Joël Bons wins Grawemeyer Award for Nomaden

Composer Joël Bons has won the 2019 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for Nomaden, a one-hour work for cello solo and an ensemble of instruments from diverse cultures. The Award is often referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize of music’.

Bons wrote the piece for French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Atlas Ensemble, a group of 18 eminent musicians from China, Japan, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The Cello Biennale Amsterdam commissioned the work, which premiered in Amsterdam in October 2016 with Ed Spanjaard conducting.

The New York Times
Met Oog op morgen
The Strad
89.3 WPFL

upcoming performances Nomaden
Fri 4 October 2019 Venice Teatro Goldoni Venice Biennale
Sat 5 October 2019 Rotterdam De Doelen
Sun 6 October 2019 Utrecht TivoliVredenburg

Jean-Guihen Queyras & Atlas Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor

Joël Bons Nomaden (2016)

A highlight of the Cello Biennale Amsterdam 2016 was the premiere of Nomaden, composed by Joël Bons and performed by master cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Atlas Ensemble, conducted by Ed Spanjaard. Nomaden is a richly varied mosaic, a continuous stream of music lasting for one hour. Queyras enters into dialogues with eminent musicians from different cultures such as the Azerbaijani virtuosi Elshan Mansurov on kamancha and Elcin Nagijev on tar, Zhao Yuanchun on Chinese erhu, Wu Wei on shengNeva Özgen on Turkish kemençe, Kiya Tabassian on Persian setar, Japanese Naomi Sato on sho, Harrie Starreveld on shakuhachi, Yuji Nakagawa on Indian sarangi and Raphaela Danksagmüller on Armenian duduk.  

recent performances
Mon 15 October 2018 Arnhem Musis 20.00 >
Thu 18 October 2018 Antwerp deSingel 20.00 >
Sun 21 October 2018 Amsterdam Cello Biënnale 17.00 >

words of praise
review Het Parool 31-10-16 >
review de Volkskrant 5 stars 31-10-16 >
review NRC November Music 8-11-16 >
de Volkskrant interview with Joël Bons about Nomaden 20-10-16 >  
Het Parool interview with Joël Bons 27-10-16 >
excerpt Nomaden from 1H10Min in Podium Radio 4 >

The Atlas Ensemble is a unique chamber orchestra that unites brilliant musicians from China, Japan, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The ensemble brings together instruments from various cultures which, whilst originating from the same ancestor, have travelled and developed over the course of centuries. Thus, a wide variety of instruments came into being. By combining these descendants and their timbres, beautiful and previously unheard blends are obtained. This concept embodies the essence of the Atlas Ensemble. The repertoire consists of newly written works.

– – –

Atlas Lab in Taipeh, Taiwan
19-24 September 2017
workshops, lectures and concerts at the National Theatre & Concert Hall

Atlas Ensemble + Taiwan soloists

Artjom Kim conductor
Gevorg Dabaghian duduk
Neva Özgen kemençe
Elcin Naqijev tar
Elshan Mansurov kamancha
Ravshan Tokhtamishev chang

During a week-long workshop, five prestigious Atlas soloists team up with expert Taiwanese soloists in Chinese and Western music as they explore the differences between oral/improvisational and notational/compositional traditions, expanding their imaginations to co-create musical works of unconventional orchestration.

Lecture– 20/9 20 September 15.00-17.00 at National Taiwan University
Orientations – the other as inspiration, Joël Bons talks about cultural diversity and mutual influence in music  
Lecture/Demo 1– 22 September 19:30-21:00
Joël Bons talks about building Atlas and his recent work Nomaden; Artjom Kim talks about Collective Composing
Lecture/Demo 2– 23 September 16:00-17:30
Joël Bons, Artjom Kim and selected performers demonstrate Collective Composing
Concert– 24 September 14:30 at National Theatre & Concert Hall
Ling-Huei Tsai  Traces *
Shiuan Chang  Bian Zhou *
Atlas soloists  traditional music, solo-duo-trio
Atlas soloists  traditional music
Collective composition

* premiere

Makam & Mugam
Sat 16 September 2017 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ 20.15 >

Gevorg Dabaghian duduk
Neva Özgen kemençe
Elcin Naqijev tar
Elshan Mansurov kamancha

Musical traditions of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey presented at the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ by four top solo players of the Atlas Ensemble. At this concert, Gevorg Dabaghian, Neva Özgen, Elcin Naqijev and Elshan Mansurov honoured their friend and colleague Dhruba Ghosh.

Dhruba Ghosh passed away
With intense sadness we received the news that sarangi master Dhruba Ghosh has passed away on July 10, 2017. His superb musicianship, great wisdom and gentle soul will always be remembered. We are very grateful to have had the privilege to work together with him on many occasions and to have experienced his amazing talents, generosity and friendship. He has enriched the world with innumerable beautiful musical events.


Nomaden premiere
Fri 28 October 2016 Amsterdam (SOLD OUT) Cello Biënnale 17.30 >
Sun 30 October 2016 Groningen Soundsofmusic 16.15 >
Sat 5 November 2016 Den Bosch November Music 20.30 >

Jean-Guihen Queyras & Atlas Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor

Joël Bons Nomaden (2016)

The Atlas Ensemble and renowned cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras perform the brand new Nomaden (Dutch for Nomads) under the baton of Ed Spanjaard. In this work, composed by Joël Bons, the cellist enters into dialogues with instruments from different cultures. Queyras meets musicians like the Indian sarangi master Dhruba Ghosh, Turkish Neva Özgen on kemençe, Azerbaijani kamancha virtuoso Elshan Mansurov, the Persian setar player Kiya Tabassian, Chinese sheng phenomenon Wu Wei and the Japanese sho magician Naomi Sato. Thus, a continuous stream of one hour of music forms a richly varied mosaic.


Atlas musicians at Noorderlicht, FC Hyena, De Ruimte, Mezrab, Zaal 100

Sat 29 october 2016 Noorderlicht > 18.00-21.00H
free entrance, concert after dinner

Elshan Mansurov kamancha
Elchin Nagijev tar
Kiya Tabassian setar
Neva Özgen kemençe

Tue 1 November FC Hyena > 19.00H
admission: € 7,50

screening Atlas-documentary Imagine Utopia and concert by
Dhruba Ghosh sarangi
Zhao Yuanchun erhu
Harrie Starreveld shakuhachi

Wed 2 November De Ruimte > 20.30H
admission: donation

Zhao Yuanchun erhu
Harrie Starreveld shakuhachi

Wed 2 November Mezrab > 20.30H
admission: € 8,-

Kiya Tabassian setar
Pasha Karami tombak
Dhruba Ghosh sarangi

Thu 3 November Zaal 100 > after dinner in the small hall, free entrance
diner option 18.00-20.00H

Elchin Nagijev tar
Elshan Mansurov kamancha

Kiya Tabassian & Dhruba Ghosh (credit: Werry Crone)