Orchestre Idéal by Johanna Borchert Solo

2012 WhyPlayJazz (RS008), CD + MP3 Album Download

Johanna Borchert Solo »Orchestre Idéal«

Track listing

  1. Ouverture  2:25
  2. Extrasystolen  2:37
  3. Nach Mitternacht  4:19
  4. Lillies  4:15
  5. Zitterpartie  2:03
  6. Liquid Body Dance  2:42
  7. Der Königliche Schlafgang  6:43
  8. Gammel Lan  6:22
  9. Til Petter Og Anton  7:45
  10. Obertöne  3:52
  11. Abendlied  4:23
  12. Gemolkene Stäbchen  2:54
  13. Hymne An Das Leben  4:19


Johanna Borchert (piano, harpsichord and autoharp)

Production credits

All tracks are freely improvised except for tracks 4, 7, 9 and 13 which are improvisations on composition by Johanna Borchert. Recorded August/September 2011 at rbb-Studio Berlin by Wolfgang Hoff, Kaspar Wollheim and Anne-Kristin Sölter. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Kaspar Wollheim and Anne-Kristin Sölter. Produced for Kulturradio rbb by Ulf Drechsel.

Auf ihrem ersten Soloalbum schafft es Johanna Borchert (piano/harpsichord/autoharp, ECHO Jazz 2015) mit 13 teils frei improvisierten Stücken das gefühlte Klangspektrum eines ganzen Orchesters zu entfesseln.

The orchestra is possibly the greatest idea of our musical tradition. Until the early 20th century it represented the universe of all imaginable musical possibilities. Musicians have always wanted to make this comprehensive ensemble, this idea of music, accessible to everybody. “When I was in Porto rummaging in a second-hand shop,” relates Johanna Borchert, “I found a box that said "Orchestre Idéal" – a small music machine. Upon opening its lid, little tin figures and gear-wheels would produce music. This reminded me of my own music machine, the grand piano that is sometimes the home to the sounds of a whole orchestra, but that sometimes also sounds quite similar to this yellowed box decorated with romantic letters.”

Today Johanna Borchert calls her debut as a soloist at the piano (and a few aids) “Orchestre Idéal” and invites us to discover her very own sound universe: from impressionist piano harmonies to the off-tuning of a Scandinavian autoharp, from minimal music structures to associatively progressing cadence steps, from wind-moved arpeggios out of the interior of the grand piano to the sound of a gamelan gong and siren-like glissandi – Johanna Borchert’s music springs from a polyglot vocabulary.

Already as a child she knew that she would become a musician. “There was no other way,” she says. Ever since she learned to “press the keys,” she has expressed herself in her own sounds. She followed the paths of her inspiration to Berlin, Copenhagen, San Francisco and Chennai (India), studied various musical concepts – and developed new ones herself: For example, in a duo with the electronic live musician “The Norman Conquest” whom she met at Fred Frith’s. Together with the singer Elena Setièn she conjured disarming melodies from the “Little Red Suitcase” and as a co-leader of the band “Schneeweiss und Rosenrot” she won the “Neuer Deutscher Jazzpreis” (New German Jazz Prize) in 2012.

“I am interested in the tension between clarity and abstraction,” is how Johanna Borchert describes her work as an improvising soloist at the piano. “I am inspired by concerts that make you wake up. Where elements transform themselves or are put into a new light, thus changing the perspective, even while the position remains the same. I try to surrender myself completely to the unpredictable reality of the moment. This is the greatest happiness and deepest satisfaction that music can give to me. And I think that it also infects the listener.”

“Orchestre Idéal” has sprung from felicitous moments like these. In August/September 2011 the radio station “rbb-Kulturradio” invited Johanna Borchert to record her own music in its studio. She decided to record a series of improvisations, letting inspiration run free. Only four of the recordings are based on already finished compositions which in turn give rise to improvisations. The result is a diverse kaleidoscope of musical ideas – humorous and strict, introverted and with a great gesture, very personal and touchingly sincere.
(Tobias Richtsteig, September 2012)


Although mostly spontaneously improvised this music has very little if anything to do with Improvised Music as in the avant-garde Jazz idiom and is deeply rooted in contemporary Classical music, mainly in the vicinity of the French modernists like Claude Debussy, Eric Satie, Oliver Messiaen and others. Some of these pieces are minimalist, others more developed, but the overall atmosphere is predominantly characterized by the sonorities typical of these composers and their particular approach to music.
The music is mostly very delicate and introvert, which makes it quite difficult for most of the listeners, who have little experience with such demanding and ambitious ventures. Therefore this music might work well when played live but listening to it at home might prove to be over the top for most people.
Of course one must support artists willing to take risks and statements like this one are always a sign of the intellect overcoming the musical futility that overwhelmingly surrounds us. Sadly I´m probably one of very few people who really like this music, as it unfortunately falls in between; the Jazz oriented people will find it to romantic and the Classical buffs to bold.
So ye brave-hearted embrace this little gem wholeheartedly and others, please investigate other recordings by Borchert, which are surely of the same quality but probably slightly more accessible.

