Wunderbar! That’s all I could say when I witnessed the performance of Henning Sieverts Quartett as a part of Serambi Jazz edition for October at GoetheHaus last Friday, October 9, 2009. They gave something really different, unlike what you have seen in other concerts before. For example, Dhafer Youssef came to last year’s Java Jazz Festival with his Oud (the pearshaped stringed instrument, known as the middle east guitar) delivering thick middle eastern ethnical music, then we had the “Funkadelic” George Clinton that appeared with some personnels wearing only underwears. We had some inspiring musicians that still could give something incredible in their disable conditions, like the blind Diane Schuur and Raul Midon. And now, we have a new experience through the creative mind of Henning Sieverts.
Henning Sieverts Quartett came to Indonesia with a fresh, new and unique concept. Imagine this: you’re staring at some 100 years old legendary paintings while listening to a jazz translation of each painting. How incredible would that be? It’s like enjoying arts from two different ways, but both go to the same direction, entering your heart to reach your soul. That’s what Serambi Jazz gave this time for October Edition. A band from Munich, Germany that has a very delicious modern jazz concept led by Henning Sieverts brought “Blauer Riter”, a set of music interpretation from “Der Blauer Riter”, or “The Blue Rider” in English.
A century ago, some German painting artists joined together to form a group called “Der Blaue Riter”. They started a revolution of colors and abstraction, shapes and textures with their paintings right from the idyllic foothills of the Alps of Murnau. It was Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Gabriele Münter who formed it, but soon other painters joined in, plus some painters that wasn’t included in this group but still related with it and its idea. And a history was made. It became such an important movement of art eventhough they only lasted a short while from 1911 to 1914, right before the World War I began. They believed that paintings and musics are both equivalence to touch one’s soul, both could create harmonious colors that have the strong ability to purify the soul. And now 100 years later, Henning Sieverts came and proved them right. It was imaginative and awe-inspiring.
Henning Sieverts got the idea after looking at these paintings in a museum for a few times. (Check out the exclusive interview with Henning Sieverts). Sieverts is an outstanding cellist, composer and also a journalist from Munich that has achieved many things in his career. Sieverts’ works can be found in many compositions for string ensembles, theatres and also various different size groups in both jazz and classical music.
Bandung has stunned by their performance at Jazz Break Revival XV, and the next day it was the chance for Jakarta jazz lovers to experience something new. It was held at the GoetheHaus, the home of Serambi Jazz. Exactly at 8 PM the concert was started. 300 seats at GoetheHaus were completely full, and all were ready to witness this rare experience. Henning Sieverts Quartett came with a team Henning Sieverts on contra bass, Till Martin on tenor-sopran sax, flute, bass clarinet, Hugo Siegmeth on tenor-sopran sax, clarinet, bass-clarinet and Bastian Jütte on drums. They started with a lovely translation of a painting by Alexej Jawlensky, “Murnauer Landschaft” or “The Murnau Landscape”. This painting gave a portrait of a landscape near the Bavarian town of Murnau in bright set of colors and right on the edge to be an abstract. This painting is one of the earliest collection of Der Blaue Reiter. Henning’s interpretation felt like a joyride through the mountain. It was absolutely cool. The second song was taken from Kandinsky‘s 1911 “Sankt Georg” (“Saint George”), picturing the moment when St George gloriously killed a dragon. Sieverts builds the tense right from the opening, and through his composition you could imagine how it would feel when St George slayed the dragon successfully.
Then came the next song, one of the most interesting painting named “Die Gelbe Kuh” or “The Yellow Cow” by Franz Marc. The painting shows a yellow cow enjoying her moment at the grassy field. What interesting is the use of yellow. For Marc, yellow stood for feminine and gentle, but his fellow Kandinsky often referred this color to show something agressive and sharp. Since the cow was painted in yellow, we should wonder what Marc imagined when he drew this one. Smartly, Sieverts combined both ideas in his composition. It was calm at first, felt so peaceful just like you’re lying on the grass, but then later he turned it agressive in a crazy 12-tone blues.
