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Basel composer Roland Moser received one of the Swiss Music Prizes from the Federal Office of Culture. His former composition student Burkhard Kinzler, now established composer and theory lecturer in Zurich himself, gives an insight into Moser’s procedures and work.
in 1992 I was a young aspiring composer with a background in church music and I travelled from Heidelberg to Basel for the first time to meet with Roland Moser, I could not yet have guessed how formative, indeed decisive for my life, these lessons would turn out to become. I was curious, but also sceptical: I didn’t know my future teacher at all. My first choice was actually Kelterborn, from whom I had sung a few pieces, but he had no availabilities. «You can try Moser,» I thought to myself, «and if it doesn’t work, just quit again.»
After the first lesson, this thought was wiped away – there was a spark. Roland Moser opened my eyes, his view of old as well as new music was a revelation to me. This man knew EVERYTHING. And I had never before encountered such independent musical thinking, with no compromises and concretely score-oriented.
His gift for reading my compositional attempts, thinking his way into them and then asking questions is something I have admired more and more. It has brought me forward by quantum leaps. His questions more than once unmasked the unaccomplished in a lovingly discreet way.
Others must have felt the same way, no wonder that most of my fellow theory lecturers at the ZHdK* come from Roland’s school.
I did not know a single note of music by Roland Moser, so I soon began to look for his works (which was much more difficult back then than today), study them and also perform them, first with my small ensemble for new music and as part of my professorship in Mannheim. The precise and enigmatically humorous pieces of his «Kabinetts mit Vierteltönen» for 2 pianos for example, enchanted both me and my students.
Roland later jokingly reproached me for performing almost exclusively his “occasional works”. At the same time suggesting that these pieces, seemingly only marginal products, play in an intricate way an absolutely essential role in his – in the meantime impressively comprehensive – oeuvre.
A good example is his “Quatre cadres harmoniques” for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, the first movement of which for alto flute and bass clarinet solo represents something like the secret core of Roland Moser’s work to me.
It is no coincidence that he also uses this sparse two-and-a-half-minute piece, fitting on one page, in other compositions, such as “Kleine Differenzen über einen Grund” for wind quintet (6th movement). Here too, appearing as a starting point and intellectual centre.
Roland Moser, Kleine Differenzen über einen Grund für Bläserquintett, Ensemble Contrechamps 2005, in house-production SRG
How I came to this statement?
On the basis of these few notes actually, essential directions of thought and sound of Roland Moser’s music can be pointed out:
First of all, there is the strict, unflattering economy: not a note too much, no “ornamentation” whatsoever, every sound precisely heard and exactly in the place where it is needed.
No “Just-Intonation Sauce” – No Spectralist Spectacle
Then there is the preoccupation with the overtone series, which in Roland Moser’s work does not simply lead to a “just-intonation sauce” or “spectralist spectacle”; Moser’s reflection on the conflicts between (natural) physics and (tempered) culture produces sounds in which this conflict becomes an experience. The counterpoint of the two instruments in this movement is designed in such a way that literally every sound together is in a part-tone relationship; at the same time, the interpreters are urged not to adjust their intonation, but to remain in the equal temperament. Thus, natural sound appears as a chimera that seems to be grasping with hands (or ears) and yet turns out to be only a mirage.
For all this to happen in the listener’s ear, the composer needs patience and the ability to slow down. Roland Moser has both in abundance.
Also worthy of mention is the rhythmically unbound but always gesturally unambiguous style of durational notation that Roland Moser learned from his friend György Kurtag.
All of the above-mentioned basic conditions lead to a piece – featuring only two intruments – of tremendous concentration and an expressive power arising directly from the sound conception that is unparalleled.
The “Romanticism Project”
Now it would be absolutely unjustified to reduce Roland Moser’s wide-ranging oeuvre to this “little piece”, as he himself would probably call it. There are major projects that have defined his entire compositional life, such as the “Romantic Project”. At a time when Romantic poetry was considered by most of his contemporaries to be out of fashion in comparison with late and post-expressionist modes of expression, Roland Moser unflinchingly occupied himself with poets such as Heine and above all Brentano. He managed to tap into the anarchic potential of this seemingly sweet language in order to find his own, new tonality for it.
This context also includes permanent confrontation with the music of Franz Liszt and above all Franz Schubert, to which Roland has profound things to say and to which he has repeatedly reacted in his own work. For example in «Echoräumen» after Schubert’s Trauermusik or in his arrangement of the Andante in B minor for fragmentary orchestra.
Roland Moser, Echoraum after Schuberts Trauermusik (Nonett D79) for Kammerorchester, Kammerorchester Basel, 2018, in house-production SRG
Moser’s relationship to the orchestra – which he himself described as “broken” – is also evident here and yet he was able to write such weighty works as “WAL – für schweres Orchester”.
Roland Moser, WAL für schweres Orchester mit 5 Saxophonen (1980/83), Basel Sinfonietta und Xasax Saxophonquartett, in house-production SRG
His great opera “Avatar” also revolves around romantic and fantastic values, as does his second stage work “Rahel and Pauline”, although in a completely different manner, achieving to bring an exchange of letters (between Rahel Varnhagen and Pauline Wiesel) onto a stage, or to life.
There is so much more that could be said about Roland Moser’s work and activities. Roland Moser’s cosmos has points of contact and inspiration throughout human history – this is where his deeply humane, philanthropic attitude manifests itself. His work is the expression of a profound and at the same time critical and affectionate examination of the human being as well as communication with everything that defines our human race.
*Theorie-professors ZHdK among others: Felix Baumann, Kaspar Ewald, Mathias Steinauer, Felix Profos, Bruno Karrer, Lars Heusser
The Romantic Project continues this year with a world premiere of Schubert’s last symphonic poems, performed by the KOB directed by Heinz Holliger..
