Sarah Nemtsov - Biography

The award-winning composer Sarah Nemtsov was born in Oldenburg in 1980 and already began composing when she first started music lessons, at the age of seven. In 1988 she became a young student of composition at the Hannover Hochschule for Music and Theater with Nigel Osborne. From 2000 to 2005 she studied oboe at the same institution in addition to composition with Johannes Schöllhorn, after which she passed the Masters’ Examination in Composition with honors at the Berlin University of Arts, having studied with Walter Zimmermann.

As oboe soloist, Sarah Nemtsov has given concerts nationally and internationally; since 2007, however, she has devoted herself exclusively to composition. She is the award winner of many competitions (Jugend komponiert, Hanns Eisler Prize, ZONTA Music Prize, German Music Authors Prize) and fellowships from various foundations (German National Merit Foundation, Aribert Reimann Foundation, Wilfried Steinbrenner Foundation, Villa Serpentara, Berlin Senate, Foundation Zurückgeben). Her works are performed by major ensembles (including Ensemble Adapter, Nomos Quartet, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, International Ensemble Modern Academy) at internationally renowned festivals (including Donaueschingen Music Days, Ultraschall in Berlin, Musica in Straßburg, A•Devantgarde in Munich, Israel Festival).

For Sarah Nemtsov, literature plays an important role as a source of inspiration; it serves her in terms of content as well as formally, in her compositional technique as a conceptual stimulation for her own constant innovation. She has developed her current musical language in her engagement with everyday life. When she cannot realize her acoustic visions with normal instruments, she makes use of other sound sources: everyday objects that are never thought of for pure effect, but always for their sonic, musical qualities.

The Polychromatism and Fragmentation of Reality

In the staged chamber music cycle “A long way away – Passages”, Nemtsov integrates the sound of glass, broken shards, or shattering glass, composes for key chain, for leaves, or for a cardboard box, nail brushes and childrens’ rattles and combines these sound sources with classical instruments. “Passages”, for Sarah Nemtsov, are also the structural principle in the composition: everything is mutable and in motion, opening up fields of association: spaces, images, sounds.

Here, in the combination and contrast of audio and visual moments, at the borders of music theater, she explores new forms of musical presence. Constantly new connections between memories, times and relationships turn up in the contorted composition and the stage design to convey the polychromatism and fragmentation of reality.

The movements of the “Passages” were composed within the context of the cycle, though they may be performed individually:

Abandoned Places, Berlin // Inconspicuous Gates, Paris // Magic Lantern, Combray // a long way away // Central Park, Manhattan or Promontory, New Jersey // Air Macumba, Rio // landscapes, desert

Searching and Remembering

The evening-length opera “L’ABSENCE” (2006-2008) in 5 Acts for 12 Singers, Speaker, Dancer and small orchestra, based on “ The Book of Questions” by Edmond Jabès was premiered at the Munich Biennale in May 2012.

The musical structures of the opera operate underground and hold a very fractured music together. On the basis of Edmond Jabès’ The Book of Questions, the truths of the opera are revealed not in linearity, but rather in the empty spaces, in silence, in abysses and unusual connections. Rabbis constantly turn up in Jabès’ book to comment upon and question the story. Nemtsov shapes this micro-structure very precisely and develops it in broad musical arcs into a five-act form.

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L'Absence

(Photo: Regine Koerner)

   Sarah Nemtsov´s five-act opera has been premiered at the Biennale 2012.

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