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Work of the week – Peter Eötvös: Alle vittime senza nome

Peter Eötvös’ new orchestral work Alle vittime senza nome is a memorial for refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries who have drowned in the Mediterranean. It receives its world premiere on 8 May at Teatro alla Scala in Milan with the Filarmonica della Scala conducted by the composer.

The piece was co-commissioned by Italy’s four largest orchestras and in its three movements Eötvös reflects upon the current refugee crisis, in particular the thousands that have tried to escape war and persecution in boats, many of whom never reach their destination. It is to these “vittime senza nome” – nameless victims – that Eötvös dedicates his work. Whilst press coverage on the situation has vastly declined, Eötvös calls for a new media presence for the refugees, reminding us that the problem remains unsolved.

Eötvös’ Alle vittime senza nome: An intercultural requiem

The themes of Alle vittime senza nome might suggest it is a requiem, but Eötvös deliberately avoids this label out of respect for the different cultures and religions of those to whom he dedicates the work. The piece is musically diverse and aims to represent the instability of their journey and the sea. A full range of dynamics and orchestration possibilities are used, with quiet solos and wave-like figures growing into expressive tutti passages. Rhythm is central to the music, making it well-suited for the addition of choreography.

While working on this composition, I observed the poignant images: not only the faces of individuals, but also the incredibly dense mass of people crowded together on these vessels. The images are transformed in the composition into tender melodies played on solo instruments and dense masses of sound performed by the whole orchestra. – Peter Eötvös

Following the premiere, Alle vittime senza nome will be performed by the other commissioning orchestras next season: the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Orchestra Sinfonica dell’Opera di Firenze and the Orchestra Nazionale della RAI in Turin.


Photo: © Klaus Rudolph (Peter Eötvös)