24. Juli 2021, Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival: World premiere of the three-movement version of the last symphonic sketches by Franz Schubert (D 936A) by Roland Moser. Basel Chamber Orchestra, directed by Heinz Holliger. Further date:
15.8. Stadtcasino Basel
21. August, Festival Les Jardins musicaux, Rondchâtel Villiers bei Biel/Bienne: World premiere of “Die Europäerin”, music theatre by Roland Moser, based on the Mikrogrammm 400 by Robert Walser; with Leila Pfister, Niklaus Kost, Jürg Kienberger, Conrad Steinmann (also a 2021 prize winner), Alessandro d’Amico/ Helena Winkelman Trogen AR ,
18. September: Festival Rümlingen 2021, Musiktheater#3
29./30. Januar 2022: Basel Gare du Nord
A new CD will be released in summer 2021: cello solos and duos with piano, violin, oboe d’amore, recorder (with: Katharina Gohl Moser, Anton Kernjak, Helena Winkelman, Matthias Arter and Conrad Steinmann).
Roland Moser, Burkhard Kinzler, Kammerorchester Basel, Festival Les jardins musicaux, Heinz Holliger, Kaspar, Neue Musik Rümlingen, Mathias Steinauer, Felix Profos, Matthias Arter, Helena Winkelman, Basel Sinfonietta, Anton Kernjak, Xasax Saxophonquartett
Watching the sunrise on the shores of Lake Geneva while listening to live music: what could be better? Lausanne’s `Musiques à l’aube` and Geneva’s ‘les aubes musicales’, two open-air concert series invite early risers to enjoy early-morning concerts. ‘Vivre la musique’ could be the summer motto in French-speaking Switzerland.
Lausanne’s musiques à aubes started in 2017. Every Saturday, at 6am in the morning, connoisseurs, enthusiasts and curious meet at the central city harbour ‘jetée de la Compagnie’ for a unique start into the day with live music.
The series was founded by four jazz lovers and focused entirely on jazz during the first years, offering initially five concerts. This year, the programme is broader with ten scheduled concerts: “A live moment without constraint and limits, for an audience with curious gourmet ears” should be the focus, according to the curators. This season’s programme varies between jazz, improvisation, experimental modernism, electroacoustics and rock. Solo concerts by pianists Nik Bärtsch and Cédric Pescia easily share the bill with performances by Louis Jucker and Evelinn Trouble.
On July 10, for example, pianist Nik Bärtsch will perform a solo concert featuring pieces from his new CD ‘Entendre‘ on grand piano. The CD was released in March 2021* and collects what Bärtsch calls “modules”: repetitive minimal pieces that have been created over the years and can be interpreted variably. On July 10 Bärtsch will play solo on piano, but he also often performed them with his band Ronin. Between composition and improvisation, they arise and change shape with each live performance.
Nik Bärtsch & Ronin, Modul 58, in house-production SRG/SSR 2018
Pianist Cédric Pescia will will play the ‘Sonatas and Interludes’ by John Cage (1946-48) on a prepared piano on July 31. Equipped with objects made of wood, metal or plastic between the strings, the piano turns into a small percussion ensemble.
An acoustic oasis in the midst of noise and tarmac – in the hottest month of August
The city of Geneva also has its own series for early risers, Les Aubes musicales, every Sunday at 6am. In the very central ‘jetée des paquis’, it presents itself since 2007 as an early morning window on the world. An acoustic oasis in the midst of noise and tarmac, in the hottest month of August.
Just as in Lausanne, here too, stylistic openness and shared experience are characteristic. “The series is something unique, incomparable to anything else. It’s about the magical moment between darkness and light,” says Marie Jeanson, co-director of the series and artistic director of the Archipel Genève New Music Festival.
The Geneva New Music Ensemble Contrechamps always opens the season with its performance at ‘Les Aubes musicales’. For Serge Vuille, the artistic director of Contrechamps, this is always “a magical event”. This year, on August 22, Contrechamps will perform Gérard Grisey’s ‘Prologue’ from 1976, along with Geneviève Calame’s ‘Mantiq-al-Tayr’, composed in 1973 and Claude Debussy’s ‘Sonata’ from 1915.
Seong-Whan Lee, Là où les eaux se mêlent, Contrechamps, création 2021, in house-production SRG/SSR
Geneviève Calame, Geneva composer who died in 1993, devoted herself in particular to the combination of electronics with acoustic instruments or electroacoustic music. After studying in the USA, Paris and Stockholm, she co-founded Geneva’s ‘Studio de musique électronique, Vidéo et d’informatique’ and composed numerous – still little known – pieces for classical orchestra, synthesizer or audio-visual setup.
Both series are dedicated to local yet internationally influential musicians, thoroughly and openly understanding contemporary music-making.
In French-speaking Switzerland, dealing with music genres is admirably uncomplicated and barriers are hardly noticeable, neither among the organisers nor the audience. The focus is on shared experience and openness to the unknown. Music is life and enjoyment, sensuality and poetry: that’s what people in Lausanne and Geneva like to get up early for.
Nik Bärtsch: Entendre, ECM, März 2021
Musiques à l’aube, Lausanne,concerts take place on Saturdays at 6h, June 26 to August 28, venue: ‘La Jetée de la Compagnie & Le Minimum’. In case of bad weather, concerts are rescheduled on the following Sunday, decision the evening before.
broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur
Klangfenster, 20.6.21: Nik Bärtsch, Entendre, autor Cécile Olshausen
Jazz & World aktuell, 16.3.21: Mehr als die Summe, interview with Nik Bärtsch by Roman Hošek
Blick in die Feuilletons, musique à l’aube, 13.7.21 (min 00:18), autor Gabrielle Weber
The synthesiser and me – that pretty much sums up Nicolas Buzzi’s life. The Swiss artist has been playing electronic musical instruments ever since his early years. Today he invents sounds that – perhaps – never existed.
Is there even a word for it? Like Synthesizerist? Electronic musician? Not really. Nevertheless, there are people who dedicate their lives to synthesisers and electronic music. For Nicolas Buzzi, this passion began early and in a rather unusual place… the attic of a farmhouse. As a twelve-year-old he found an old Yamaha synthesiser there. “A stroke of luck,” says Buzzi, as he is a much sought-after musician today.
