Skip to main content

11.000 Saiten

Georg Friedrich Haas, Klangforum Wien

Fifty pianos in a large circle in Amsterdam’s Gashouder form the basis for an exceptional composition of an at times ethereal beauty that swells into a thunderous roar at others.


11.000 Saiten, ‘11,000 strings’, is the title of this new disproportionate composition by grandmaster Georg Friedrich Haas. Klangforum Wien asked Haas to compose a piece for the ensemble and fifty pianos. The idea was born when ensemble director Peter Paul Kainrath visited a Chinese piano factory and was blown away by the sound of dozens of pianos that were mechanically played at the same time for testing. Haas was immediately enthused and turned the idea into a striking emotional journey into sound, like music for an invisible film.


In 11.000 Saiten, each of the fifty pianos is in tune in itself but detuned in ever so small increments relative to the other instruments: each 1/50th of a semitone higher to the next. This results in a surround ‘piano orchestra’ that, especially combined with Klangforum’s phenomenal musicians, makes for an immense sound palette: from pure piano sound and timbres you might swear are coming from a synthesizer to pure noise and intense thunderous sounds. Add to this the artistry of Haas, who never loses sight of the human dimension in his experimentalism, and the monumental atmosphere of Amsterdam’s Gashouder, and it makes for an unforgettable experience.


‘It is one of these ideas which are so crazy that there is no other possibility but to say "Yes!"'
- Georg Friedrich Haas

dates

Sat June 22 4:00 PM

Sat June 22 8:00 PM

Prices

  • default € 48
  • CJP/student/scholar € 13

language & duration

  • 1 hour 6 minutes (zonder pauze)

At this performance, we will organise a guided tour for Governors, Friends of the Heart and Partners. Support the Holland Festival and experience more!


A ring of piano casings

 

This composition assignment must have been a gift from the heavens for Georg Friedrich Haas (Graz, 1953), who had at his disposal no less than fifty pianos - as well as the brilliant musicians of the Klangforum Wien ensemble, with whom he built a special relationship throughout the years. 11.000 Saiten (‘11,000 strings’) premiered to great success at Italy’s Bolzano Festival Bozen in August 2023. And this in the month when Haas celebrated his seventieth birthday. With this exciting project, he tapped into an unprecedented richness of sound with an intensity of almost otherworldly proportions. The microtonal maestro could go wild.

At this performance, we will organise a guided tour for Governors, Friends of the Heart and Partners. Support the Holland Festival and experience more!


A ring of piano casings

 

This composition assignment must have been a gift from the heavens for Georg Friedrich Haas (Graz, 1953), who had at his disposal no less than fifty pianos - as well as the brilliant musicians of the Klangforum Wien ensemble, with whom he built a special relationship throughout the years. 11.000 Saiten (‘11,000 strings’) premiered to great success at Italy’s Bolzano Festival Bozen in August 2023. And this in the month when Haas celebrated his seventieth birthday. With this exciting project, he tapped into an unprecedented richness of sound with an intensity of almost otherworldly proportions. The microtonal maestro could go wild.

‘Detuned’  in small increments

First there is the physical size of the instruments and their arrangement - even apart from the logistic challenges, these make 11.000 Saiten a formidable undertaking. A circle of fifty pianos forms the basis: a ring of piano casings, black-and-white keys and players, with both the audience and Klangforum Wien’s musicians in the middle. Here the traditional piano concert is pushed to the point of absurdity and put through the ringer. Then there’s the tuning. Each piano is in tune in itself, but ‘detuned’ in ever so small increments of 1/50th of a semitone relative to the other instruments.

