Sebastian Sternal: Sternal Symphonic Society: Release Information
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Release Date: 05.10.2012
TT Catalogue No: 4573
Sternal Symphonic Society
It’s only a game, a game with terms and associations and the semantic fields that they call forth. When the pianist Sebastian Sternal was naming his new project, in which he enlarged the fine sound of his piano trio to include a four-piece horn section and a string quartet, and then named the project “Sternal Symphonic Society”, he knew exactly what reaction he could expect: A very large format comes to mind, a mega power plant of feelings with its elaborate machinery, its carefully drawn blueprints and its excess of details. Lingering in the background as well, we are reminded of symphonic societies, of that bourgeois circle that manufactured discourse, that once helped the composer to direct significance and meaning into his compositions. On the one hand.
On the other hand, the musician Sebastian Sternal, born in Mainz in 1983, first piano lessons at the age of six, “How High The Moon” with ten. From then on it was a straight line in the direction of jazz, but not only. At the same time he was also enthusiastic about multifaceted film scores, for example by John Williams who emotionally enriched Steven Spielberg’s films, and he wrote his own compositions for imaginary films. At school he had the opportunity to conduct the jazz big band or play in the large orchestra, an early calling where he was in his element. Later Sternal studied jazz piano in Cologne and complemented his pedagogical and artistic joint degree with several postgraduate semesters in Paris. In the meantime he has a position as a professor in his hometown Mainz. As a jazz pianist, one is familiar with Sternal as an improviser who reacts sensitively, conscious to form, towards his musical environment. He is a crafty instrumentalist with a wide scope of expression, not answering every pattern with a gush of sound, but rather letting his notes speak for themselves and sometimes the silence between them as well.
On “Sternal Symphonic Society”, Sternal restricts himself mostly to his role as composer and outside conductor, a quasi-objective body, organising the disparate layers of sound and taking them to a common level. And ultimately, he has a try at ideas that he has carried around with himself for a long time; ideas that don’t fit into familiar genre stereotypes. He envisions a larger orchestra instrumentation in which the voices of the individual instruments are as carefully and well thought out as in a string quartet that develops a richness of sound colours as only found in symphonic instruments, thereby developing the mobility and spontaneity of a jazz band. With an ensemble of hand-picked musicians and musical friends from his days as a student at the Cologne Conservatory, who are familiar with his musical ideas, his groove game, open harmonies and his tender melodic phrases, he energizes and polarizes: the Pablo Held Trio, with the bassist Robert Landfermann and Jonas Burgwinkel on drums, act as the musical backbone, a jazz trio who seem to collaborate telepathically, the roles between the musicians appear to disappear in a powerful current of mutual energy. At times this trio play as if they were oblivious to everything around them, at other times, they drift into higher and higher spheres with the nonchalant swing of the horn section with trumpet player Frederik Köster and the trombonist Klaus Heidenriech, as well as Christopher Möckel and Niels Klein on the saxophone (and Claudius Valks as a further guest on one song, who expressionistically adds musical colour accents with his soprano saxophone). Or they let their pulse melt into the extensive web of the four strings, Erik and Lisa Schumann on the violins, Ayako Goto on the viola and the cellist Mark Schumann. The trio forges the link, it ensures that the different parts seamlessly blend together: whether they be composed note for note or improvised above that, forceful or delicate, motionlessly poised or vibrantly groovy.
This symphonic society mixes an exceptionally diverse range of sound colours together, pastel and pastose colours, translucent and opaque, fragile and luminescent, and incorporates them into a magnificent musical painting according to Sebastian Sternal’s compositional guidelines, where the borders between genres no longer appear to play a role because they are firmly rooted in jazz. It is a game of deception with unlimited possibilities, aiming to rediscover what is known in what is new, and to continue to stretch the boundaries of what is known, to interlink what belongs together without knowing it. The “Sternal Symphonic Society” definitely bridges a gap, demonstrating that music is only music, genre is not a criterion and only the class of the music and the musicians determines its quality. In this respect, Sebastian Sternal’s new project is tied to the discursive tradition of symphonic societies.