brigitta muntendorf

Trilogy for two pianos

Premiere of the whole cycle
Kunstfestspiele Herrenhausen 2018

Written for

GrauSchumacher Piano Dup

Text & Voices
Brigitta Muntendorf & Javier Salinas

45 minutes

Technical equipment (rough list)
4 contact microphones (inside piano, body, pedal) / 1 mini-mic for the hand / stereo mic piano for each player/piano; mixing desk and sound system with 6-8 speakers, sub and speakers within the audience, laptop with Max MSP, 2 midi controller (2 octaves)


for two pianos, live-electronics and tape

CD & Blu-ray of Trilogy for two pianos

Comprises the CD and an additional Blu-ray (including the three films of Theater des Nachhalls with both stereo and 5.1 multichannel audio in 24 bit, 48 kHz), a 52-page bilingual booklet (EN, DE) with articles by Dirk Wieschollek, an interview with Brigitta Muntendorf, Andreas Grau and Götz Schumacher, as well as two concertina-fold inserts featuring photos of the composer and film stills of the performers.

Winner of the German Record Critics’ Award 2023 

Trilogy for two pianos is the winner of the German Record Critics’ Award 2023 in the category Contemporary Classical Music.


Listen to Key of Presence

Press Review

SWR2 (Southwest Broadcasting) / Susanne Benda

FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) / Lotte Thaler

Kapital / Michal Lipták: Súčasná vážna hudba: Elektronické živočíchy

Live documentation: Key of Presence

Live documentation: Key of Absence

program notes

When I started working on Key of Presence at the SWR Experimentalstudio in 2014, I had no idea that this piece and the approach to paradoxes of presence, absence and the moment would keep me busy for another four years. The Trilogie für zwei Flügel[1], consisting of the three movements Key of PresenceKreisIncrease and Key of Absence, has grown into a 45-minute piano cycle in 2018 and pushes existing boundaries in piano repertoire in terms of the complexity of playing and interplay with electronics.  During the composition of the trilogy, I always had a revolving door to the present in mind, through which musical reminiscences, associations, the representative or fictitious are channeled in and out as something past, present, and future. I wanted to create a reference system that defies all logic, takes on a life of its own and unfolds its power as a dynamic system.

In Key of Presence (2014) the two pianists work their way through their material in a virtuosic fashion. Just as they press keys, they trigger contact microphones on strings or on the body, operate a fourth pedal or act inside the piano. The more the sound and movement choreographies absorb them, the more the differences between live music, live electronics and playback disappear – as if they themselves become personified disappearances. When the Spanish avant-garde writer Javier Salinas posted his poem “Something is coming my friend” on Facebook in 2014, he did not yet know that he would continue this morning ritual for another ten years and lead a new life as a yoga teacher. Nevertheless, this one poem, out of hundreds written and spoken in a language foreign to him, represented a celebration of transience, premonition, the everyday, the foreign, the non-spectacular. This poem forms the text for Key of Presence as a proxy for all the spaces we try to avoid in the face of the fear of transience or any kind of passing nature.

KreisIncrease[2] (2018) forms the center of the trilogy and refers to a piece that I deeply love: Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s orchestral work Stille und Umkehr (1970). I didn’t want to quote that existing piece, nor deconstruct it, nor recontextualize its original messages. Even though I do draw upon its harmonies, its use of parallel tempi and it cyclically recurring ideas, my question is whether and to what extend the significance of Zimmermann’s “resonances of sound and sound production within us” (Jean Luc Nancy) can be translated using my own compositional systems of reference. KreisIncrease produces isolation through constant orbiting and allows stagnation to emerge as a recurring complementary, analog stage stereo by the pianists.  I could almost say: In the search for something that could be called the real, KreisIncrease is the unmasked – in its complete staging.

In Key of Absence (2017), the word “logos” (word, speech) contained in “trilogy” inspired me to establish a kind of commentary function with the voices of the players, which act as an amplification and friction of the physical presence. The words they say are changed in various ways as the piece continues, such as they drift more and more into the realm of the absurd and the paradoxical. In addition, the players are confronted with musical quotes from the past, which suddenly redirect or interfere the virtuoso piano playing at various points, as if memory were the instance that could manifest presence. 

[1] “Flügel” has two meanings in German, it is a colloquial term for “concert grand” and also means “wings”.

[2] „Kreis“ is the German term for “cycle”