Orlando Bass



The core of Orlando Bass' musical activities is centred around piano performance. Based in France, he plays at a variety of international venues, in concert halls and private settings alike, but also in places where musical performance is unexpected.

Equally comfortable on modern and historical instruments, he enjoys performing on somewhat unusual pianos, using their different characteristics to nourish and vary his musical interpretation. This gives him the possibility of choosing a historically adequate piano for performance, or purposely choosing an inadequate piano out of sheer curiosity.

He regularly performs an extensive part of the classical repertoire, and feels the need to explore forgotten masterpieces, by famous and unknown composers alike, in such a way that he can present a more honest overview of the evolution of music through the ages, in concert programmes combining rare pieces with conventional repertoire. This has led him to adore the explosion of musical expressions, languages, aesthetics in the earlier part of the 20th century.

A keen interpreter of contemporary music and a staunch supporter for new music, he has given numerous first performances of solo and ensemble works. He firmly believes that collaborating with living composers is key to understanding music of the past with an open mind.

Chamber music is a particularly important part of Orlando Bass' life, he shares many concerts and recordings with colleagues and friends. He has many musical partners, most often playing in duo (both instrumental and vocal) and in trio.

The art of transcription is another obsession of his. He is fascinated by achieving orchestral colours at the piano, and not only performs other composers' transcriptions, but writes his own arrangements and paraphrases of symphonic and operatic works, and commissions original transcriptions.

He is supported by the Banque Populaire Foundation.




Connecting new music with its complex roots in a unique musical language, Orlando Bass is intrigued by the concept of Veränderung. Loosely translated as Metamorphosis, this genre is a broad interpretation of the principle of Variation.

Historically, this principle exists explicitly inside the paradigm of a single work, such as Bach’s Goldberg Variations, or Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, or implicitly in Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel and Debussy’s Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune. More recently, this same concept has been applied to works of the past, such as Hans Zender’s Winterreise, or Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig van.

A major portion of his works explore this principle of Veränderung : while in most pieces he avails himself of abstract ideas and concepts of the past, in some he will intentionally use musical quotes from old masterpieces to transform and disfigure them into an entirely independent work. A firm believer that musical identity can express itself in diverse fashion, his output is unified through his musical language, rather than by choice of aesthetic.

His unedited music is available on request.

Stage Works

Currently scored for four opera singers, choir, narrator and piano, this lyrical work alternates newly-written music with more-or-less-distorted extracts from the classical opera repertoire. A crowd of barbarians discover Western society and culture through an encounter with the world of opera. They are guided by an offstage narrator who takes on the role of a cultural guru, creating a rift among the Barbarians, converting some into fundamentalist missionaries of this culture, while pushing the others to become refractory and resistant.

The variety in metamorphosis of the musical material taken from the world of opera suggest how neophytes may perceive differently this music. It was premiered in March 2020 at the Pavillon de Romainville in a work-in-progress version, and then in its final version in June 2021.

This work is scored for children's voices, clarinet, viola and percussion. Following Scheherazade's principle of interlocking stories, the story begins and ends in a working-class Parisian suburb, yet escapes to the Middle East, not without a certain sense of absurdity.

Commissioned by Marc-Olivier Dupin, it was premiered in June 2019 at the Théâtre au fil de l'eau in Pantin.

This wacky musical play, a commission from the Centre du Livre d'Artiste, is in two sections. The former is called « Variations Géologiques », where the author Paul-Armand Gette adopted musical principles to create a Theme and Variations from a text. The music in turn imitates the literary adaptation of these variation processes, after having generated a theme by illustrating extremely literally and figuratively the initial text. The latter is a slightly-more-narrative-but-no-less-absurd text intended as a libretto for an operatic ballet. The music imitates increasingly older styles, as if it were digging into the rich sedimentary strata deposited by musical history.

Concertante Works

This concerto in a single movement for alto saxophone and orchestra was composed for Eudes Bernstein and premiered at the CNSM in Paris.

It is based on Edgar Allan Poe's eponymous short story. A tyrannical king's jester publicly avenges the cruel tortures his master had inflicted, and grotesquely puts him to death in front of his court.

This work seeks to highlight the tragedy hidden behind a burlesque façade, reminiscent of Tristan/Tantris le bouffon's duality.

Chamber Works

The title of this work refers to Das Nasobēm, a short wistful poem from Christian Morgenstern's Galgenlieder, itself referring to Edward Lear's The Dong with a luminous Nose. A sort of melancholy, the dreadful feeling of an inescapable fate, exude from this nonsense poetry, in which neologisms abound, yet the story doesn't make any sense.

Nasobēmen seems rhapsodic at first glance, but it combines Variations with Sonata-form. The various musical elements and episodes perpetually merge into each other, giving an impression of continuous metamorphosis.