Nicolas Buzzi: US VII/VIII/IX, unison in seven parts, 2.12.2020:
He learned the game by himself, throughout his entire youth. Was it love at first sight? Yes, but not in a strict sense as that Yamaha is now something that belongs to the past, long gone. “Devices come and go,” he says, “what matters and stays is the way of dealing with them, the musical thought.” That musical thought, however, is a little more complicated than one might think. So let’s have a closer look.
Donald “Don” Buchla – inventing new sounds
San Francisco, the 1960s. If you imagine Donald Buchla, one of the main figures in the synthesiser’s development, with a flowered shirt, long hair and blue shades, that might not be entirely wrong. “Don” Buchla cultivated this look until his death. Somewhat guru-like. Throughout his life, Buchla presented numerous model series of electronic musical instruments: the Buchla synthesizers.
Nicola Buzzi mainly plays on one of these models, the “Buchla 200e”. To say synthesiser is perhaps not correct, for “synthesise” or imitate sounds that already exist wasn’t actually what Buchla’s meant to do.
He was more interested in inventing new sounds, new music, in harmony with the spirit and optimism of those years. John Cage, for example, experimented with various random techniques at the same institute in San Francisco, even if in his case the music was played by people on conventional instruments. (More or less: Cage also wrote music for sounding cactus).
Don Buchla invented a corresponding generator, a random generator, which can generate unprogrammed sequences, not foreseen by humans, on his devices.
So the synthesiser “makes” music, right? Nicolas Buzzi puts it into perspective. He says that he does receive impulses from the instrument, which is constructed in a way that it runs through its own random processes, which are still mostly controlled. In other words, what he wants, he kind of shows the instrument the way. But that also means: “Most instruments and we players orient ourselves to existing music.” Which raised the question whether something really new can emerge this way.
Nicolas Buzzi, Negotiating the space between rhythm and timber, 2020
“When I play as Nicolas Buzzi, I always have my own cultural memory, which is not easily to be erased,” says Buzzi. “My body, the pulse, the breath – all of these aspects also play a role in making music.”
The realm of artificial sounds is therefor made of people and that includes us, the listeners, who immediately classify what they hear. Comparisons are made, familiar things are brought up, drawers are torn open in order to tidy up and stow away the unknown.
In a way, the whole thing is supposed be left in charge of the machines..
In a way, the whole thing is supposed be left in charge of the machines.
In fact, there are research projects on this with self-learning computers that are supposed to create a non-human music, not linked to any memories. “But I can’t imagine that sounding good,” Buzzi says sceptically. And rightfully so. In any case, something like that is hard to imagine. Speaking of our imagination … if music doesn’t relate to our world, what is it supposed to draw inspiration from? “Perhaps perception,” says Buzzi. “Perception of time, sound, or figures.” A different perception, therefore, is to be presumed, but can one perceive the unknown? This is where it gets hazy.
Music that is oriented towards the perception of time, sound and figures.
The musical thought that has occupied Buzzi for most of his life with his synthesizers could lead to abysses. Maybe it’s a good thing to enter solid collaborations with other musicians. Buzzi plays in a trio with his wife, artist and musician Martina Buzzi, as well as with architect and musician Li Tavor. Three synthesizers combined in one project under the name of “Pain”. Not inappropriate, since it was born in the Corona year 2020. “As all the venues where we could have performed were closed, we moved our common soundscape to the digital,” Buzzi explains.
Headphone music is created in this way. In and within one, or rather three, different digital sound spaces. One reacts very differently to his or her fellow musicians, says Buzzi, more independently, freer, listening with fresher ears. Ideal conditions, actually, for new things to happen on Buchla’s magical device.
Nicolas Buzzi / pain mit Martina Buzzi und Li Tavor: places 2
Let’s have a listen. In parts of “Pain”’s sounds one can hear creatures snarling and grunting at each other. It barks, trembles, hisses, as in an independent sonic bestiary and that’s what I hold on to. What would happen if I let myself fall into this rather unknown cosmos?
Letting go is where my brain actually starts getting in the way, as it obviously prefers to wander through an imaginary zoo with this music. The new music on Buzzi’s Buchla 200e, the “musical thought” about it, that also concerns the listener, who obviously likes to cling to his branch like a bird in a tree. Spread your wings and fly bird, fly!
In the “I sing the body electric” project, Nicolas Buzzi met the Ensemble Thélème. The result was a combination of synthesiser and Renaissance music
Nicolas Buzzi und thélème: I sing the body electric, Buchla Synthesizer trifft Chansons von Josquin, Eigenproduktion SRG/SSR
From June 24 to 26, the project Rohrwerk – Fabrique sonore, featuring sound installations by Nicolas Buzzi, German Toro Perez, Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, etc. will be presented in the cloister of Zurich’s Fraumünster Church.
Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 3.3.21, Nicolas Buzzi und sein Synthesizer, editor Benjamin Herzog / verlinken:
Neue Musik im Konzert, 31.3.21, 21h, I sing the body electric, editor Florian Hauser
Neoblogpost, 2.9.2019, Reibung erzeugt Wärme: Marianthi Papalexandri Alexandri @ Rohrwerk – Fabrique sonore/Zeiträume Basel, autor Theresa Beyer
Hyper Hyper!? Hyper Duo masters the art of escalation to excess. Pianist Gilles Grimaitre and percussionist Julien Mégroz consistently focus on energy, rhythm and satire. There seem to be no musical styles nor performance boundaries for the duo. Moving between classical avant-garde and pop-rock, Hyper Duo transcends common perceptions in a playful and humorous way. Their new programme Hyper Grid will be premiered at the Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik Basel.
The two artists define Hyper Duo as ‘experimental band’. Julien Mégroz comes from Lausanne and after studying there, he specialised in contemporary music at Basel’s FHNW. Gilles Grimaitre, from Geneva, studied at Bern’s HKB and went on winning a scholarship at Frankfurt’s international Ensemble Moderne Akademie. Both describe themselves as performers, improvisers, composers as well as project inventors.
