Impressive and current premiere

by Annette Meisl

The Amrein-Meisl duo provides a first-class feast for the ears at a mattinée in the light-flooded Chrischona Church.

Sophie Chaillot

First, the audience can enjoy the morning rays of sunshine and the wonderful view from the Chrischona Church. The enjoyment becomes even greater when the concert begins. Warm sounds of trombones penetrate the small church and mark the start of the varied program. The concert is dedicated to the Swiss musician Jürg Wyttenbach. Like a cabaret, the duo comes forward singing, dancing and playing and begins with the first song, “Bel Ami” by Theodor Karl Mackeben (1897–1953).

A score of two meters

The score, which the singer Annette Meisl from Cologne composed herself, is two meters long and overlaps three music stands. Dirk Am-rein accompanies her singing skillfully and virtuosically on his Helicon. The helicon resembles an overly large horn. The long curve of the funnel sits on the shoulders of the musician, who is, so to speak, embraced by his instrument.

He also tells a story about his instrument. Amrein ordered the Helicon online a long time ago and then had to wait numerous weeks for it because the seller couldn't find a suitable box for shipping. When the instrument finally arrived packed in a huge box, but otherwise completely unprotected, he brought it in for repair, completely smashed and dented. After a few days it started to smell terribly. After some searching, a dead mouse fell out of the funnel.

In Sinéad O'Connor's song, Amrein effortlessly switches to the trombone. Meisl's voice sounds heartwarming, skillfully and appropriately accompanied by Amrein with his trombone equipped with a mute. His circular breathing gives the song its musically long phrases.

Swiss premiere

The highlight of the program is the solo piece for trombone “Divergence and Convergence”, composed especially for Amrein. Written by the contemporary composer Chihchun Chi-Sun Lee from Taiwan, the piece is having its Swiss premiere today. The composition is a processing of the global lockdown and is preceded by a short text to the music:

«2020 was a unique year all over the world, especially due to Covid-19, the lives of many people changed enormously. Many issues and political decisions concern divergences and convergences, which either directly or indirectly have a very large influence on everyone. The piece of music is a reflection of this situation, ramifications and competition, opposites and devastation.”

The piece sounds true to the text. Amrein belts out virtuoso staccato arpeggios in contrast to calm two-part passages decorated with overtones. His trombone plays in the highest heights and darkest depths, the entire range of sound is exploited. It sounds like abyss and despair, numerous effects are thrown at the listener's ears, people are panting, groaning and shaking. Sonorous passages contrast with dissonance; sometimes the trombone sounds like a wounded animal. The piece ends with an immense sigh and a never-ending breath. One can only hope that the pandemic, which is still ongoing in 2022, will do the same.

Skillful changes

The program continues with pieces from South America. Dirk Amrein skillfully switches between four different instruments. Sometimes his helicon wraps around him like a huge boa snake, sometimes he is adorned with the slim baroque trombone or two other trombones that he plays in concert. Amrein is the blowing Paganini, he masters every technical difficulty with ease.

For the encore, the Amrein-Meisl duo sings a hit about the beautiful weather and happiness and takes the audience outside again to the breathtaking view of St. Chrischona, Basel's local mountain, high above Riehen and Bettingen.


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