for symphony orchestra (2020)
15 minutes | no.60

Europe is the first part of Grand Atlas, a cycle in which each of the seven world continents is depicted in an orchestral composition.

In the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and his legendary eighty-day trip, our world map unfolds itself as a travelogue, showcasing musical impressions from around the globe in a time span of approximately a dozen dozen minutes. And the continent of Europe, with its rich and dazzling symphonic heritage, is our point of departure.

The opening section of Europe is composed in the spirit of Wagner’s Rheingold, in the sense that its majestic prelude functions not only as an introduction for the first single-act opera, but for the entire four-evening Ring cycle: from the profound depths of the river Rhine a persistent drone accumulates ever so gradually into a dazzling maelstrom of E-flat major swirls, with the intent to herald the sheer length of the journey ahead of us.

Six minutes into the piece, the introduction of Europe transforms into a vortex, when suddenly we hear music that rings a bell, as if in an incoherent, surrealist dream. Hang on, was that Beethoven? No, I think it was Stravinsky. Borrowed from the classical orchestral repertoire, covering pretty much all European countries, a deranged collage of 101 quotations rushes by like a tornado.

Another six minutes later, this mad rollercoaster comes to an abrupt end, and – as if nothing has happened – we jump back in time to the vortical textures of the introduction. Soon after, familiar arpeggios appear out of the blue, rocking up and down in strings, followed by sing-along ascending snippets in oboes, clarinets and horns. Once we begin to realize Rheingold is turning into Rhinefox, it is time we are heading towards the next continent.


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Commissioned by and written for

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra

Dedicated to

Diderik Wagenaar


15 December 2023
De Doelen, Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Manze (conductor)


Score Excerpts