Nimrod Borenstein

Composer

Author

About

Music has always been for me a great passion and a matter of life and death. Writing music for me is essential to my life, the beauty that I find in its perfection gives me peace.

With many world premieres, scores of performances and multiple recordings of his music, British-French-Israeli composer Nimrod Borenstein is much in demand. Leading artists and orchestras who champion his work include Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Roberto Prosseda, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, the Oxford Philharmonic and many others.

The son of a renowned artist, Nimrod’s first musical experience came as a child on holiday in France, when on a family walk through a forest they came across an outdoors concert. “I just stopped and refused to move until the concert was finished two hours later. And I told my parents then and there that I wanted to learn violin and be a musician.” recalls Borenstein. A love affair with music started, with the young Borenstein challenging himself by listening to classical works on the radio, then turning the sound down halfway through and himself scoring the way he felt the next 30 seconds would continue (he was often more or less correct)! Aged eight he developed a twelve-tone system. “I was very pleased with myself, until someone told me that someone called Schoenberg had got there first,” laughs Borenstein.

In 1984 he won the competition of the Cziffra Foundation and became one of its Laureats. He moved to London in 1986, to pursue his studies as a violinist with Itzhak Rashkovsky at the Royal College of Music. He was then awarded the highest scholarship from the Leverhulme Trust to study composition at the Royal Academy of Music (where he is now an Associate).

Every composer needs artists to perform their music. One of the most important for Borenstein has been Vladimir Ashkenazy, who took an interest early on. A first opportunity to work together arose when Ashkenazy conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra for a performance of The Big Bang and Creation of the Universe to great acclaim. This was quickly followed by a Philharmonia premiere, again with Ashkenazy, If you will it, it is no dream. The collaboration has continued, culminating in 2017 with the release on the Chandos label of a major album conducted by Ashkenazy, entirely devoted to Borenstein’s music.

Borenstein’s music continues to rise in popularity, with his Suspended opus 69 in particular proving a huge international success with more than 100 performances (from the Edinburgh International Festival to the Taipei Arts Festival) since its premiere in January 2015 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The music was commissioned especially by Sean Gandini and Gandini Juggling for their ballet for jugglers and dancers 4 x 4 Ephemeral Architectures.The piece continues to tour the world.

A full-orchestra recording of Suspended launched the Berlin-based Solaire label. Among the excellent reviews, The Arts Desk wrote, “Borenstein’s transparent, athletic string writing is stunningly realised…glorious, singing lines…Borenstein’s sense of fun is infectious”.

Nimrod’s substantial catalogue continues to develop and currently numbers more than seventy works including ballet, concertos, orchestral and chamber music as well as vocal and solo instrumental pieces.

Videos

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

Music has always been for me a great passion and a matter of life and death. Writing music for me is essential to my life, the beauty that I find in its perfection gives me peace.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

I would say that music is for me about Absolute and Beauty.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

The immediate answer that comes through my mind is "dead"! But, to be more serious, I was very attracted by mathematics as a young man.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

As my wife would say, Art has always been difficult. Also, when I think about most of my family who died in the Holocaust I do not think that worry should apply to this subject in the same sense. However I think that it is a waste that so many young people are not aware of the great pleasure they deprive themselves of. But as we do not even know where Mozart is buried, how could it possibly be worse?!

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I do not think that the role of Music should change. I think that great music has always a positive role to play for society. Going to a concert should be an opportunity to listen to music but also an occasion to share with other people a transcendental experience.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

I do not like to use the term "classical music" as it describes well a specific period in time but otherwise gives a wrong idea of the feel of the music. Strange that it is only in music that we have been using the term in a strange way. We do not talk about classical literature or classical art in the same way...Would you imagine saying that Picasso is a classical painter??!!

But to answer to your question properly I would say that we are gradually coming back to a healthier situation. For almost half a century we have been very static in new music with very little change in style and concepts and maybe as a result the music performed in concerts has been almost entirely music from the past. I think that we are starting to move back to a situation like in the 19th and 18th century the music of our time plays a larger role.

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

I do not see how a musician could not be creative! For me there is nothing else but creativity so it is difficult to answer your question. I have been writing music for 40 years and the white page is still a complete mystery. What is exciting for me is that in creating there are no recipes, no tricks. I am trying to find the right notes and the only solution.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

Play each note of each concert as if it was a matter of survival. Perform new music and music from the past with intensity.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

If you asked me which is my Beethoven favourite piece, it would be difficult to answer as they are many and so it is the same with my own music!

To answer your question about how I start writing a new piece would take too long here and would ideally require music examples. However, there is a lecture I gave with the Philosopher Adrian Moore at the London School of Economics which could answer this question for you. The lecture was about the Absolute and in it the pianist Clelia Iruzun performed my piece The Dream (for piano solo) and then I asked her to play several examples of things I decided not to use in the piece including different beginnings. An interesting look at the creative process! A video is available on Youtube at:



We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

My father is an artist and was my most important source of inspiration so I would say that it is interesting to have a dialogue with different art forms. However for me the real test is for music to be good enough to be sufficient on its own!

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Listen to the same piece of music at least 15 times and until you start to discover many new things. The more you listen the more you will start to hear. Listen to music like reading a book: do not do something else at the same time. Themes are like characters in a novel so try to follow them and discover what they do! And finally go to actual concerts!!! We all have preconceived ideas about different things and the best way to not fall unto the trap is the discover by yourself and make your own opinion!

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

It does not seem that new to me...Beethoven and others seemed to have had the same interest in bringing their music to an audience! In my case I am grateful that a lot of performers believe in my music and perform it often which gives people a chance to listen to it. I am also very lucky to have several of my compositions available on Cds and played on radios as well as some live performances available on Youtube. I often receive lovely emails from people contacting me to say how they enjoyed one concert or one Cd of my music and am very touched and happy every single time it happens!

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

None! I want to create something I find beautiful and meaningful and share it.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

Experimenting is the essence of creation so I always experiment and try to find something new!

During the next four months I have several exciting world premieres to look forward to: in late March the Ex Cathedra choir gives the world premiere of my and there was light opus 79 for mixed choir a cappella at the The Codsall Arts Festival (UK), in April Tania Stavreva will premiere my Tango Étude Opus 66 No. 3 for piano solo at the National Opera Center Recital Hall in New York (USA) and in June I will have several premieres including my concerto for violoncello and orchestra opus 77 with Corinne Morris (cello solo) and the BBC Philharmonic under the baton of Frederic Chaslin as well as my Lullaby opus 81a for solo piano and my Lullaby opus 81b for string quartet for the first collaboration between the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Carnegie Hall and El Sistema Greece.

During the same period I have also equally exciting local premieres in Russia (my Poème opus 64 for violin and string orchestra with the violinist Irmina Trynkos and the Kazan Chamber Orchestra conducted by Rustem Abyazov), in South Korea (my Confession opus 55 with Veronique Teruel piano & Huiseung Yoo violin) and the USA (my If you will it, it is no dream opus 58 for orchestra with the South Florida Symphony conducted by Sebrina María Alfonso) as well as many other concerts of my existing music.

The next seasons are equally busy with many premieres and concerts!