Overcoming stylistic and genre boundaries and expanding horizons is the central focus of their duo, always in close collaboration with other artists and musicians. Energetic and humorous, Hyper Duo moves between traditional composition from the classical avant-garde, rocking electro-energy and absurd poetry. They draw inspiration both from popular and cultivated music.
New pieces for their chosen instrumentation as well as modern classics, supplemented with experimental electronics, video or even objects, form the musical core, with compositions provided by likeminded musicians or themselves.
Several Hyper programmes already stand for the unconventional approach to traditional concert formats, bearing titles like Hyper Cut, Hyper Stuck, Hyper Fuzz oder Hyper Rift.
Hyper Rift, Trailer ©Musikfestival Bern 2020
Hyper Rift, for example, consisted in a light and sound installation controlled by seismographic data at the Bern 2020 Music Festival. During a live performance inside Bern’s Monbijou Bridge, the duo, together with video artist Pascal Meury, made tectonic shifts audible and tangible. With percussion and synthesizer, they also pushed the volume to a limit just tolerable.
In Hyper Temper, a trio programme with percussionist Miguel Angel Garcia Martin, the two questioned the grand piano as instrument for its role in the music business, music history, but also as an everyday life object. In Cathy van Eck’s ‘pièce d’ameublement‘, it became an ornamental plant-bearing piece of furniture and thus symbol of bourgeois lifestyle in the 19th century.
In Hyper Grid, the two now perform again on their core instruments – amplified piano, drumset and electronics – as a follow up to their previous projects Hyper Fuzz and Hyper Cut.
Hyper Cut humorously complemented drumset, piano and electronics with video, voice and objects in new works by Simon Steen-Andersen, Sarah Nemtsov or Wolfgang Heiniger, among others.
Hyper Duo: Hyper Cut, Simon Steen-Andersen, difficulties putting it into practice, Video ©Hyper Duo
The Hyper Fuzz project, on the other hand, combined new, explicitly groovy pieces and modern classics with references to pop, rock and jazz, supplemented with electronic interludes by young Swiss sound inventor Cyrill Lim. Works by Frank Zappa, who himself combined electronic and electronic music in aesthetic projects, were heard alongside music by Stockhausen or young Lausanne composer Nicolas von Ritter. The programme was performed in classical concert halls and festivals as well as in rock and jazz clubs.
Hyper Duo / Hyper Fuzz @Taktlos Festival Zürich 2018, Video ©Hyper Duo
In the new project, Hyper Duo deepens its collaboration with two artists:
Serbian composer Marko Nikodijevic, who joins them himself on electronics for the world premiere of his grid/index [ I ] for the Hyper Duo. In his works, Nikodijevic likes to combine traditional instruments with digital sounds, using techno and pop techniques. Grid / index [ I ] is based on a work of the same name by artist Carsten Nicolai, a huge collection of drawings of two-dimensional grids and patterns. Nikodijevic translates the reference into simple rhythmic and melodic patterns reminiscent of the so-called ‘minimal techno’ of the 90s.
Kevin Juillerat, composer from Lausanne, refers to Nikodijevic in his work L’Être-On. His piece is based on a text by the surreal poet Antonin Artaud from a radio programme the artist produced himself in the 1940s. Juillerat explores the analogy between poetry and sound, creating a rhythmic, electronics-infused half-hour ‘mini-oratorio’.
Kevin Juillerat, le vent d’orages lointains, for piano and strings, UA 2018
The two experimental musicians from the French-speaking part of Switzerland never fail to offer subversively funny but also musically poetic programmes, which is plain to see in their numerous videos. Whether hyper hyper can still be intensified is best determined live in the new programme Hyper Grid, on June 2, at the Gare du Nord and from November onwards at several other venues. Especially since live concerts are now possible again, after such a long time.
The Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik Basel invites ensembles from the French-speaking part of Switzerland during three seasons for the Focus Romandie series. Hyper Grid is the third and last programme of this first season.
The new works “L’Être-On” for amplified piano, percussion, voice and effect pedals by Kevin Juillerat and “grid/index [ I ]” for drumset, piano and electronics by Marko Nikodijevic will be premiered.
Indigne de nous, Hyper Duo’s first studio album will be released on June 5, 2021 by Everest Records.
Institutions meant to support young composers who have graduated or are about to graduate are very important, essential actually. With protonwerk, ensemble proton bern has operated groundbreakingly and achieved a great deal in this field, which can also be discovered on neo.mx3.ch. This year’s Musikforum Biel/Bienne, aiming to support orchestral music, will present works by Spanish composer Gemma Ragués Pujol, Swiss composer Michal Muggli and Armenian composer Argenaz Martirosyan in three world premieres with the Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn directed by its principal conductor Kaspar Zehnder on May, 19. All three young composers currently live in Switzerland, are studying or have completed their studies here and already won various prizes for their high-quality works. They create music of great density and tension, with an independent language that is at the cutting edge of our time.
Order, Disruption, Deconstruction
The 30-year-old Michal Muggli, who grew up near Zurich, already has a large catalogue of works. She completed her studies under the supervision of Beat Furrer with a Master’s degree in Graz – after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in composition with honours at Bern’s University of Arts two years earlier.
In 2014 she won protonwerk 4 with DICKdünn II for flute, lupophone, bass clarinet, violin, violoncello, harp, piano and conductor. The first part of the eight-minute piece is of gripping intensity, tonally dense and of demonic expression. The dense, earthy and progressive soundscape is broken down into individual, fragmentary figures, alternating with sombre, rebellious clusters. Muggli leads her music into a turmoil of overlapping spoken words voices, merging into instrumental speaking, sighing, lamenting. A convincing work that also tells the listeners more about Muggli’s artistic passions: music and literature. She is now studying French literature and language as well as musicology and hermeneutics.