The meaning and character is deliberately open, in such a way that the listener may imagine and project his or her own narrative. A certain strangeness that constantly clings around, such as an abandoned house's humid odor, gives this piece a dreamlike quality and the sensation of floating in otherworldly realms.

The harmonic language strikes a balance between tonal structure and dissonant overtones, thusly building a mysterious and disturbing yet familiar and numbing world.

This work for alto saxophone, violin and piano was composed in 2021 for the Dämmerung Trio and premiered at the Salon-de-Provence Chamber Music Festival.

A short bittersweet piece written for Romain Leleu as an encore for a shared recital, it was premiered at the Jeunes Talents festival in Paris.

Originally conceived to accompany a famous scene from Max Linder's silent film Seven Years Bad Luck, this charming rhapsody alternates mischievous scherzi, strange waltzes and eloquent recitatives.

It was first performed at the Paris CRR.

This very demanding piece uses the entire range of the four saxophones (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone), and pushes the performers' endurance to the limit. The mostly homorhythmic writing generates a form of meta-instrument that sounds like digitally-generated electronic music.

Dramaturgically speaking, this piece represents the ten agonising final minutes a heart-attack victim may endure.

It was commissioned by the Gaman ensemble.

In this short piece, musical material stripped off from Claude Debussy's Sonata for violin and piano is transformed into an expressionist elegy, shunning Debussy's more impressionist contours. It suggests what might constitute the listener's immediate memory after hearing Debussy's work.

It is the composer's wish that Debussy's Sonata be performed in the same sitting as Veränderungen II, in such a way that it serves as a Prelude, a Postlude, a more distant Echo, or even an Ante-reminiscence.

It was premiered by Nicolas Dupont and Olga Kirpicheva.

The five movements of this Sonata were composed over the course of four consecutive years, and are all derived from the same original musical material.

The second movement is a rather solemn and sombre passacaglia built upon an dodecaphonic basso ostinato. The third movement is a mischievous and clumsy canonical scherzo. The fourth movement is a Barcarolle, barely concealing a theme and variations. The theme is a setting of one of Christian Morgenstern's Galgenlieder ; the cellist may choose to play it or to sing it. The final movement, a tribute to Paul Celan's poem Todesfuge, transforms the passacaglia's basso ostinato into the subject for a furious fugue. Lastly, the first movement anticipates all the themes the Sonata develops, not without a sort of melancholy, in such a way that the listener has a feeling of longing for music he has not yet heard, a kind of reminiscence by anticipation, almost like déjà-vu.

It was premiered in its final form by Guy Danel, and in its earlier forms by Polina Streltsova.

This Suite started off as a friendly challenge. Its different movements are inspired by baroque dance forms, The first two movements (Allemande and Courante) were written by Orlando Bass, the last two (Sarabande, Bourrée) by Pierre Golse.

The suite was premiered by its composers at the Valogne Festival in July 2019.

This short and light-hearted piece was premiered in 2019 at a parisian church. The melodic lilt of the saxophone and the violin intertwine in an elegiac first section, slowly building up a long single musical phrase. A mischievous and swaying scherzo swoops up from the opening section's crumbling last notes, and the piece closes undramatically.

Like Schönberg's Second String Quartet, this trio features a female singer in the last movement. The eglogue, chosen among Virgil's Bucolics, at first glance evokes the languid love of the solitary shepherd Corydon waiting in vain for Amyntas, whom he desires ; however it explores the complex psychology of a somewhat narcissistic embroiled with his patrons, his art, aesthetic considerations and politics, as well as his lovers, whilst showcasing a richly colourful mastery of the Latin language.

The first two movements are purely instrumental, and paint different aspects of this psychological portrait. The last movement is more narrative, the instrumental group imitates the aulos and cymbalum of an Aed unfolding his poetics, who eventually gets carried away by his own tale.

This trio was premiered at the Salle Cortot in February 2019.

The initial project was to write a piece for two harpsichords in the manner of Louis Couperin's most developed Préludes-non-mesurés in a modern and personal musical language, including a fugal central section, surrounded by somewhat free sections where only the pitches are notated and the rhythms are up to the performer. In its current form, Lude develops on the aforementioned structure, as contrapuntal episodes flourished and free sections became more structured and diversified, in such a way that this work is a modern tribute to the richness and variety of Baroque music.

This work was premiered at l'Esprit des Pierres festival.

This short and somewhat rhapsodic piece is based on Brahms' famous Klavierstück Op.118 n.3, and is the first installment of a series of pieces based on the same compositional principle.

The concept of "Veränderung", loosely translated as "metamorphosis", is rendered through the transformation of Brahms' original piano piece, albeit rigorously following its structure and the shape of the different melodic motifs, but in such a way as it is barely recognisable.

