Metropole Orkest: Arakatak – music of hope and joy

Article: Zsuzsanna Deák

Translation: Nóra Fehér

Funk, pop and jazz in a big band setting: the 77-year-old group, which has also played with Ella Fitzgerald and Robbie Williams, will perform at Müpa Budapest. The Metropole Orkest, a vibrant, experimental and ever-renewing Dutch orchestra, will open the Bridging Europe Festival on 16 September at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall under the conductorship of permanent guest conductor Miho Hazama.

Founded after the war at the urging of the Dutch royal family, the Metropole Orkest will be the first orchestra to perform at the Budapest Festival in Budapest. They felt that after the dark years, the Dutch people needed joy and new hope, and the easiest way to achieve this was through the magic of music.

So musicians came from all over Europe to create something new and fresh: a modern orchestra with a dynamic and innovative sound like no other. Metropole Orkest started out as a big band and big orchestra, but over time it has experimented with more and more experimental genres: It has performed jazz, pop, electronic and world music alongside world-renowned artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Gillespie, Pat Metheny, Brian Eno, Herbie Hancock, Bono, Caro Emerald, the Snarky Puppy, Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper – and even Robbie Williams, who just a few weeks ago announced the forthcoming release of his new album XXV in September. In celebration of his 25-year career, the British star has re-recorded his greatest hits, this time with a new instrumentation and the Metropole Orchestra.

The band has won four Grammy Awards and 21 other nominations in an unbroken career. It has scored many films, regularly performs in the world’s most prestigious concert halls – Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Barbican and the Royal Albert Hall – and is a frequent guest at festivals such as North Sea Jazz, BBC Proms, Holland Festival and Musikfest Bremen.

They have released more than one hundred and fifty albums, have been featured on thousands of radio and television broadcasts, and make around six hundred recordings a year in every style. Yet despite their musical and stylistic diversity, they are instantly recognisable for their distinctive sound and the joy of making music that continues to fill their audiences with hope and happiness after nearly eighty years.

Their innovative events include extraordinary projects such as the tribute to the Sun with the European Space Agency in June this year, which celebrated the life-giving star with music inspired by the Sun and dazzling footage from the Solar Orbiter space probe, or the recording of a meeting of hip-hop and big band for Dutch television.

As the artistic director of the band, Robert Soomer, put it in an interview with Jazzfuel: whether it’s a concert or a new album, a central theme or motif is a great way to draw attention to the music and put it in context. However, you should only take it further if the artists involved genuinely like the motif, otherwise it will come across as forced or contrived.

This year, the Bridging Europe  Festival at Müpa Budapest will focus on Amsterdam, with the Metropole Orkest opening the series on 16 September. The title piece of their concert, Arakatak, was composed by the young Dutch horn composer Morris Kliphuis. There will also be brand new works by the orchestra’s former conductor Vince Mendoza, as well as Donny Mslin, Cory Wong and Mark Guiliana, conducted by their permanent guest conductor, the young Japanese conductor Miho Hazama, who lives in New York.

Most of the large orchestral jazz pieces commissioned by the Metropole Orkest, typically inspired by pop and funk, will be heard live for the first time at this concert in Budapest. Combining tradition and innovation, the ensemble brings the joy of music and the hope of its founding to Budapest: on 16 September, Müpa Budapest and the Bridging Europe are worth a visit for a Dutch, but also universal and international experience.

Article: Zsuzsanna Deák

Translation: Nóra Fehér