Adam Baruch, adambaruch.com

German pianist Johanna Borchert extracts the essence of the orchestra from her piano, harpsichord and autoharp over the course of 13 short tracks on Orchestre Idéal. [...] she makes extensive use of preparations but to very different ends. At times, such as on the tolling “Obertöne”, she evokes minimalism, provoking contemporary classical comparisons. Elsewhere she summons Erik Satie, especially on the dreamy “Lillies”. The latter is one of four pieces improvised on her own compositions, more lyrical than the unpremeditated cuts. In her explorations of texture, layers and moods, several events often happen simultaneously, such as the pointillist plucked notes and dramatic piano sweep of “Königlicher Schlafgang” or the ghostly ape-like hoots, percussive taps and isolated keystrokes that comprise “Gemolkene Stäbchen”. Many of the pieces are left hanging and this, combined with the general austerity of conception, means that a similarly unresolved air hangs over the album as a whole.

John Sharpe, The New York City Jazz Record No. 131

13 teils frei improvisierte Stücke sind dabei entstanden, die den Blick lenken auf den kreativen Kosmos der Pianistin: mit seinen sanft hingetupften Akkorden, mit seiner breiten Dynamik von ganz leise bis ganz laut, mit repetierenden Phrasen und an Minimal Music erinnernde Sequenzen. Zusätzlich hat Borchert den Flügel präpariert und spielt auch noch die Zither-ähnliche Autoharp und das Cembalo, um ihr Klangspektrum zu erweitern und eine noch tiefer gehende Ausdrucksmöglichkeit zu haben.

Martin Laurentius, Jazz thing #97

Wie ein windiger Regen breiten sich die gefühlvoll gesetzten Töne des Openers, der „Ouverture“ auf „Orchestre Idéal“ in den Gehörgängen des Hörers aus. Sie lassen dabei alles Folgende offen. Noch könnte man in alle Richtungen gehen: ein eingängiges Pianoalbum oder schwergängige Kunstmusik zum Selbstzweck – alles ist möglich. Ein Spannungsbogen, der oben genanntes Ohr etwas aufmerksamer werden lässt. Was dann in den 12 weiteren Stücken folgt, ist Johanna Borcherts Idee vom idealen Orchester, man könnte aber auch sagen – ein Soloalbum mit Hilfsmitteln. Dabei streift man während Stücken wie „Zitterpartie“ oder „der königliche Schlafgang“ durch das beeindruckende musikalische Repertoire der Pianistin zwischen asiatischen Geräuschkulissen, impressionistisch repetitiven Läufen oder auch nachdenklich sich ausbreitenden Klangflächen wie auf „Til Petter og Anton“, das mit einer skandinavischem Erzählstruktur in den Bann zieht. „Extrasystolen“ steigert sich in seiner abstrakten Rhythmik bis zum dramatischen Flattern – welches dann abrupt endet. Die Stücke auf „Orchestre Idéal“ sind frei improvisiert und zeugen von ebensolcher Begabung. In Ruhe und Aufmerksamkeit gehört, vermag das Album in verheißungsvolle klangliche Räume zu entführen.

Nabil Atassi, Le Journal du Jazz

Dieses Album geht zurück auf die Entdeckung „einer kleinen Musikmaschine, in der, wenn man den Deckel aufklappte, kleine Zinnmännchen und Zahnrädchen Musik hervorbrachten“, erklärt Johanna Borchert. Die Aufschrift der Kiste, in die das Maschinchen verpackt war, lautete, „Orchestre Idéal”. Für Johanna Borchert stand fest, dass auch ihr Instrument, das Klavier, letztendlich von den Klängen eines ganzen Orchesters bewohnt werden könnte- und auch der CD-Titel war hiermit quasi vorgegeben. Auf „Orchestre Idéal” widmet sich die Pianistin nun der vollkommen freien Spiel und der Improvisation über einige ihrer Kompositionen. Ausschließlich Johanna Borchert an verschiedenen Tasteninstrumenten ist zu hören – am präparierten und nicht präparierten Klavier, am Spinett und an der Autoharp. Mit, „Orchestre Idéal” bewegt Borchert sich abseits eingetretener Pfade, tritt gelegentlich dicht an den Rand des möglich Scheinenden, bleibt aber immer in ihrer selbst vorgegebenen Spur. „Orchestre Idéal” ist nicht Jazz und auch nicht Neue Musik, sondern ein Gemisch, das sich Ausreißer und Experimente gestattet. Stets geleitet von der Neugier am Spiel mit Klang und Zeit.

