Requiem for a Dying Planet | The Auditorium, Rome | 16 March, 2010

The music of Ernst Reijseger for the films of Werner Herzog

One of contemporary cinema's greatest visionaries and a true movie-making maverick Werner Herzog sought the talents of Dutch cello virtuoso and composer Ernst Reijseger for the hauntingly beautiful soundtracks to his recent films The White Diamond and The Wild Blue Yonder. In a concert in Sala Petrassi at the Auditorium Parco della Musica last night, Ernst Reijseger was joined on stage by Senegalese singer and musician Mola Sylla (with whom he co-wrote The Wild Blue Yonder score), as well as a five piece Sardinian vocal choir, the Voches de Sardinna: Tenore e Cuncordu de Orosei - Patrizio Mura, Gianluca Frau, Mario Siotto, Piero Pala and Massimo Roych. The concert was partly a live sonification of Herzog's films with clips from both documentaries projected on a screen behind the performers, but with many tracks played with no images to support them, it was quickly apparent that these film scores have an exhilarating life of their own.

If you look for Ernst Reijseger's music anywhere online you're likely to find him pigeonholed under "jazz", and certainly there were moments last night that captured the spirit of improvised music, particularly when he swung his cello onto his knees and slapped the strings as if playing a bass guitar, but the lasting impression was one of a marriage between traditional European music and world music - Sylla's distinctive African vocals, accompanied by the plucking of the metal-tongued mbira and the chant-like Latin prayers of the Sardinian singers.

The evening began in near darkness - whole seconds passed before people further back in the theatre seemed to have realised that Reijseger had taken to the stage and was gently stroking ethereal sounds from his cello - and Sylla's entrance was in darkness too, with his voice heard at a distance and off stage. At first the audience seemed confused as to quite how to respond to the music and followed strict classical music "rules" and sat firmly on their hands in religious silence between the first pieces and resisted the temptation to applaud. The rulebook was soon jettisoned, however, and by the end of the show the applause and cries of "Bravi" brought them back out on stage for an encore in which they performed a traditional Sardinian folk song "Dillu".

Presented as part of Contemporanea, a festival of contemporary art, music and performance with an eclectic series of events spread somewhat sporadically throughout the year, this was yet another immensely enjoyable concert hosted at the Auditorium and further evidence of the venue's continued support of some of the most interesting and exciting performers working today.

Watch a clip of Herzog, Reijeseger and Sylla working together below or click here to watch it on YouTube.

Photo © deSingel