Starting with a free cadenza, the main theme gradually builds up in a distorted manner developing into a small Samba-like conclusion. The middle section converts Brahms' original sweetness into a bizarre "broken toy-like" worrying atmosphere, followed by a recapitulation of the opening section, and then ending with a coda that "lies in ruins".

The aim of this piece is to give a picture of what Brahms' music could sound like, had he lived through the horrors of the first half of the 20th Century, a withering faint echo of lyrical romanticism lying in a shattered post-industrial world.

This piece is written for Nicolas Arsenijevic, and premiered at the Zagreb International Saxophone Congress.

CD Recording by Ayax Llorente

This particularly challenging triptych was composed for saxophonist Eudes Bernstein, who gave the premiere at Salle Cortot in January 2018.

A fresco depicting many different atmospheres, starting and ending with the gentle watery sway of a Barcarolle, bathing in strange harmonies, opens the Triptych. The characters melt into each other through anamorphosis, a grotesque 'ma serioso' scherzo transforms into a frantic ragtime that mixes be-bop elements and Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu. Each section seems to lose control in some way, as if a racecar were handed to a novice driver.

The Cadenza for solo saxophone abruptly alternates serene lyricism with virtuoso, quasi-robotic runs.

The closing piece is a metamorphosis on Kurt Weill's song Youkali. The structure of the melody is scrupulously maintained, but the musical content is completely transformed, so that one may only perceive snatches of the original motifs at first. Later a few melodic outlines appear more clearly, and even an exact quotation at the end, that gradually deconstructs into silence, alluding to the utopian world evoked in the lyrics. It is also a tribute to Kurt Weill's symphonic works, a harsher and more intellectual world than his better-known cabaret music, but not without a similarly sharp sardonicism.

In a style reminiscent of Dmitri Shostakovich's music, this one-movement quintet is an energetic Passacaglia, whose stubbornly repeated motif functions as a rhythmical motor engine, hence the picture evoked by the title of a combine harvester flattening everything in its path.

Solo Works

Veisalgia is a short character piece, in the tradition of 19th-century salon music, apart that the feeling conveyed is veisalgia, commonly known as a 'hangover'.

It was originally conceived to accompany the opening scene of Max Linder's film Seven Years Bad Luck.

This piece for piano is derived from the composer’s own lyrical farce, entitled Un Barbare à l’Opéra (A Barbarian at the Opera), a collaboration with dramaturgist Nicolas Slawny and the Opéra Apéro company. It wanders freely from one famous opera fragment to another, virtuosic, con brio and somewhat superficial, as one might expect this kind of paraphrase to be. However, the overall tone is sarcastic, as a result of which the well-known operatic quotes undergo a metamorphosis, turning into caricature. For the composer himself, this work is also a kind of therapy, thanks to which he can recover from the trauma caused by performing at countless opera galas for high society.

Orlando Bass recorded this pseudo-paraphrase for DUX

This short yet solemn piece was written for guitarist Tristan Manoukian.

The Ironies are a collection of 13 short works for piano composed in the summer of 2018. This set of aesthetically diverse pieces, combining extended tonality with atonality, owes its coherence to an underlying major-minor duality, conveying to the whole cycle a somewhat bittersweet flavour. The title Ironies reflects this ambiguity, underlining a certain light-hearted humour. Some chords recur throughout the entire work: C-G-A-E, that opens and closes the cycle, often plays the role of a tolling bell, muffled like a funeral toll or radiant like a set of chimes.

The first Irony is a passacaglia, densely building up layers until suddenly evaporating into a peculiar peal of bells.The second is rythmically constructed from the digits of the number π, the structure is generated by the occurences of zero, and the harmonic and melodic elements are connected through axial symmetry around B raised by a quarter tone, a note that doesn›t exist on the piano keyboard.

The third is a cradle-song, where the soothing rocking motion slows down with the onset of sleep. This swinging motion permeates the fourth Irony, with features characteristic of the barcarolle, navigating more turbulent waters than its serene beginning suggests. The joyfully nervous fifth Irony takes the shape of a scherzo, alternating cheeky playfulness with enigmatic lyricism.

The sixth, close to improvisation, does not follow any traditional form, yet its chaotic state of mind exudes calm. The seventh emulates a tender impromptu, albeit sometimes sounding like a lopsided minuet.

The eighth and ninth tell a tale of gastronomy, enclosed in two episodes, in which an almost pathological carelessness in the pleasures of the table precedes the inevitable indigestion of the guest. The tenth is a simple, somewhat candid reverie.