Michal Muggli, DICKdünn II, UA ensemble proton Bern, UA 2014 Bern / 2015 St. Petersburg International New Music Festival
Her new orchestral piece, Unruh, which will be premiered at the Musikforum Biel/Bienne, is once more focussing on order – in this case of clock mechanics – and disruption. Muggli writes about her composition that ‘…seemingly uncontrolled excursions of a sprial spring’ maintain ‘the regulated order of the gears’. Subliminally, the restlessness (Unruhen) is rebelling against the mechanical order of the passing of time and thus keeps it going. In her music, Muggli develops a dialectical process that also lets the sound wander through the orchestra, as she puts it, for she is also concerned with the ever-new transfer of forces between the almost interlocked orchestra musicians. An arrangement that leads us to expect music of great tension.
East and West linked in the present
Zeitlos, the orchestral piece by the Armenian Argenaz Martirosyan not only revolves around time, but also seeks to explore the concept in its various semantic meanings. The clockwork mechanism also appears in this work, as do moments of eruption. Martirosyan writes of ‘liberated time’. Her music develops in a dialectic of standstill and movement, due to the different dimensions of time and the composer hopes that time will ‘fly by’ for the public.
An inner tension and profound sound exploration that form a stimulating musical speech, as well as a close relation to improvisation, can be heard in Music for Alto Saxophone and Percussions (2020).
Aregnaz Martirosyan, Musik for Saxophone and Percussions, UA Lucerne Percussions New Music Days 2020
In this piece, Martirosyan – who is currently studying with Swiss composer Dieter Ammann, at the Lucerne School of Music after a schooling in Armenia – combines in the realms of Eastern composing with its expansive sound structures, always moving in different harmonic areas, with the Western musical present, in order create her own powerful and stirringly rhythmic tonal language.
She skilfully develops her language in the large unit that is the orchestra. This is evident in Dreilinden for solo trumpet and orchestra from 2019, a gripping work of art that ensured her two renowned prizes.
Aregnaz Martirosyan, Dreilinden, Konzert for Solo Trumpet and Orchestra, UA 2019
Sound and movement
Le temps bouge mais n’avance pas, written for the Musikforum Biel/Bienne by Catalan composer Gemma Ragués Pujol is also dealing with the phenomenon of time. The composer states that time is always moving but never progressing and she speaks of ‘temporality in the circular and defined movement of a roundabout’. Ragués Pujol is referring to the relationships between movement or physical gestures and sound, as well as their intersections. A system of correlations that the composer has been exploring for some time, including in the rigorous choreography of her silence fantasy #1, a performance in which three newspaper-reading actors move on chairs and yet appear to be static.
Gemma Ragués, silence fantasy #1, UA 2020
She also explores the possible links between electronic and acoustic sounds, arriving to almost contradictory results: In nit de sal for voice, ensemble and electronics from 2019, she poignantly sets poems by Joana Raspall and Maria Mercè Marçal into music, sometimes using excessive sound formations.
Gemma Ragués, nit de sal, UA 2019
The Biel Solothurn Symphony Orchestra concert will see the three world premieres completed by Ulrich Hofer’s Minute Pendulum, a jazzy improvisation system that he adapted for orchestra, thus – building on the ‘creation tools of jazz’ , as he writes himself and shaping it into a composition.
The three concerts can be listened to on the streaming platform neo.mx3 on the composers’ profiles.
The concert in full length will be broadcasted in: Neue Musik im Konzert on SRF 2 Kultur on wednesday, 26.5. at 9pm.
Concert-details: Musikforum Biel/Bienne, 9. Sinfoniekonzert
Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn, Michal Rebekka Muggli, Gemma Ragués, Aregnaz Martirosyan, Dieter Ammann, Beat Furrer, Christian Henking, Xavier Dayer, Simon Steen-Andersen, Ensemble Proton Bern, Ulrich Hofer
Friederike Kenneweg: 20 Years of Mondrian Ensemble: Anniversary Concerts
20 years already: the Basel based piano quartet Mondrian is celebrating its anniversary and the good thing is that some of the concerts planned for the occasion can now actually happen.
This year’s concert season was somewhat uneven and not only for the Mondrian Ensemble: too many events have been cancelled, postponed or had to be live-streamed online. But for Tamriko Kordzaia (piano), Ivana Pristašová (violin), Petra Ackermann (viola) and Karolina Öhmann (violoncello) it was even worse as they were planning to celebrate their ensemble’s 20th anniversary. The anniversary concert in autumn 2020 could take place with reduced audience. The Walcheturm event in Zurich however had to be streamed. The only advantage being that it is now accessible to everyone online.
Connecting lines between the ages
Bringing together common practice period and contemporary music has been Mondrian Ensemble’s characteristic for 20 years and their anniversary programme was no exception. A string trio by Schubert and four fantasy pieces by Schumann were combined with works by Martin Jaggi (*1978), Jannik Giger (*1985) and Madli Marje Gildemann (*1994). This allows a better perception of the different connections between musical periods, but also highlights contrasts and further developments all the more clearly. As the four musicians do not limit themselves to one period, but consider the entire history of music up to the present day for their concert programmes, they repeatedly uncover astonishing things – for example, parallels between the melancholy beauty of English Renaissance music and the slow pulsation of a piece by the Austrian Klaus Lang, or enable the audience to experience a very special kind of time travel, performing a piano trio by Schubert and a piano quartet by Morton Feldman in immediate succession.
Another important aspect is that the ensemble keeps contemporary compositions in its repertoire and plays them on various occasions over the years, allowing them to develop and unfold like interpretations of classical works. This is hardly possible in the new music business, focusing mainly on world premieres.
Great importance is also attached to working closely with the composers – sometimes over long periods of time, for example, Dieter Ammann, as the work on the world premiere of his string trio “Gehörte Form” (“Heard Form”) from 1998 led the founding members Daniela Müller on violin, Christian Zgraggen on viola and Martin Jaggi to form an ensemble in 2000.
Dieter Ammann, Gehörte Form – Hommages for string trio 1998, in house-production SRG/SSR
The joining of Walter Zoller on piano, opened new possibilities and allowed them to perform string and piano trios as well as piano quartets from all periods. The ensemble still makes full use of the flexibility that this instrumentation brings in its programming. Thus, solos or duets can also be found in the various possible combinations.