 

This exceptional setup allows the Austrian composer to wield an infinite palette of tonal hues, differing dynamics and spaciousness that he eagerly uses. Haas treats his audience to an auditory experience that is unparalleled. With its emotional complexity and visual force, 11.000 Saiten invites free association with sound worlds in and beyond musical history. One moment the ensemble’s delicate performance gives rise to a chillingly sweet melodic piano motif, and the next a bellowing mythical creature - or, who knows, the thunderous roar of a spaceship lifting off - reveals itself. Typical for Haas’ hand is his ability to use physical instruments for producing soundscapes that rival the most refined electronic sound syntheses, while being of a completely different order at the same time. This quality can be confusing at times, as when after its world premiere in Bolzano a listener told Haas that he certainly thought 11.000 Saiten was a remarkable work, but that he felt the electronics were a bit overwhelming. Even when no electronic instruments were used whatsoever!

 

Hailun

The origins of the piece lie in Ningbo in China, where Peter Paul Kainrath, Klangforum Wien’s manager, visited Hailun’s piano factory. Every piano there is played by a machine for at least 24 hours before leaving the factory. Kainrath heard a hundred untuned pianos playing at the same time and immediately thought of Haas and his penchant for stacking microtonal sounds - i.e. polyphony where not the traditional semitone (that between the white and black keys on the piano) and not even the quartertone is the smallest step between pitches. Haas’ reply: ‘This is really such a crazy idea. You just can’t say no.’

 

Hyena with Mollena Willams-Haas

Haas is known to be a socially involved artist who increasingly situates himself and his work within the social and political reality in recent years. His previous contribution to the 2018 Holland Festival, with Klangforum Wien as well, had a very personal dimension and motivation. For Hyena, a striking, hallucinatory composition, he worked together for the first time with his wife Mollena Willams-Haas, who served as the narrator and told of her struggles with alcoholism and quitting drinking.

 

Haas composed 11.000 Saiten during a period of his life in which, by his own account, he felt more free from the burdens of his past than ever. Moving to New York in 2013 and marrying Williams played a great part in this. On 18 June at the Holland Festival, he will be interviewed at De Balie about his book Durch vergiftete Zeiten (2022), in which he delves deeply into his fraught family history. Both his parents and grandparents were devout Nazis. Even after the Second World War, they remained loyalists and indoctrinated young Georg with Hitler’s ideology. These days, he also speaks openly about BDSM, his sexual preference for which he was ashamed throughout much of his life. In this light, the title 11.000 Saiten, while firstly referring to the number of piano strings in the fifty-headed piano beast, can also be read as a nod to Guillaume Apollinaire’s grotesque pornographic novelette The Eleven Thousand Rods.


 

Exploratorium

The roughly sixty pianists playing during the two performances of 11.000 Saiten are students of the conservatories of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and the Hague. Under the banner of ‘exploratorium’, the coming years will see the Holland Festival presenting a number of projects in which conservatory students work together with international makers in order to let them gain experience beyond their everyday practice and broaden their musical horizons. The title comes from a talk by Karlheinz Stockhausen in which he argued that conservatories should focus more on exploring new sound worlds rather than on conserving ‘old’ music. Such collaborations took place incidentally before already, like with aus LICHT (2019) and Indra's Net (2023), but now will get a structural follow-up, with 11.000 Saiten as the first achievement of this sort.

 

Text: Nicoline Baartman

Read less
  • <p>world premiere in Bolzano, 1 August 2023</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>performed by Mahler Academy Orchestra</p>

    © Anna Cerrato

  • <p>Georg Friedrich Haas</p>

    © Harald Hoffmann

  • <p>11.000 Saiten</p>

    © Markus Sepperer

  • <p>11.000 Saiten</p>

    © Markus Sepperer

  • <p>11.000 Saiten</p>

    © Markus Sepperer

  • <p>11.000 Saiten</p>

    © Markus Sepperer

  • <p>11.000 Saiten</p>

    © Markus Sepperer

credits

music Georg Friedrich Haas performed by Klangforum Wien production Klangforum Wien commissioned by Busoni-Mahler Foundation with the support of Ernst von Siemens Musiktiftung exclusive project partner Hailun Piano Co., Ltd.

This performance is made possible by