Carina Prange, Jazz Podium 12/2012

The material put on the record refers to a contemporary music of Eric Satie, György Ligeti, piano preparations and polyrhythmic elements evoke associations with John Cage, Benoit Delbecq. Her prepared piano sometimes tickles gently like gongs in Indonesian gamelan.
The music has an illustrative potential, strings are sometimes launched and climbing like a violin in a fond crescendo, sometimes shaking, reminds glissandos of steel or electric guitar on which Johanna might be working with bowls and sticks like maestro Fred Frith himself.
Johanna Borchert is the orchestra, Orchestre Idéal - she has proven that she can become a self-contained, one-person orchestra of an exceptional technique, imagination, sense of melody and color, so we should keep an eye and ears on her further releases and the development of her unusual musical personality.

Marek Lubner, soundsgreen.blogspot.com

The orchestrated and seemingly-avant-garde approach to music-making is relatively evident throughout Johanna Borchert’s newest release, Orchestre Ideal. The thirteen instrumental tracks feature the music of free jazz, improvisation, avant-garde, and neo-classical genres with a slight Scandinavian or European backbone. The piano and autoharp are featured instruments on the album.
Johanna Borchert is not a typical neo-classical or jazz composer. In fact, Johanna takes classical idioms and melds jazz, avant-garde and improvisational music with inventive song structures that are futuristic, but not electronic. This is not a dance music album or pop music release. Some of the songs are languid without much direction. The lack of vocals does not detract from the instrumental impact of the songs. Some of the arrangements are a bit abrasive with the frenzied musical displays. Still, fans of music with an ear for varied instrumental tones and textures are going to be most satisfied.
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Matthew Forss

Ähnlich wie Erik Satie versteht es Johanna Borchert, die bis auf wenige Ausnahmen nur Improvisationen spielt, zauberhafte Stimmungen zu kreieren. Durch experimentelle Bearbeitung ihres Instruments schafft es jedes Stück, eine eigene Note zu verzeichnen und von neuem zu interessieren - wenn auch fernab von jedem Pop- oder Songkontext. Ein abenteuerlicher Ritt durch eine kreative Künstlerseele.

Oliver Lichtl, roteraupe.de

Johanna Borcherts reiche musikalische Ideenwelt, umrahmt von ihrem inneren, feinen Gespür für gut artikulierte Strukturen, ist eine Gabe die viele 'klassische', nicht nur angehende, Komponisten sich wünschen würden. Eine extraordinäre 'real-time'-Komponistin.

Héctor Moro, Komponist

It is not that often that a solo piano recording deeply bewitches, sonically speaking, the speakers or headphones you're listening on, and therefore, musically speaking, the emotion of the listener. As well as it takes a huge batch of musicianship, of daring and spirit to achieve such a musical project.
Johanna Brochert has built a world of her own, a music of today, and has assembled here a series of free-minded improvisations that let appear sorts of territorial constraints or conceptual tool-boxes, may they be melodic or harmonic, or both, polyrythmic, mood, drama or timber based... As a prolongation of the secular piano, Miss Brochert uses various means to change its timbre such as preparations of wood or metal (prolongating Mr John Cage's marvels on his 100th birthday!) that she places between strings, as well as a subtile use of the zyther or few piano overdubs, that recalls some electronics effects of today although played within a "bio" approach to sound crafting.
As if in Tarkovki's masterpiece film "Stalker", Miss Brochert plays like she'd throw a sacred stone and then would dance towards it in a direction she'd discover whilst dancing, catching fresh ideas passing by a tree or a bird call, allowing herself sudden circles or flipping direction suddenly... this done with seemingly reseted ears for each step, according to her own ear attitude and altitude, inviting the listener in a fulfilling and emotional dive. May there be some recalls of whoever and of whatever slice of musical history (one could play a clue game here), the fascinating dice-thrown-like musical sensations given by Miss Brochert are vivid, creative, and, most important, at the highest peak of aesthetically pertinence and surprise.

Benoît Delbecq

With an orchestra “en miniature” Johanna Borchert roams musical landscapes of different shades in her debut album “Orchestre Idéal”. The pianist of the band “Schneeweiss und Rosenrot” dedicates herself to the piano solo. Between jazz, contemporary music and Indian influences architectures of sound shimmer, float and evaporate, thereby moving between suppleness and recalcitrance. Johanna Borchert makes use of the natural piano sound as well as the prepared piano, or she chooses the harpsichord to extend her autarkic sound universe.
The tracks live on reduction but still nourish. They develop from a great silence, turn curiously cryptic and then return to their harmonic core or continue to swell up snarlingly. The acoustic colours always match and give the music the necessary atmosphere. The originality and captivating clarity of her play draw dreamlike pictures. Johanna Borchert convinces completely in her debut as a soloist.
Her own sounds, now entrusted to the listener.

Stanley Klifoth