Lentz in 2017
|Born||22 October 1965|
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Georges Lentz is a contemporary composer and sound artist, born in Luxembourg in 1965, and is that country's internationally best-known composer. Since 1990, he has been living in Sydney, Australia. Despite his relatively small output and his reclusiveness, he is also considered one of Australia's leading composers. He spends part of each year at his secondary residence in Berlin.
In 2019, a new sound art project, the Cobar Sound Chapel, will be built in Cobar in Outback New South Wales. It will be a purpose-built venue to permanently house the 4-channel projection of Georges Lentz's digital string quartet, the 369-minute composition String Quartet(s) (2000-2019), as well as the venue for a new annual String Quartet Festival Weekend. The Cobar Sound Chapel will be designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect Glenn Murcutt in collaboration with the composer (2016-2019), with its architecture reflecting rhythmic and structural patterns found in String Quartet(s).
Born in Luxembourg City on 22 October 1965, Georges Lentz grew up in the Luxembourg town of Echternach. He studied at the Luxembourg Conservatoire and later at the Paris Conservatoire (1982–1986) and the Musikhochschule Hannover (1986–1990). In 1989, he began working on a cycle of compositions under the name "Caeli enarrant...". His music is being recognised increasingly around the world, with performances at the Berlin Philharmonie, the Vienna Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall London, Carnegie Hall New York, Kennedy Center Washington, Suntory Hall Tokyo, Sydney Opera House. Many leading orchestras have performed his works, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra London, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Hallé Orchestra Manchester, Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin, Bamberger Symphoniker, Kölner Philharmoniker, Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, ORF Symphony Orchestra Vienna, Warsaw Philharmonic, St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Melbourne Symphony... His orchestral work Guyuhmgan, from part VII of this cycle (Mysterium), was the foremost recommended work at UNESCO's 2002 International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. His latest compositions include a work for viola, orchestra and electronics called Monh written for German viola soloist Tabea Zimmermann, as well as Ingwe for solo electric guitar, written for the young Australian guitarist Zane Banks.
Being given to self-doubt and reclusiveness, Georges Lentz rarely publishes new works and rarely accepts commissions. He is said to retire to an abbey (Clervaux Abbey in Luxembourg) or the Australian desert to find inspiration and compose, and only very rarely gives interviews. Lentz didn't attend the 2009 APRA Classical Music Awards ceremony at the Sydney Opera House to accept that year's top prize for Best Composition by an Australian Composer, instead sending guitarist friend Zane Banks to pick up the award and read out his acceptance speech (21 September 2009). A 40-minute documentary about the birth of Ingwe which appeared on YouTube in May 2010 shows Lentz for a total of about 30 seconds.
In January 2015, a new orchestral work, Jerusalem (after Blake) was premiered by the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra. In May 2015, a portrait concert of Lentz's music by the Munich Chamber Orchestra at the Pinakothek der Moderne included the world premiere of the definitive version of Birrung (1997-2014) for 11 strings. In November 2016, the final version of Jerusalem (after Blake) was premiered at Wien Modern.
Georges Lentz's music is published by Universal Edition in Vienna.
The Vale of Glamorgan Festival (UK), where Lentz was a featured composer in 2006, introduced his music as "...an awestruck and almost fearful response to the beauties and mysteries of the universe; a massive, personal creative undertaking from which this intense, almost obsessive composer is painstakingly extracting concert works...a unique voice whose music is genuinely moving despite its brittle austerity and unearthliness, and captures some of the most evocative silences imaginable."
Georges Lentz's music is highly original, while showing the influence of the French Spectralists and, to some degree, the New Complexity movement (unusual instrumental combinations, extended playing techniques etc.). It is often soft, fluctuates between polyphonic intricacy and fragile monody and sometimes contains extended silences. In its searing intensity and its often psychedelic colours, it has an almost 'visionary' slant to it.
Lentz's scores of recent years (Mysterium) are written in an unusual rhythmic system, where each bar contains four beats, but the beats can be of different lengths. While it is not clear why Lentz has adopted this idiosyncratic system, the sophisticated textures and colours (occasionally with delicate layers of computer-generated sounds) superimposed over the top of these rigid "grids" render the music far from monotonous or square and frequently give it an extraordinary shimmering or 'twinkling' quality.
Another feature particularly of his recent orchestral works is a refined and instantly recognisable sense of harmony incorporating both microtonality and, now and then, an austere sense of 'twisted' tonality, with the occasional harmonic progression fleetingly reminiscent of Schumann or Bruckner. However, these chorale-like fragments are always brief and buried in the texture of the music, giving the impression of something "long forgotten".
One of his latest works, Ingwe, is a monumental 60-minute work for solo electric guitar, possibly the longest solo composition ever written for the instrument. It contrasts sharply, in many ways, with Lentz's prior music and takes the electric guitar into dimensions previously unexplored in a 'classical' context. Ingwe also contains, for the first time in Lentz's output, a short section that relinquishes strict control over the musical material and gives some improvisational freedom to the performer.
The composer's website states that he is currently working on a "kind of string quartet", though what exactly he means by this is as yet unclear. Both Jerusalem (after Blake) and String Quartet(s) testify to Lentz's love of William Blake's visionary epic Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion.
Because of its vast cyclical structure, Lentz's work has been described by British musicologist Chris Dench as "almost proustian" in nature. For the same reasons it has occasionally been compared to Balzac's literary cycle La Comédie Humaine. There seems however to be little relation between Lentz's music and these writers apart from the obvious structural parallels and perhaps a certain panoramic view of the world.
In the final analysis Lentz's music, born from "total silence and radical isolation – at the very real risk of hearing nothing at all" (composer's website), seems to be torn between intense feelings of awe and an over-riding struggle with spiritual doubt and existential loneliness.
Caeli enarrant... (1989 to date)
|III||1990–2000||12 strings, 3 percussionists, 1 boy soprano||14 min.|
|IV||1991–2000||string quartet, 4 suspended cymbals||27 min.|
|V||1989–1992||prepared piano||10 min.|
|Birrung||1997–2014||11 strings||13 min.|
|Nguurraa||2000–2016||clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano||11min.|
|Guyuhmgan||2000–2007||orchestra and electronics||18 min.|
|Alkere||2002–2013||prepared piano||12 min.|
|Monh||2001–2005||solo viola, orchestra and electronics||23 min.|
|Ingwe||2003–2018||electric guitar||60 min.|
|Jerusalem (after Blake)||2011–2016||orchestra and electronics||21 min.|
|String Quartet(s)||2000–2019||pre-recorded string quartet (in collaboration with The Noise) / sound installation||369 min.|
•"Caeli enarrant..." III, "Caeli enarrant..." IV, Birrung & Nguurraa
Ensemble 24 / Matthew Coorey
•Ngangkar & Guyuhmgan
•Ngangkar, Guyuhmgan & Monh
- Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize 1997 – "Caeli enarrant..." I
- UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers, Paris, 2002: Top Recommended Composition – Guyuhmgan
- APRA Awards of 2009: Best Composition by an Australian Composer – Monh
- "Lentz, Georges", in Luxemburger Lexikon, Editions Guy Binsfeld, Luxembourg, 2006. (in German)
- "Lentz, Georges", in New Classical Music – Composing Australia by Gordon Kerry, University of NSW Press, Australia, 2004.
- "Cobar Sound Chapel". Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- "Winners – Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 24 April 2010.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Georges Lentz at Villa Concordia Bamberg, Germany
- Julian Day, Limelight Magazine, Australia, November 2011