Different combination possibilities
Another composer who has accompanied the ensemble for a long time is Jannik Giger from Basel. Their collaboration was for the piece “Intime Skizzen“, as the musicians rehearsed compositional sketches by Leoš Janáček, Jannik Giger was present with his camera. The finished work offers insights into the musicians’ rehearsal rooms via a video screen, showing the piece’s appropriation process. In addition, the ensemble plays the Janáček fragments as well as the additions that Giger composed on stage. In the meantime, Giger’s piano trio “Caprice” from 2013 and string trio “Vertige“ have also become part of the ensemble’s regular repertoire.
Jannik Giger, Vertige for string trio 2020
The ensemble not only recorded a portrait CD with Austrian composer Thomas Wally (Jusqu’à l’aurore, col legno 2020), but will also perform with him on stage in May, as Wally is also violinist. In the upcoming concerts, Ivana Pristašová, Petra Ackermann and Karolina Öhmann will also join the string quartet. For the BLACK ANGELS programme, they will perform the 1970 piece of the same name by George Crumb, which refers to the Vietnam War, with electronically amplified string instruments. Tape recordings are added to the string quartet in Steve Reich’s Different trains (1988), which also refers to war – reflecting on the importance of trains during the Second World War.
50 years of women’s suffrage in Switzerland – a playable oven
The programme planned for autumn 2021 revolves around the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Switzerland. A first glimpse will be given on June 4, with the premiere of “Garzeit” by artist duo LAUTESkollektiv.
LAUTESkollektiv is composer Stephanie Haensler (*1986) together with designer Laura Haensler and “Garzeit” is a multi-part piano quartet in which the usual instruments of the Mondrian Ensemble will be complemented by a playable oven.
This conveys part of the aesthetics and everyday life of women around 1971.
During the composition, switches, levers and knobs are operated by the musicians and influence the soundscape.
Stephanie Haensler: Ein Schnitt for string quintet 2019, in house-production SRG/SSR
The full programme also features several pieces by female composers of different periods and generations – from Clara Schumann (1819-1896), via Elfrida Andrée (1841-1929) and the almost forgotten St. Gallen composer and poet Olga Diener (1890-1963) to Rebecca Saunders (*1967) and Katharina Rosenberger (*1971).
Mondrian Ensemble’s programme, in which the piece “the ocarina chapter” by Christoph Gallio was to be premiered was eventually postponed to 2022. The piece has been commissioned by the ensemble to the Swiss composer and the concert was planned to be meeting of the ensemble with voice artist Theo Bleckmann from New York – an artistic encounter that the situation unfortunately does not permit at the moment.
Garzeit’s world premiere will take place on June 4, at Historisches Museum, Baden and its world premiere tour (Zurich, St. Gallen, Chur, Basel) will run until November 1, 2021.
The tour with world premiere by Christoph Gallio has been postponed to 2022.
Thomas Wally, Ivana Pristašová, George Crumb, Steve Reich, Madli Marje Gildemann, Klaus Lang, Morton Feldman, Daniela Müller, Walter Zoller, Leoš Janáček, col legno, Laura Haensler, Olga Diener, Clara Schumann, Rebecca Saunders, Elfrida Andrée, Theo Bleckmann
Sendung SRF 2 Kultur:
Blick in die Feuilletons, 8.12.20, 20 Jahre mutige Kammermusik – das Mondrian Ensemble hat etwas zu feiern (ab Min 24): a portrait by Gabrielle Weber
Mondrian Ensemble, Tamriko Kordzaia, Karolina Öhman, Petra Ackermann, George Crumb, Klaus Lang, Martin Jaggi, Jannik Giger, Dieter Ammann, Stephanie Haensler, Katharina Rosenberger, Christoph Gallio, Gare du Nord, Kunstraum Walcheturm
Archipel, Geneva’s Contemporary Music Festival, will take place live and stream online from 16 to 25 April. Archipel sous surveillance, the festival web TV, brings the performances live into the audience’s homes.
2020 was a special year and this in many ways for the legendary Geneva Festival. After many years of directorship by musicologist Marc Texier, a new duo of directors took over. Marie Jeanson – who has a background in experimental and improvised music- and Denis Schuler – composer and artistic director of Geneva’s Ensemble Vide – want to turn the festival upside down.
The new artistic director duo explained their vision of the ideal festival to me last spring, shortly before the planned launch. Their vision was to be implemented in an exemplary way through a one-day Carte Blanche.
The festival was one of the first victims of the first lockdown.
This year it takes place online.
Marie Jeanson und Denis Schuler present themselves before the Carte blanche, planned for Archipel 2020. Video Geneva März 2020 ©neo.mx3
Jeanson and Schuler’s vision sounded like a five-point plan: what has become of it and what has been accomplished – despite the pandemic and streaming? I dug out our earlier conversation to compare their pre-pandemic vision with today’s reality:
The 2020 five-point plan <> the 2021 festival: a comparison
‘La musique c’est fait pour être vécue ensemble‘
2020: All is one – music and life belong together. The Carte Blanche should last an entire day and all take place in one place – Plainpalais’ Maison Communale -, focusing primarily on hospitality, with shared meals and as well as dialogue and interaction opportunities. Because: “The purpose of music is to share and experience it together,” says Schuler.
2021: The unity of life and music will be achieved through Archipel sous surveillance. The experimental festival web TV covers the festival – backstage on site – and brings it into the audience’s living rooms, daily between noon and midnight. The audience gets the opportunity to live with the festival.
2020: In the future, the festival wants to focus less on the music makers and more on the audience. “We wish to establish the right framework so that people are touched by a poetic coherence. We tell stories and want to create a desire to come back,” says Jeanson.
2021: Four sound installations occupy four rooms of Plainpalais’ Maison Communale and can be walked through online throughout the festival. The festival’s characteristic and historic headquarters are reborn online, creating a continuous poetic space between fiction and reality….
