ORION STORIES
Q&A with Composer Sebastian Huydts
Movements from Delicias de Blancanieves on March concerts
Sebastian Huydts (b. 1966) studied piano at the Amsterdam Conservatory in The Netherlands with Edith Lateiner Grosz. He holds an MA in composition from the University of Chicago where he studied composition with Shulamit Ran, Marta Ptaszynska, Howard Sandroff, Cliff Colnot and John Eaton. As a composer he has written repertoire for solo instruments as well as various ensembles ranging from duo to orchestra. His style seeks to combine 20th century innovations with traditional elements of Western music. In addition to The Orion Ensemble, he has received commissions from the Rhijnauwen Chamber Music Festival, the DuPage Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Rembrandt Chamber Players and Vents de Barcelona, as well as from individual artists Marion van den Akker, Keith Conant, Katinka Kleijn, Claire Chase, Eric Lamb, Noé Cantú and Elizabeth Ko. 

In terms of his history with Orion, he related the following: “I had worked with and known Florentina many years prior to her introducing me to the other members of Orion. Early in 2002, after hearing a performance of a work I had written for the Rembrandt Chamber Players, Florentina asked me if I would be interested in writing for Orion, specifically their upcoming 10th anniversary. I became familiar with Orion’s excellent work, which greatly inspired me to write a quintet for the entire ensemble that they have since performed numerous times. Later, I wrote a piano trio and a second quintet for Orion, all of which they have premiered and frequently performed since. My last work for Orion was to arrange several solo piano pieces from my album Delicias de Blancanieves (Snow White’s Delight). These are fun little pieces in Spanish style, and in arrangement for the group, they take on an even more colorful dimension. All these works have been dedicated to Orion. I also have had the great privilege and pleasure of being invited by Diana Schmück to perform two-piano and piano four-hand works with her on several concerts.”

Following is more of our conversation with Huydts, who has arranged three movements of Delicias de Blancanieves (Snow White's Delight) for Orion violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, guest violist Stephen Boe, cellist Judy Stone and clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle, along with a fourth movement that adds Orion pianist Diana Schmück to the mix—all of which appear on Orion’s third concert program of the season in March.
What inspired you to compose Delicias de Blancanieves ?
My piano students asked me to write exercises in Spanish style (with which I’m very familiar) to prepare them for the piano works by composers like Turina, Granados and Albeniz. I was not interested in yet another set of studies or exercises (there are too many already!) and instead wrote brief character pieces at all levels of difficulty, ranging from super-easy to truly demanding, and decided they needed to be in all tonalities. So I ended up with 27 pieces, 12 in each key, Major and minor, plus three enharmonic keys. This also makes for a truly enjoyable experience for the listener; one feels there is more variety.

You've arranged the four movements on this program specifically for Orion’s musicians. What is the original instrumentation? Do you frequently adapt instrumentation on your compositions for different performances?
The pieces were originally written for solo piano, but I always had some type of orchestration in mind. Much of my later music is easily adaptable to other instruments, and in fact my publisher has had me arrange many works for different combinations.
 
You’ve created and adapted work for Orion in the past. How would you describe your relationship with the Ensemble? What have you found most enjoyable about this relationship?
This is difficult to put in a few sentences because there is so much that I enjoy, but I’ll give it a try. The members of Orion are all very dear to my heart for many reasons; they are simply wonderful, passionate people who are also superb musicians and who, as a result of having worked together for such a long time, intimately know how to create a chamber music experience at the highest artistic and technical level, who put their soul and passion into creating a unique experience for the listener. The way they interact with their audience makes one feel you are among your best friends, sharing music of particular beauty and depth played with insightful and compelling authority. As a composer, one could not wish for a better ensemble to write for.

What’s coming up for you?
In addition to having just had some woodwind works published, I just finished a new sonata for violin and piano, as well as a new piano sonata. Both were commissioned and will be performed in the 2020–21 season. Columbia College Chicago has invited me to assume—and I have accepted—the chairmanship of its Music Department, and, as a result, I have had to sharply curtail my activities as a performer. Nonetheless, I have actually composed much more since, perhaps as a way to find something in life I can have control over!
See Orion's March concerts!
Concert 3

March 1 - 3 pm * (New England Congregational Church, Aurora)
* Benefit reception to follow
March 4 - 7:30 pm (PianoForte Studios, Chicago)
March 8 - 7:30 pm (Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston)

$30 adults | $25 seniors | $15 students

“Innovative programming. Unique repertoire.
Thoughtful performances that get to the music’s soul.”
~ Jim Ginsburg, President, Cedille Records

27th Season—2019–20
The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund and the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and by generous donations from our dedicated patrons.