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An evening of new vocal music

Diderik WagenaarEleonora (2017)
Performed by Susanne Abbuehl (voice) and Wolfert Brederode (piano)

In “Eleonora” (three songs), composed for Susanne Abbuehl, I tried to write something that fits in the context of her repertoire. The intensive collaboration with jazz pianist Wolfert Brederode, which has already been going on for decades, has led to the development of a very authentic and versatile musical language, influenced by several new and old traditions. A music that is sometimes called “chamber jazz”.

“Eleonora” does not have much to do with a jazz concept. The composition is written entirely in traditional notation and there is no room for improvised solos. The compositional approach in this piece is not essentially different from that in my other pieces. I am fascinated by bridging whether or not true contradictions. I do not regard tonality and atonality as two opposite phenomena but as two facets of one phenomenon; Atonality is an extension of tonality. I focus on the resonance, the degree of melting of the tones.

And the exploration in my music never excludes a classicistic or romantic language form.

Also in this piece my idols Ravel and Monk helped me again.

The text is a very short version of the short love story “Eleonora” by Edgar Allan Poe. The lyrical and extensive descriptions of the events and self-reflections of the protagonist have been reduced to three fragments, in which the main points from the story are presented. A grammatical adaptation – the first person singular becomes the third person singular – was necessary to convert the language of the male I-figure into the language of a narrator.

This narrator appears to be a kind of Sheherazade.

And this story too, one of the few Poe-tales in which the mood goes in the positive direction, does not seem to work out.


Text “Eleonora” (after E.A.Poe)

1.The Valley of the Many Coloured Grass
Eleonora was the name of his cousin. They had always dwelled together beneath a tropical sun, in the Valley of the Many Coloured Grass. No unguided footstep ever came upon that vale. No path was trodden in its vicinity.
From the dim regions beyond the mountains there crept out a narrow and deep river, brighter than all save the eyes of Eleonora.
The margin of the river was carpeted all by a soft green grass, vanilla-perfumed.
And, here and there, in groves about this grass sprang up fantastic trees, speckled with the vivid alternate splendor of ebony and silver, smoother than all save the cheeks of Eleonora.
For years hand in hand they roamed about this valley before Love entered within their hearts. One evening they sat, locked in each others embrace, and looked down within the waters of the river at their images therein.
They spoke no words during the rest of that sweet day.
A change fell upon all things. Brilliant flowers burst out upon the trees where no flowers had been known before. The tall flamingo, hitherto unseen, flaunted his scarlet plumage before them. The golden and silverfish haunted the river, out of the bosom of which issued a murmur that swelled into a lulling melody more divine than that of the harp of Aeolus — sweeter than all save the voice of Eleonora.

2.The Vow
The finger of Death was upon her bosom. And he offered up a vow to herself and to Heaven, that he would never bind himself to any daughter of Earth. And she said she would watch over him and return visibly in the watches of the night, sighing in the evening winds, filling the air with perfume from the censers of the angels.
And, with these words upon her lips she yielded up her innocent life.
Yet the promises of Eleonora were not forgotten for he heard the sounds of the swinging of the censers of the angels; and streams of a holy perfume floated ever and ever about the valley; and at lone hours, when his heart beat heavily, the winds that bathed his brow came unto him laden with soft sighs; and indistinct murmurs filled often the night air; and once — oh, but once only! he was awakened from a slumber by the pressing of spiritual lips upon his own.

Oh, bright was the seraph Ermengarde!
And as he looked down into the depth of her memorial eyes he thought only of them and of her.
Oh, divine was the angel Ermengarde!
And once again in the silence of the night there came the soft sighs; and they modelled themselves into familiar and sweet voice, saying:
“Sleep in peace! for the Spirit of Love reigneth and ruleth, and, in taking to thy heart her who is Ermengarde, thou are absolved of thy vows unto Eleonora.”


Susanne Abbuehl – voice
Swiss/Dutch singer and composer Susanne Abbuehl (*1970) studied jazz voice with Rachel Gould and Jeanne Lee at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, North Indian classical singing with Prabha Atre and composition with Diderik Wagenaar.
In January 2018, she was named «European Musician 2017» by the French Académie du Jazz.
Susanne Abbuehl has been an ECM Recording Artist since 2001 and has toured worldwide.
Previous awards and prizes have included an EDISON AWARD (Dutch grammy) for „April“ (2002) and the GRAND PRIX DU DISQUE DE L’ACADEMIE CHARLES CROS for „Princess“ (2017).
In 2016 she was one of the recipients of the SWISS MUSIC PRIZE.
Her production „Der Gaukler Tag“, a radio play for Swiss national radio SRF, was nominated for the PRIX MARULIC in 2013.
Susanne Abbuehl is professor for jazz voice, ensemble and composition for and with words at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Lucerne as well as at the Haute Ecole de Musique HEMU in Lausanne.
Her current field of research is perfect pitch in jazz education in which she is conducting the second project at HEMU Lausanne throughout 2018.

Recent conference contributions include „The Gestalt Approach In Teaching Jazz Voice And In Creating Art“ (International Jazz Voice Conference Helsinki, 2017) and „Perfect Pitch In Jazz Education“ (Rhythm Changes research conference Amsterdam, 2017). She was also a speaker and panelist at the Association Européenne des Conservatoires’s Pop & Jazz educators meeting in Pescara in 2018.

Wolfert Brederode – piano
Pianist Wolfert Brederode (*1974) debuted with ensembles such as the Wolfert Brederode Quintet, Nimbus, the Susanne Abbuehl Group and later on with the Wolfert Brederode Quartet, Duo Lijbaart/Brederode, Batik and the Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet. With these groups he has recorded, toured, performed at festivals and broadcasts throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia, South- and Middle America, the Middle East and Africa.

In 2014 Wolfert initiated a new trio featuring Gulli Gudmundsson on double bass and Jasper van Hulten on drums. Their first album ‘Black Ice’ has been released on ECM Records in spring 2016.

Wolfert has furthermore worked with artists such as David Liebman, Jeanne Lee, Arve Henriksen, Mark Feldman, Ernst Reijseger, Matthieu Michel, Tore Brunborg, Rachel Gould, Wolfgang Puschnig, Ronan Guilfoyle, Mats Eilertsen, Tony Lakatos, Michel Portal, Per Oddvar Johansen, Claudio Puntin, Olavi Louhivuori, Oene van Geel, Bram Stadhouders, Jarle Vespestad, Ack van Rooyen, Theo Loevendie, Lucas Niggli, Gerald Veasley, John Ruocco, Eric Vloeimans, Cristina Branco and Amsterdam Sinfonietta.

Apart from his activities as a performing artist Wolfert contributed compositions to several theatre, dance and film productions. Wolfert is a piano and ensemble teacher at the jazz departements of the conservatories of Tilburg and The Hague.


April 12 19:30


Arnold Schoenbergzaal, Royal Conservatoire

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