Petra Cini writes one-minute symphony for Residentie Orkest: ‘I hope it will bring a smile to people’s faces’

One man’s loss is another man’s gain, it is a trite but true saying. The North Netherlands Orchestra had to cancel its concert because of the covid-19 measuers, and the Residentie Orkest steps in. They will present an adapted programme in AVROTROSVrijdagconcert on 29 January in TivoliVredenburg Utrecht, conducted by Jun Märkl and with Hannes Minnaar in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.

The concert also offers the young Italian composition student Petra Cini an exceptional opportunity. It opens with the world premiere of her one-minute symphony The Rite of the Way?, which was cancelled last summer. Who is she and how did she approach her mini-composition for full symphony orchestra?

Petra Cini (c) Anca Barjovanu

Petra Cini was born in Florence in 1995 and studied classical piano at the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory, completing her bachelor’s degree at 19. She then moved to The Hague to study composition at the Royal Conservatoire. ‘The teaching in Italy was of high quality, but also very conservative’, she says. ‘To broaden my musical experience and horizon, I chose the Royal Conservatoire, because it offers a much wider variety of musical conceptions.’

When Residentie Orkest asked her to write a piece for their One Minute Symphony series, she immediately jumped at the chance. I was happy to be selected and have the opportunity to gain experience working with a professional symphony orchestra.’ The orchestra left her quite free in her approach. ‘Apart from the limited time span they only asked me not to use a soloist or exceed the instrumentation of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, which comes next.’

For inspiration, Cini visited a primary school in The Hague, where she met pupils from grades 6 and 7. ‘This was proposed by the organisation, and it seemed refreshing to come into contact with a reality that  I’m not usually exposed to.’ It worked out well: ‘The children were between 8 and 11 years old and I enquired after their ideas about the future, their inspiration and their ambitions. We had fun together, my energy excited theirs and vice versa. It was inspiring for a shared sense of play, imagination and determination.’

‘Young people have two luxuries: having spent little time living and having a lot of time still lying sahead. This is evidenced by their immense energy and zest for life. Adults have already experienced more disappointment and disenchantment, so they often lack this vigour and excitement.’

‘On the other hand, a lot of older people have mastered the art of resilience and have reached a more fulfilling and stable optimism than that of youngsters. It is like a sheltered and intimate fireplace that warms themselves and others around. In the words of Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops – at all –.”

Cini wondered how she could channel the energy she received from the children. Percussion plays an important role in her mini-symphony, but she is reluctant to say more about this: ‘I don’t want to give everything away, it is only one minute long after all. But I will say that it is a driving force used strategically to emphasize the impetus of certain passages.’

The title The Rite of Way? is intriguing. ‘It refers to two opposite ways of approaching life’, explains Cini. ‘A deductive, ritualistic one, expressed in “The Rite”, versus a more intuitive, fluid approach, “The Way”. These two concepts merge into the understanding that perhaps they should coexist. The question mark then calls this into question. Personally, I think that the alternation of these two perspectives can help us move forward: enough structure to build, enough flexibility to change.’

Her piece has an optimistic tone. ‘I have always been an optimistic realist. I think we still have much to be grateful for. Despite the problems of these historic times, I look to the future with wonder, hope and, above all, resilience.’

‘It would be wonderful if my energetic piece could put a smile on people’s faces and instill a refreshing desire to go on. Especially in difficult circumstances, we must continue to cherish hope.’

The concert will be broadcast on NPO Radio 4 on 29 January from 8 pm CET, but due to the curfew the actual performance will take place in the afternoon (without audience), so the musicians can get back home in time.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, my income has dwindled to virtually zero. A donation, however small, is welcome through PayPal, or direct money transfer to my bank account: T. Derks, Amsterdam, NL82 INGB 0004 2616 94. A heartfelt thank you for your support!

About Thea Derks

I am a Dutch music journalist, specializing in contemporary music, and a champion of women composers. In 2014 I wrote the biography of Reinbert de Leeuw (3rd edition in 2020) and in 2018 I published 'Een os op het dak: moderne muziek na 1900 in vogelvlucht'.
This entry was posted in Interview, women composers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Petra Cini writes one-minute symphony for Residentie Orkest: ‘I hope it will bring a smile to people’s faces’

  1. Pingback: Ritratto Willem Jeths: a luscious soundworld that vies with Puccini | Contemporary Classical – Thea Derks

  2. Gijs Grob says:

    Wow, ik vond die symfonietjes van Milhaud al kort…

    Liked by 1 person

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