Top Spin

Portrait of Vito Žuraj

»Top spin« is a term describing a playing technique in tennis and table-tennis in which the racket hits the ball in an upward motion. This gives it a forward spin, allowing it to be placed in the opponent’s playing field at a high speed. ›Top Spin‹ is also the title of one of the many tennis-inspired works by the Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj (b. 1979): three percussionists circle their drumset at increasing speeds, leading to a truly sportsmanlike intensity. A passionate tennis player, Žuraj often draws on elements and terms from this sport for his compositions. This series of works also includes ›Crosscourt‹, ›Dropshot‹, ›Changeover‹ and ›Runaround‹ – all premiered by Ensemble Modern or the International Ensemble Modern Academy, whose composition fellow Vito Žuraj was in 2009/10. Ever since, he has enjoyed a friendly working relationship with both ensembles. On April 10, 2017, Ensemble Modern will present a portrait of the composer at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg as part of the series ›NDR das neue Werk‹. Apart from ›Top Spin‹ (2011) and the »warm-up exercise« ›Warm-up‹ (2012), some of Žuraj’s latest works will be heard, all of them with highly original sources of inspiration. ›La femme 100 têtes‹ (2015) and the Schubert paraphrase ›Schub'rdy G'rdy‹ (2015) react to established works of the musical canon, i.e. Richard Strauss’ ›Salome‹ and works by Schubert. The title ›Schub’rdy G’rdy‹ alludes to the medieval instrument hurdy-gurdy. ›Aftertouch‹ (2015), on the other hand, refers to a term from electronic music, the MIDI parameter of the same name which enables pitches to be modulated, producing a vibrato-like effect.