Arnold Marinissen from Amsterdam and Stephan Meier from Hannover studied percussion at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague and have since 1994 been working to combine a striving for instrumental perfection with developing unpretentious performance forms. To this end, in 1998 they founded the Dutch-German Ensemble S, which has subsequently played such European concert halls and festivals as Kölner Philharmonie, NDR / das neue werk, Niedersächsische Musiktage, Muziekcentrum Vredenburg Utrecht, Sprengel Museum Hannover and Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Their Dutch premiere of György Ligeti’s Síppal, Dobbal, Nádihegedüvel, studied and prepared with the composer, grew into a tremendous event, fêted enthusiastically at Rotterdam’s De Doelen.
Since 2002 their CIRCUS S, with spatially conceived music, has travelled Europe with its own marquee, taking circus for the ears to Milan, Utrecht and Hannover with music that transcends the sounds of any concert hall: around, above and in the midst of the audience, creating spaces to see, feel, listen, wonder and marvel at. CIRCUS S emerged as an unconventional solution for the performance of spatially composed music, which includes the location of the sound sources in the score, i.e., specifies precisely from which direction each sound should come. For years the percussionists had struggled with conventional concert halls and mould-breaking concert programmes that were fated never to go together.
The unique atmosphere that everyone knows of being under canvas is also exploited by the dramaturgy; there are performance programmes themed around nature in which, along with the array of simpler and more exotic percussion instruments from bass marimba to whipped cream aerosol the acoustic or amplified sounds of plants are introduced: cacti, pine branches, wood blocks ‘scrubbed’ with brushes and tree trunks beaten with sticks, the sounds of water, animal pelts, storms and, finally, of the stars.
The ensemble has gathered extensive experience with music for specific (open-air) locations: ‘De Zang van een voortgaande beweging’ in the wide open spaces of a newly-enclosed polder landscape in northern Holland, music in the roofless ruined church of St. Aegidien, their ‘Nanamusik’ on the Hohes Ufer riverbank in Hannover Old Town, or in Herrenhausens Großer Garten for KunstFestSpiele 2009 – 2010.
CIRCUS S was awarded the 2003 prize of the Stiftung Kulturregion Hannover arts foundation.
Recordings by Ensemble S have all received international awards: the DualDisc ‘Gérard Grisey: Le Noir de l’Etoile’ was selected by the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw for its Top Ten 2006 and appeared in the German record critics’ best list I/2007. Their recordings of further works by Grisey, ‘Tempus ex machina’ and ‘Stele’ (2006), were selected for the German record critics’ best list prize, and in 2008 ‘Le Temps et L’Ecume’ with the WDR Symphony Orchestra and Emilio Pomarico took the Diapason d’or. Both were co-produced with WDR Köln on the KAIROS label.
Among the composers who received commissions from the ensemble are José-Maria Sanchez-Verdù (2002), Helmut Oehring (2002), Johannes Schöllhorn (2006), Oliver Schneller (2008), Gunter Lege (2010), Vinko Globokar (2012), Willem Boogman (2013).
Ensemble S on Mode:
Johannes Schöllhorn - clouds and sky (mode 255)