3 questions for composer Hannah Kendall


Emily Denny

Hannah Kendal

For its 70th anniversary in 2020, the European Broadcasting Union has commissioned a new orchestral piece to highlight the importance of the role of public service media in nurturing and promoting new European talent. “Nexus”, by British composer Hannah Kendall, was commissioned for the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) and commemorates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Postponed due to the pandemic, the world premiere of the piece – under the direction of Gianandrea Noseda – will take place on August 16, 2022 at the Bolzano Festival Bozen and will be broadcast live by RAI Radio 3. In this ‘3 questions to’, Hannah Kendall tells us about the main ideas that inspired the work.

Q: “Nexus” commemorates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. In the composition, you reproduce his 5th Symphony with important political events that occurred at the same time. How is this represented in the music? And what does the title “Nexus” mean?

A: In the piece I wrote for the European Union Youth Orchestra, I seek to reflect certain aspects of the 5th Symphony through some of the gestures, tones, tones that Beethoven himself incorporates into his own room. Also, I draw on aspects of Afro-diasporic folk songs, transcribing them into music boxes. It was because I was particularly drawn to the fact that in 1808, when Beethoven’s 5th symphony was written, it was also the same year as the law prohibiting the importation of slaves into the United States entered into force. I was really interested in going back to that time and looking at those connections within history, which is why the piece is called “Nexus.” The word means “a complicated series of connections between different things”. And rather than just focusing on Europe, or just what was happening in the Americas, I kind of wanted to aim to bring those historical themes into an interwoven connection. It’s mainly because of my own heritage which is Afro-Caribbean, but also very European. I wanted to try and aim to at least bring those many different aspects together in the piece.

The piece was written for the European Union Youth Orchestra, which unites the idea of ​​nurturing young talent for future generations with a shared sense of European heritage. How did these elements influence your work in ‘Nexus’?

I’m particularly interested in this idea of ​​a shared sense of heritage, and in this case, a shared sense of European heritage, because that’s certainly something that I appreciated as a musician, as an artist, the sharing of ideas, of practice, which is only a positive thing and has completely shaped the development of my own approach and my own style of composition. I guess these aspects influenced the focus of the ‘Nexus’ work a lot, choosing to incorporate traditional European songs, especially those of Beethoven, and interweaving them with traditional songs from elsewhere, which could be considered as non-European Diasporic Afros. But what’s fascinating about these folk songs that were first sung, first composed, on the plantations of the Americas is that they were heavily influenced by the European presence, for obvious reasons. It is therefore this type of cyclical model that I wish to explore further and that I have tried to integrate into my work.

This work was commissioned to highlight the importance of the role of public service media in promoting new European talent. For you and for the dissemination of your work, what do public service media represent?

For me, public service media are essential. It’s absolutely about spreading thoughts, ideas, music, art, all kinds of things. But it’s fundamentally about connecting a wide range of people.

Music exchange offer

The world premiere “Nexus” by Hannah Kendall by the European Union Youth Orchestra at the Bolzano Bozen Festival is available in MUS under the reference SM/2022/07/14/01. The concert program also includes Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.

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