For the fourth song, Henning Sieverts Quartett gave a composition based on a totally abstract painting made by Marc, “Die Vogel” or “The Bird”. Sieverts joked and asked, if any of the audiences saw the bird on the painting. He actually had reason to ask it, because you could only see the bird if you watch it closely. The bird was hidden on the left side of the painting! Hugo gave a very lovely sound through his flute mimicking the happy whistling sound of the bird. The next composition came, and this time it was “Berg” (“Mountain“), another painting made by Kandinsky in 1909. Looking at the painting, you’d get quite puzzling idea of what it is. It’s like a crown stands on the crest of a multi colored mountain, with one hazy figure of a white horse rider shown in the foreground. Interestingly, Sieverts made this one in a reggae style. Apparently he based the idea from the dominant colors found in it, which are red, yellow and green. We all know these three colors are related to the color of Jamaica.
Henning Sieverts Quartett continued with Kandinsky’s “Improvisation 26” (1912). This painting really represents jazz, a music that’s full with improvisation. For this one, Sieverts played all by himself in a stunning solo, giving out some interesting warm major-key colors as an analogue to the warm major color tones found in the painting. “StraBenecke“ or “Street Corner” was the next composition based on the painting by Paul Klee, Franz Marc’s good friend. Sieverts captures the exact view of a busy corner, especially through Hugo’s busy flute run. After playing this song, Henning explained that the painting also pictures the traffic condition in Indonesia, that always full with vehicles. Traffic jams are everywhere, chaotic and actually quite dangerous. Henning even said that he wouldn’t dare to drive in here. This is actually a fact that should get a serious attention from the goverment. The next song came from other Klee’s painting, “Föhn im Marc’schen Garten” (“Warm Wind from the Mountain in Marc’s Fairytale Garden”). Paul painted the view he saw from the garden of Marc’s house, the place where he painted it. As the painting appears in deeply toned dark colors, Sieverts translated it into the dark tonal music colors as well.
“Saint-Séverin Nr 2” was the next song. This song was inspired by a lovely painting of a gothic church, The Saint-Séverin in Paris by Robert Delaunay (1909). Delauney wasn’t a member of Der Blaue Reiter, but he gave a strong influence on the path to the “autonomy of colors” to the artists included in this group. “Saint-Séverin Nr 2” can also be found in Der Blaue Reiter’s almanac and also appeared in their first exhibition a hundred years ago. Henning captures the glorious and majestical nuance of this famous church through his composition. Then came the last song, it was Kandinsky’s “Murnau mit Kirche” or “Murnau with Church”, a very beautiful painting picturing the church with the background of Bavarian landscape. For this one Sieverts choosed to make it in typical Bavarian musical form called “Zwiefacher”, appears in bars of 3-3-2-2. This one was really catchy compared to the other songs. It felt like listening to a national anthem with lovely melodies. The audience loved it so much.
Sieverts, Martin, Siegmeth and Jütte bowed to thanks the audience and left the stage. But the audience still wanted more. They gave the very last song as an encore, it was “Hocken im Schnee” or “Hay Shocks in the Snow”, painted by Franz Marc in 1911. If you look at the painting, you’ll see three pear-like shapes painted in lovely bright candy colors with white snows poured on top of them. It looked juicy, and that was the feeling came from Sieverts’ interpretation. After this one ended, Sieverts said that was really the last stock, because if somehow the audience asked for more, they didn’t have any stock left to give. Before closing the concert, again Henning said thank you to all the audience. He was impressed by the Indonesian audience who have been nice and really appreciative. It was unbelievable, he said. On the next day, Henning also gave a workshop for several days.
What an amazing concert, with a concept that might be the first in Indonesia. It was an unforgettable one, where not only we got the stunning skill by the personnel, but we also got the chance to see these classic paintings all at the same time. The feeling was really wonderful, it was something I have never experienced before. I think it might be a good idea for the promotors of big events in Indonesia to invite them, because they really deliver a new experience in enjoying a concert. It was something rare, not only in Indonesia but also in other corners of the world. Simply one of the all time most unique concept and must watch concert for me. Thank you very much for Serambi Jazz and Goethe Institut to present this brilliant concept. And for Henning Sieverts Quartett, we salute you! Wunderbar!
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Editor: Riandy Kurniawan