‘faire exister la création’
2020: Archipel does not want to be involved (any more) in the festival competition for the most and best world premieres. “Many people are only interested in being the first ones to do or show something,” says Schuler. But the artistic director duo is all about “keeping the creation alive”. “What we’re mainly interested in, is the combination of composition with what is created during the very moment.”
2021: Composition and improvisation meet at many concerts, the improviser Shuyue Zhao and the Basel ensemble neuverBand are only a few examples. In her performances, Zhao questions the interpreter’s role and works with live electronics, noise and improvisation. While works by Sofia Gubaidulina or Junghae Lee, among others, interpreted by the ensemble neuverBand, create a new kind of unity with Zhao’s improvisations.
Shuyue Zhao: noise fragments, 2019
‘partage de l’écoute’
2020: Transdisciplinarity won’t be the future festival’s focus neither. It is rather about ‘pure listening’. “We want to create a special setting in which concentrated listening takes centre stage,” says Jeanson. Concentration creates a special presence that paradoxically comes close to silence. “At the Carte Blanche, for example, there are ‘salons d’écoute‘, rooms dedicated to pure listening, with a sound diffusion system (Acousmonium) and sound engineer. Those who want can bring their own CDs to listen and discuss them together”.
2021: the “salons d’écoute” will take place in a slightly different way: You can’t bring your own CDs. But every noon there will be so-called ‘partages d’écoute’ where a composer will share his/her listening treasures. For example, you can discover composer’s Jürg Frey or composer-singer’s Cassandra Miller favourite records.
Rencontres à l’improviste – unexpected encounters
2020: Musicians who did not know each other before are brought together by the curators. “We provoke make encounters happen and create the framework: the musicians can play what and where they want within a given time frame. They decide at short notice, so the audience is surprised,” says Schuler.
2021: Insub.distances#1-8 links remote musicians. Cyril Bondy, Geneva’s Insub Meta Orchestra and d’Incise’s director, winner of a 2019 Swiss Music Prize, initiated the project for Archipel’21. During Geneva’s second lockdown, from September to December 2020, four Geneva-based and four international composers, composed each one piece for a duo. The works have proximity and distance as their theme and were rehearsed remotely, recorded and put online. Now they can all be enjoyed throughout the festival.
Insub Meta-Orchestra / Cyril Bondi & d’incise: 27times, 2016
It is astonishing how precisely Marie Jeanson’s and Denis Schuler’s festival vision, created on a small scale, is now reflected on a large scale, despite the pandemic’s and streaming restrictions.
Festival Archipel Teaser 2021
Archipel Festival, Geneva takes place from Friday, 16 to Sunday, 25 April.
During ten days, international performers and ensembles such as Ensemble Ictus, Collegium Novum Zürich, ensemble Contrechamps and Eva Reiter will perform works by Clara Iannotta, Alvin Lucier, Jürg Frey, Helmuth Lachenmann, Eliane Radigue, Cassandra Miller, Morton Feldman, John Cage and Kanako Abe, among others. All concerts can be streamed free of charge.
Archipel sous surveillance broadcasts daily between 12:00 and 24:00 from all venues, backstage and onstage, involving Geneva-based film crew Dav tv as well as the alternative television station neokinok.tv.
Le festival Archipel met à l’honneur les musiques experimentales
SRF 2 Kultur:
neoblog, 12.3.2020: Ma rencontre avec le future – ANNULÉ, Gabrielle Weber talks with the new artistic directors Jeanson/Schuler.
In 2020, he received the Swiss Music Prize. Now Rudolf Kelterborn, the musicus universalis, is no more. He passed away on 24 March 2021 at the age of 89. On the occasion of the award, Florian Hauser had dedicated a portrait to the influential composer from Basel.
For current reasons, here it is again.
When he received one of the Swiss Music Prizes last autumn, I had the opportunity to visit Rudolf Kelterborn again and interview hom shorlty in his beautiful old flat in Basel. What I found most impressive at the time was that he was full of life. Everything was good the way it was, he didn’t feel he had missed out on anything, he had done everything he could do, which made his cheeky cheerfulness come out even more clearly.
The following portrait includes excerpts from our last conversation as well as from interviews that took place years and decades earlier…..
It was in 1985, when I first heard music by Rudolf Kelterborn: the incredibly intense cello sonata, which had been freshly composed. How can someone, I wondered as a young person, write such music? It is both angry and at the same time clearly structured, very well aware of its own power. The musical gesture circles, evokes, develops itself in depth until reaching up into the heights. Singing, lamenting, twisting, losing itself. Cheering. A music that narrates and speaks to me.
“In my work,” Rudolf Kelterborn once said, “creating something fundamentally new is not the priority. What really matters to me, is to set something in motion with viewers and listeners. With motion I do not mean a vague emotionalism, but rather the opposite, solidification. Even something that has nothing to do with current affairs can be current, by stimulating thoughts, or by being touching, impressive, fascinating, exciting.”
“to set something in motion with viewers and listeners..”
This is it. His music should be effective from by itself, without the need of any supplements. That has always been his credo. Rudolf Kelterborn is very old school, and if today’s music, new music, is becoming more and more interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary, blurry at its edges and forming lliances, not to say amalgams, with many other disciplines, be it theatre or dance and installation and electronics and performance and all kinds of other things it wishes to involve – that is not Mr. Kelterborn’s thing.
Rudolf Kelterborn, Musica luminosa for orchestra 1984/85, Basel Sinfonietta, in-house production SRG/SSR
He is a veteran of the Swiss musical landscape, a contemporary witness to almost an entire century, courageous, committed, humourous and unrelenting. Someone who never made things easy for himself nor his environment.
..a veteran of the Swiss musical landscape..
It’s no coincidence that his colleagues sometimes called him Poltergern (one who tends to bluster) when he was head of the music department of Swiss Radio DRS in the 1970s. Yes, he could and can bluster – and still does so when encountering thoughtlessness. In that case he can be argumentative and hostile and polemical and perhaps even unfair.
