In medias res

(Concertino pour douze instrumentistes)

fl, cl, bn – hn, tp, tbn – 2 perc. – str.quartet
Written for players of the Residentie Orkest

In medias res : A short presentation

The title

It was clear to me, from the beginning of my work on this piece, that it would be called either « In medias res », literally meaning « in the midst of things », or more simply « Concertino pour douze instrumentistes ».

The first title was describing the concept/idea of the opening of the piece, and its logical development. In medias res refers to a narrative procedure that opens the work in the middle of the plot, and completing the backstory via the use of dialogues, flashbacks, etc… The second title would only describe it as the single short movement of a concert of some kind.

Eventually, I decided to use both, the descriptive title becoming not only the subtitle for the piece, but also a clear indication of what the ‘story’ will be about.


The opening gesture gives the impression of picking up the piece from something that was already going on, letting it unfold in an ample, though sparkling, adagio-like movement. Then, the rigid structure and rhythms of the first part « explode » into motives, groups of notes and harmonies that shatter bringing the music into a static yet organic phase. Here, I imagined an action almost totally stopped in space with its components gravitating around a central point, and from which an observer could decide to focus on one or another aspect of the said action. To connect the music back with the ‘flow of time’, groups of instruments start moving in a continuous way (cadence), creating an inner speed that eventually leads to the final part of the piece, a retell of the opening idea, but ‘affected’ by the aleatoric moments of the central part.

« Concertino »

In this short and compact work, groups of instruments are rather independent (contrapuntally) although answering to a global structure that tie them all together. The individual is as important as the group, and so is the conductor who has a prominent role, particularly as a guide through the central part, and coordinator of the middle cadence.

The cadence

The broad adagio-like gesture shatters into a succession of more microscopic musical events until groups of instruments merge again to re-create a sense of flow. The woodwinds and percussion instruments form a long and continuous line that rests uninterrupted while the strings and brass articulate the different pivot points of the cadenza.

On the upbeat of 20, the conductor sets a tempo that will apply to all instruments which will then be in charge of a little « solo ». The conductor listens and cues any new instruments according to where they should enter individually inside the group. Although it would be theoretically possible to synchronize all sixteenth notes here (as all instruments play at the same speed), the intended effect is to create a blurred gesture which is constituted of slightly un-phased individual lines.

Overall effect

Tied together, this piece should portray an action that an observer would start perceiving as it is already happening. Analyzing it, the observer would be able to actually slow it down and contemplate its different components, before the flow of time catches up again, leading the action into a bright ending.


Den Haag, 12-ii-2021