Bryce Dessner portrait concert and world premiere of violin concerto for chamber orchestra in Munich

Bryce Dessner portrait concert and world premiere of violin concerto for chamber orchestra in Munich
Bryce Dessner
© Shervin Lainez

The Munich Chamber Orchestra presents a portrait concert of Bryce Dessner on April 13, under the direction of concertmaster Yuki Kasai in the Pinakothek der Moderne. After an introductory talk with Dessner, the musical programme includes several of his chamber and ensemble works. This composer feature takes place within the concert series of “Nachtmusik der Moderne” of the Munich Chamber Orchestra.

The evening will open with the German premiere of Pulsing for string orchestra. It is an excerpt in a new orchestration of Impermanence that was originally commissioned by the Australian String Quartet and Sydney Dance Company.

Another chamber work is Lachrimae, which is a direct reference to John Dowland's work of the same name. Playing this work on guitar in school, Dessner decided that he wanted to base something on it.

Still very dedicated to the guitar – not only for his indie rock band ‘The National’ – Dessner will play the electric guitar himself for Garcia Counterpoint.

Little Blue Something for string quartet is a tribute to Czech musicians Irena and Vojtech Havel’s ‘beautiful music and their friendship.’ Dessner’s work includes two direct quotations from the Havels, played on the cello.

Meaning ‘homeward’ in Yiddish, Aheym (Homeward) is dedicated to Dessner’s grandmother, Sarah Dessner. When asked by Dessner and his brother about her emigration to America, she could give some details, that have ultimately become a part of their own cultural identity. He found inspiration in the poem “Di rayze aheym” by American-Yiddish poet Irena Klepfisz.

Among strangers
is her home.
right here
she must live.
Her memories
will become monuments
will cast shadow.


Later, on June 13, the Munich Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Enrico Onofri, will premiere Dessner’s Violin Concerto (chamber version) with soloist Pekka Kuusisto, for whom the work is written and dedicated.

It takes inspiration from water as well as from the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. In 2020 and 2021, Dessner spent much time at his home in the Basque region of France, directly on the pilgrimage route. During long hikes through the forests with his son, he thought about how many pilgrims have already gone and how many more will be going on the same journey. Writing a violin concerto and thus going a route many composers before him had taken, he felt an analogy to this pilgrimage, asking himself:

Why are we drawn to a path so many before us have taken and often?
What could I have to say that could be new or specific to my own journey?

This arrangement for chamber orchestra was commissioned by the Munich Chamber Orchestra. The original version was premiered in October 2021 by HR Sinfonieorchester, Pekka Kuusisto and conducted by Ariane Matiakh in Frankfurt am Main.


For more information, please see the website of the Munich Chamber Orchestra.

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