Rudolf Kelterborn, Klavierstück 7 “Quinterno”, 2005, Klavierduo Soós-Haag, in-house production SRG/SSR
But that is only the other side of an attitude that despises the tepid or idle, while calling for unconditional commitment instead. An attitude that offers the audience a dense, narrative, highly emotional music – but which they are also supposed to expose themselves to. Comfort? No thanks. The audience has a right to be challenged, but then at the same time to draw an enormous benefit from it, a gain in experience, knowledge and pleasure
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 14.4.2021, repetition from 16.9.2020: Portrait Rudolf Kelterborn, editor: Florian Hauser
srf-online, 8.4.2021: Nur aufhören konnte er nicht, editor: Cécile Olshausen
Musik Magazin, 10/11.4.2021, editor: Cécile Olshausen
In 2019, two of Graubünden’s professional orchestras, Ensemble ö! and Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden, already co-initiated Graubünden’s Biennale for New Music – tuns Contemporans.
Its second edition focuses on female composers on one hand and on local music creation on the other. Three pieces out of a “call for scores” for ladies only will be premiered and the Biennale also commissioned works to three generations of Graubünden composers.
Slogan is: Graubünden meets the world, the familiar meets the unfamiliar, the new meets the even newer.
The Chur Biennale for Contemporary Music tuns contemporans has had a somewhat difficult start into its second edition. In September 2020, it launched a Call for Scores for ladies only and at that time, the near future seemed a bit brighter as one could hope that live concerts might have taken place again the following spring.
Now, in the midst of the third pandemic wave and with no prospect of live concerts in front of an audience any time soon, it was eventually decided to hold the Biennale anyway. Like so many other festivals, it will take place without an audience on site, but broadcasting live via online stream.
A blessing in disguise as a variety of new works will be made available in and from Chur, all over the world, during four concerts between April 9 and April 11.
The Biennale was initiated by David Sontòn Caflisch, artistic director of the Ensemble ö! together with the Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden.
In addition to his ensemble ö! engagement, Sontòn Caflisch is active as violinist in various contemporary music formations as well as a composer. The Chur-based ensemble ö! regularly premieres works by up-and-coming composers, but also specifically by Graubünden musicians. In addition to Chur, it performs in Zurich, Basel and international guest performances.
Stefanie Haensler, Im Begriffe for Quintet, world creation ensemble ö! 2016, Video in house produktion SRG/SSR, Launch neo.mx3 & Ensemble ö!, Postremise Chur, 11.Oktober 2020.
Call for scores – for ladies only!
The submitted scores were judged by a jury consisting of renowned contemporary music connoisseurs:
The two women Asia Ahmetjanova, Ensemble ö!’s pianist and composer, and Karolina Öhman, solo cellist and member of Ensemble Mondrian, among others. Joined by Philippe Bach, Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden’s and tuns contemporans’ artistic director, Baldur Brönnimann, guest conductor at tuns contemporans and artistic director of the Basel Sinfonietta, as well as Sontòn Caflisch.
Of 124 submitted works, the following three pieces were selected for a world premiere: Fragmente einer Erinnerung (Fragments of a Memory) for small ensemble by Elnaz Seyedi (Tehran), Still Images by Vera Ivanova (Moscow) for large ensemble and Accord by Katrin Klose (Germany) for chamber orchestra. They will be separately premiered during one of the Biennale concerts.
tuns contemporans will also offer an insight into four generations of Graubünden musicianship, as commissions for three new works by Sontòn Caflischs, Martin Derungs and Duri Collenberg have been awarded. While the Sunday matinée will stage songs and a cello solo by Benedikt Dolf (1918 -1985).
Benedikt Dolf, Concertino für Streichorchester 2008, Eigenproduktion SRG/SSR
The Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden has always been committed to local music-making, both in Chur as well as in smaller concert venues of Graubünden’s valleys. With its commitment to tuns contemporans and Call for Scores, it is now setting an example for the orchestral repertoire’s renewal and for more gender diversity among the next generation of composers.
The internationally renowned Finnish composer Magnus Lindbergh has been invited as composer in residence. He will be present during the entire Biennale and will have his works performed in each of the four concerts.
The opening evening with the Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden at the Chur Theatre for instance will present his Violin Concerto from 2006, together with a world premiere by Sontòn Caflisch and the new piece by Katrin Kloss, winner of Call for Scores’ chamber orchestra category.
David Sontòn Caflisch, Enceladus-Variationen 2019, in house production SRG/SSR
Apartment House after John Cage, tuns contemporans’ promising mediation project, had to be cancelled at short notice due to the pandemic. Cage’s groundbreaking work from 1976 was to become a plea for social diversity and collective art in Chur. In collaboration with a large number of local artists, the festival wanted to cover all of Theater Chur’s rooms as well as the outside area. Now it turned into a symbol for the current physical distancing measures.
The Chur Theatre and the Bündner Kunstmuseum, from where all concerts will be streamed live are also involved in this festival, aiming to move contemporary music closer to everyday cultural life in Chur again, a resolution one would wish for in many a larger city.
Tuns contemporans promise a dense and varied programme: Graubünden meets the world!
60 female composers from 30 different countries submitted 124 works in tuns contemporans’ Call for Scores. 84 of them in the category “small ensemble”, 22 for the “large ensemble” category and 18 in the “chamber orchestra”category. Three works were selected for a premiere in each category. All details regarding concerts and livestream details can be found on tuns contemporans’ homepage
In October 2020, the RTR launch of neo.mx3 took place in the Postremise in Chur, featuring ensemble ö! during the short time in which live concerts were possible. The whole concert was recorded and filmed by RTR and is available on ensemble ö!’s neo.mx3 profile.
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Neue Musik im Konzert: Ein Fest der neuen Musik, final concert tuns contemporans 2019, editor Cécile Olshausen, 15.4.2020
neoblog, Ein Prost auf die Neue Musik!, post by Thomas Meyer, 27.9.2020
Musik unserer Zeit: ö! ensemble für neue Musik, editor Florian Hauser, 11.11.2020