The eleventh and twelfth form a second diptych, a pair of perpetuum mobile: while one revolves around a minor second interval in a chaotic rhythmical framework, the other seems to be obsessed by the major second, set in a malambo›s particularly predictable bar structure. A majestic crowning piece to the Ironies, the Sarabande Funèbre finally reestablishes the serenity from the opening bars of the cycle, after withstanding the violent struggle of an unavoidable chapter of grief.

Orlando Bass recorded this cycle of pieces for the DUX label.

In the prelude, a chromatic theme announced at the outset is subjected to four different types of variations that are increasingly aggressive and dissonant in style eventually terminating in a series of clusters before subsiding into a bleak restatement of the original theme. Fuga Remollescenda might be translated from Latin as "wilting flight" which seemed a fitting description for the fugue's construction. Rather than referring to polyphonic imitation, "flight" signifies escape from the prelude's vision of a forlorn world. The fugue begins traditionally but soon each voice deflects from consonant harmony by slipping down a semitone almost every five notes. Ostensibly in A Minor, the fugue's home key is only ever heard at the beginning and very end.

Orlando Bass recorded it for Indésens.

It was premiered in Paris in January 2019.

Youtube score-follower can be found here

Within a traditional three-movement structure, the musical discourse combines the lyrical and expressive properties of the violin with a somewhat classical approach to counterpoint and polyphony. Exploration of the various facets of metamorphosis is a recurring theme throughout his compositions.

Two simultaneous progressions can be traced throughout the Sonata.
The first expresses a metamorphosis of character through different playing techniques. The opening movement features a diverse and extroverted style of violin-playing, followed by a mellifluous and mostly muted central movement that gives way to a monochrome-sounding fugue where one forgoes the bow altogether.
The second progression is a metamorphosis in the nature of the melodic material. One single immovable three-note motif is repeatedly hammered out in the ever-changing landscape of the erratic first movement. This motif becomes a clearly-pronounced theme in the second movement, eventually blending into the background before dissolving into pulverised fragments, coalescing into the chromatic sinuosities of the closing fugue.

From discord to unity, from violence to resignation, from anger to depression, the disparate threads of this Sonata intertwine: chaos falling settling into order.

Recording by Rachel Koblyakov for Paladino Media - Orlando Records, also available on Spotify and iTunes.

Premiered by Rachel Koblyakov at Spectrum, New York City.

This short piece follows Louis Couperin's unmeasured Preludes' modo operandi, in particular those which insert a fugal dance at the heart of the piece. The performer has the responsibility of generating the rhythm as he or she wishes, according to appropriate rhetorical intentions.

The harpsichord must be tuned to mesotonic temperament, this Hommage was first performed at the Bologna Accademia di musica.

Vocal Works

A setting of Paul Verlaine's famous three stanza poem, the music focuses on the mystery shrouding the object in the dream.




Amongst the various families of historical keyboard instruments, the harpsichord takes up a special place in Orlando Bass' musical life.

This mechanically plucked string instrument does not have an acoustically dynamic range. The harpsichordist must then trick the listener's ears and mind, using timing, ornamentation, and other specific techniques, in such a manner that the harpsichord is no longer a mechanical toy, but a singing, lilting, expressive instrument as much as it is shimmering, volubile and virtuosic.

Orlando Bass most often performs the harpsichord as a soloist, whereas he avoids playing continuo in chamber settings, preferring obligato cembalo parts. He has recorded alongside fellow harpsichordist Mireille Podeur a CD series of transcriptions for two harpsichords, ranging from Jean-Philippe Rameau's chamber music to Astor Piazzolla's tangos and Alberto Ginastera's ballet Estancia.

He is passionate about the abundance of repertoire specifically written for harpsichord or forte-piano, during the latter half of the 18th century - those decades witnessed the gradual change of predominance of one instrument on the other.

He fiercely supports new music written for the harpsichord, in solo and chamber settings, and partakes in many projects blending baroque music with new ideas. He is currently pushing back the limits of harpsichord amplification by building an electric harpsichord.




Improvisation sits somewhere between interpretation and composition, requiring the performer to have sufficient instrumental skills to convey music which is crafted on the spot.

Usually, an outside element such as a tune, a text, a silent film, a story, an object, an idea, furnishes the improvisation with a backbone, offers the improviser a starting point.

A well-known method consists in paraphrasing a catchy melody from a popular work, and building a personal development on this theme, usually involving pianistic and compositional virtuosity.

Improvising was a core skill for the pianist in the 19th century. This is somewhat linked to the sheer variety of characters among period instruments, as the modern concept of standardisation didn't exist yet. Each of these pianos hold many surprises for the performer, and improvising is both a technique to tame the instrument, and the solution to play music that suits a particular piano specifically in a way written repertoire cannot.

The improviser can prepare himself for an improvisation to different levels of clarity. Occasionally, the performer may over-think, the borderline with composition then becomes blurred - many pieces were born from an improvisation.