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To hell! (2005-2008)
recomposition for viola and orchestra
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Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Instrumentation: vla solo, picc, 2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, b-cl, 2 fag, c-fag, 4 cor, 3 trp, 3 trbn, tb, harp, 3 perc, vl1, vl2, vla, vlc, cb

Duration: ± 11 minutes

First performance original version: 20 april 2005 in de Vereeniging in Nijmegen door Susanne van Els en het Schönberg Ensemble o.l.v. Reinbert de Leeuw

Recomposition commissioned by: Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra

Reviews: "The 'last' concert of the home-orchestra started with a new symphonic version of To Hell!, composed in 2005 for viola and ensemble by Mayke Nas. The piece is typical for the retro-trend: the medieval story about Mariken van Nimwegen as a straussian 'Symphonische Dichtung' with quite some strong rhythmical stravinskyan music."
(Kasper Jansen in NRC, 6 april 2009)

"Like a fiddler in the tradition of Appalachian Swing he reached the end of Mayke Nas' To Hell!. The public yelled back in style. 'Ji-haa!'."
(Guido van Oorschot in Volkskrant, 6 april 2009)

Audio sample of ensemble version performed by Susanne van Els & Schönberg Ensemble / Reinbert de Leeuw
Mayke Nas originally wrote To Hell! for an anniversary concert celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the city of Nijmegen that took place in April 2005. As a source of inspiration she chose one of the oldest surviving texts in Dutch: the medieval parable “Mariken van Nieumeghen” (16th century). Mayke Nas: "You could view Mariken van Nieumeghen as a Faust legend avant la lettre. A girl sells her soul to the devil in a moment of weakness in exchange for the promise to be taught the Seven Liberal Arts: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy."

The choice of this topic places Mayke Nas in a long series of literary (Goethe and Thomas Mann) and musical (Gounod, Busoni, Wagner, Lizst, Schnittke, Stravinsky and Boehmer) predecessors, but she distances herself strongly from the Christian connotation that often clings to the parable: "For me, Alice in Wonderland or Huckleberry Finn are, like God and the devil, figures in a book. In other words: product of the human mind. And people have both good and bad, respectively divine and demonic qualities. That is what in my mind this story is about. We always strive for more, for better or just for something different. But some desires come at a higher price than others. When is a desire so radical that you would trade in your soul?"

In To Hell!, the viola plays with a witty musical resemblance to the protagonist from another famous soul-to-the-devil-selling-story: “L'histoire du soldat”, by Stravinsky. The story of Mariken is very virtuous (no medieval story without a moral), but in To Hell!, the viola celebrates in the role of the devil, and hell is portrayed as a festive carousal.