Nina Šenk Twenty In Five (2012) for Ensemble and Speaker

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Orchestration: flute (also alto flute & piccolo), oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabassoon – horn, trumpet, trombone –piano, percussion – speaker (also additional instruments) – strings

Five different perspectives on 20 years of independence. That is the explanation of the title of the piece by Nina Šenk. Slovenia gained independence in 1992. However, how do the Slovenes value the independence of their country nowadays? Šenk asked Slovenian writers to express their opinion on the question of national sovereignty in her remarkable survey. Šenk selected 25 from those texts and then she created a collage from them in a kind of libretto. A section with “first impressions” follows after the introduction with two statements regarding the founding of the state. The authors express astonishment, but also rejection and they describe Slovenia as a “plump dwarf”. Šenk searches for impressions which a visitor, a tourist for example, receives in Slovenia. It concerns stereotypes and folklore. They are musically elaborated, for example the whistling motive of a "quasi folk tune". The third section is a critical inventory: there is no own army, no own currency, the people are free, but they have to face the adjustment pressure of globalization. The snare drum with its whirling blows reminds of the war in Yugoslavia from afar, which made the independence possible in the first place. In the fourth part Šenk exposes the pessimism which she describes as typically Slovenian. The stubborn repetition of the formula “Just no changes” is provided with an almost sarcastic note. And then there is talk of suffocating firefighters, of a home without house and door, of eternal ice and eternal night. Facing the future, at the end there is again a positive outlook at which the pioneer spirit and creativity of the artists is addressed.

Šenk gives her piece a theatrical trait which is not only connected with the movements on the stage, but even more with the distribution of roles to a speaker and the musicians in the ensemble, so that the interplay between the individual and the crowd, a statement and a comment is made possible. There are also instruments with a certain diagnostic value, such as the instruments of punishment whip and whistle, which can be assigned to both the authorities and the protest. Moreover, Šenk works with different languages, with the lingua franca of the Anglophone hegemony, with English, but also with German and Italian, in order to accentuate the special importance of border countries Austria and Italy. The result of this is musical scenes which are no scoring in the traditional sense of the word, but they are no stage plays either. Šenk´s musical composition is illustrative, at times sturdy and gruff. However, it is never flat or even striking. The text is in the foreground, it is not rhythmically notated, so that the speaker can take certain liberties during the lecture. The music is not a simple accompaniment, but it comments and interpolates; it is enigmatic in both senses of the word.

Nina Šenk was born in 1982 in Slovenia and at first she studied composition at the Music Academy in Ljubljana with Pavel Mihelčič. From 2005 to 2007 she completed her post-graduate degree with Lothar Voigtländer at the University of Music Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden as well as from 2007 to 2008 with Matthias Pintscher at the University of Music and Theater in Munich.

Her Violinkonzert Nr. 1 was performed at the Young Euro Classic Festival 2004 and it was awarded the first prize. Her piece Movimento fluido won the chamber music contest at the Weimarer Frühlingstagen in 2008. In seasons 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 she was a guest composer at the Staatstheater Cottbus. She wrote her second Violinkonzert as well as the orchestral piece Echo II und Schnitt für Saxophon und Ensemble for this house. The piece "...glitzert, flimmert, vergeht..." for soprano and large ensemble originated for the Neue Musik Netzwerk European Instrumental Laboratory; it was performed in 2010 by the ensembles Slowind, Aleph and Altera veritas in Slovenia, France and Latvia. Nina Šenk lives as a freelance composer in Germany and Slovenia.
Björn Gottstein
works as a freelance journalist about contemporary and electronic music. He lives in Berlin.

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