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Nemtsov, Sarah

Sarah Nemtsov (née Reuter), born in Oldenburg, Germany in 1980, studied composition in Hanover and Berlin with Nigel Osborne, Johannes Schöllhorn and Walter Zimmermann.

Her catalogue with over 150 compositions shows a wide variety of genres – from instrumental solo to orchestra, opera, electronic music or film. In her unique musical language she combines different influences, from renaissance and baroque music to jazz and rock. The intensity of her music is also created through the reference to other arts and extra-musical content. This includes political and social issues.

For Sarah Nemtsov, literature (Edmond Jabès, Jacques Derrida, Paul Celan, Walter Benjamin, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, W.G. Sebald, Mirko Bonné or Ron Winkler) plays an important role as a source of inspiration; it serves her in terms of content as well as formally, in her compositional technique as a conceptual stimulation for her own constant innovation. Often in the combination and contrast of audio and visual moments, at the borders of music theater, she explores new forms of musical presence. Her most recent works are exploring simultaneous and chaotic forms, in search of an „urban sound in music“, a sensual complexity, also involving electronics (and her fascination for analog effects processors – as with her chamber music cycle ZIMMER or white wide eyes). Several works are engaging with and addressing political topics and social aspects (some more subtle, some more directly – as for instance her opera Sacrifice, or video works / collaborations “RED” and Mountain & Maiden).

Sarah Nemtsov is the recipient of several prizes and scholarships, such as the German Music Authors Prize (Deutscher Musikautorenpreis GEMA) in 2012, the Busoni Composition Prize (Academy of the Arts Berlin) in 2013, 2016 she won the international composition competition ricordilab, in 2018 she was awarded the Oldenburg Composition Prize for Contemporary Music. In 2020, she was nominated for the Opus Klassik Prize in the category “Composer of the Year”. In 2021, she was elected as a member to the Saxon Academy of Arts as well as to the Berlin Academy of Arts (Akademie der Künste Berlin). In 2025, she receives the prestigious Heidelberg Women Artists' Prize.

Nemtsov’s music is played by renowned orchestras and ensembles – such as WDR Sinfonieorchester, hr-Sinfonieorchester, Deutsches Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, RSO Wien, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Basel Sinfonietta, Münchener Kammerorchester, or the Finnish Baroque Orchestra, with the Ensemble Musikfabrik, Klangforum Wien, Arditti Quartet, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Ensemble Modern, ensemble recherche, Ensemble Mosaik, Ensemble intercontemporain, Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop, Ensemblekollektiv Berlin, Meitar Ensemble, Ensemble Nikel, Decoder Ensemble, LUX:NM, Accroche Note, Trio Accanto, Ensemble Garage, Ensemble Ascolta, PHACE, Quatuor Diotima, Nomos-Quartett, Boulanger Trio, The Black Page Orchestra, oh ton-ensemble and many more. She has worked closely for many years with the Ensemble Adapter and developed a special bond. Her music is interpreted by conductors such as Joana Mallwitz, Baldur Brönnimann, Bas Wiegers, Michael Wendeberg, Jonathan Stockhammer, Franck Ollu, Peter Rundel, Johannes Kalitzke, Evan Christ, Manuel Nawri or Ilan Volkov.

Her chamber opera Herzland (2005) premiered in Hanover in 2006; it was staged at the Bavarian state opera in 2011 (in co-production with Orchester Jakobsplatz Munich). Her highly acclaimed opera – Sacrifice (2016) – was premiered in March 2017 at Theatre Halle. The music theatre piece both comments on the state of contemporary opera, and draws a parallel with current affairs, and was described by Die ZEIT as a work in which „sound becomes space becomes time becomes reality”. In 2022, her cycle HAUS saw its staged premiere in the Turbinenhalle Dortmund as part of Ruhrtriennale – "a rush of sound that opens up associative spaces" (nmz). Her newest opera – OPHELIA (2020-2021) with a libretto by Mirko Bonné – was premiered in May 2023 at Saarländisches Staatstheater – „a shocking and overwhelming music theatre, full of ideas and allusions – completely transcending borders“ (Opernwelt). Currently Sarah Nemtsov works on a new opera: WE (after E. Zamyatin), WP in 2026 at the Dortmund Opera House.

Recordings and portrait albums have been released in the Edition Zeitgenössische Musik series of the German Music Council, by Wergo, Genuin records, Rondeau, Hänssler Classic and FIBO records. Further CDs are in preparation.

Since 2022, Sarah Nemtsov is professor for composition at the University Mozarteum Salzburg, Austria. She lives in Berlin.

June 2024

Photo: Rut Sigurdardóttir