “hymne” (hymn), “halvmåne” (half moon), “halvsilke” (half-silk), “helle” (stop, as in doorstop), “husly” (shelter), “hagl” (hail) and “hortensia” (hydrangea). The eight words served as inspiration to how the musical fragments were arranged and treated in the various tempo markings taken from “Octandre”. This work is parasitic in nature. It is meant to be performed with Varèse’s original work interspersed within this composition’s three movements.

(Tze Yeung Ho)