Atlas Ensemble at Oranjewoud Festival 2023-2025  

The Atlas Ensemble is for three years ensemble in residence at Oranjewoud Festival in Friesland. Last year Joël Bons composed 283 Strings, a collection of 10 new pieces, which were premiered on 29 May 2023. The ensemble consisted of 15 string instruments from China, India, Iran, Azerbaidjan, Syria, Turkey and Europe: 3 lutes, 3 zithers and 9 bowed strings + percussion. On 27 and 28 May 2023 four concerts with traditional music took place at Museum Belvédère in Oranjewoud.

The Atlas Ensemble is back for a second residency at Oranjewoud Festival 24 May-2 June 2024. This time Bons is composing new works for 16 Atlas wind instruments and 2 percussion. All information about concerts and tickets:

The Atlas Project is step-by-step development to a transcultural Atlas Orchestra, consisting of 40-50 musicians. An unheard sound world is being explored. On June 21, 2025, the orchestra will debut at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw at the NTR ZaterdagMatinee in collaboration with the Holland Festival.

The Atlas Ensemble is an intercultural chamber orchestra uniting brilliant musicians from China, Japan, Central Asia, the Near East and Europe. The ensemble presents an unheard sound world of instruments from different cultures. The repertoire consists entirely of specially commissioned works.

The Atlas Ensemble is an initiative of composer Joël Bons; the idea opens up new possibilities for colour and orchestration. Unlike the western heterogeneous ensemble in which one instrument of each family is featured, the Atlas Ensemble brings together instruments from various cultures which – whilst often originating from the same ancestor – have travelled and developed over the course of centuries. Thus, an enormous variety of instruments came into being world wide. By combining their timbres, playing techniques and traditions, beautiful and previously unheard blends can be obtained. This concept embodies the essence of the Atlas Ensemble.

The ensemble debuted in 2002 at the Berliner Festspiele and has since presented premiere programmes, an Atlas Academy and Lab focussing on the cooperation and reciprocal learning of musicians from both eastern and western traditions. A central issue – and one of great potential – is the combination of different music practices, such as oral/improvisational traditions and notational/compositional traditions. Bons received the prestigious Amsterdam Prize of the Arts 2005 for his work as artistic director of the Atlas Ensemble.

Grawemeyer Award for Bons' Nomaden

In 2019 Joël Bons was awarded the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for his composition Nomaden. The Award is often referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize of music’.

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

The world première of Nomaden, featuring cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Atlas Ensemble conducted by Ed Spanjaard, has been released on SACD by BIS Records. This plastic-free BIS Ecopak is available HERE. For Spotify, I-Tunes, Apple Music, Deezer: smart link.

Klassik Heute 10/10/10 
artmusiclounge Joël Bons' fantastic Nomaden
Volkskrant *****
NRC ****
Trouw ****
BBC 3: An intriguing and imaginative work
Klassik: Ungewöhnlich schöne Klangfusionen
Fanfare: A landmark along the road to a new form of concert music.


Performances 2019

Nomaden at Venice Biennale, in Utrecht and Rotterdam
Fri 4 October 2019 Venice Teatro Goldoni 20.00 Venice Biennale
Sat 5 October 2019 Rotterdam De Doelen Jurriaanse Zaal 20.15
Sun 6 October 2019 Utrecht TivoliVredenburg Herz Zaal 20.00

Jean-Guihen Queyras & Atlas Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor

Joël Bons Nomaden (2016)

Nomaden is a richly varied intercultural mosaic composed by Joël Bons. The one hour work is performed by master cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Atlas Ensemble conducted by Ed Spanjaard. Queyras enters into dialogues with eminent musicians from different cultures such as the Azerbaijani virtuosi Elshan Mansurov on kamancha and Elcin Nagijev on tar, Wu Wei on Chinese sheng, Zhao Yuanchun on erhu, Neva Özgen on Turkish kemençe, Yasamin Shashosseini on ud, Kiya Tabassian on Persian setar, Japanese Naomi Sato on sho, Yuji Nakagawa on Indian sarangi, Raphaela Danksagmüller on Armenian duduk and Harrie Strarreveld on shakuhachi.

The Atlas Lab 2019 took place on 7 & 8 October at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.

CD release – Concerto Recordstore
Saturday 9 February 2019 Harrie Starreveld (shakuhachi) and Raphaela Danksagmüller (duduk) of the Atlas Ensemble performed at Concerto Recordstore in Amsterdam at the occasion of the release of the sacd of Nomaden on BIS Records. Joël Bons and Ed Spanjaard were present for Q&A.

Performances 2018

Nomaden in Arnhem, Antwerp and Amsterdam
Mon 15 October 2018 Arnhem Music 20.00
Thu 18 October 2018 Antwerp deSingel 20.00 >
Sun 21 October 2018 Amsterdam Cello Biënnale 17.00

reviews & interviews
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 >

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.

Performances 2017

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.

Performances 2016

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)