Our memory tends to remember extremes

Gabrielle Weber
Donaueschingen’s centenary – a historic event: since 100 years now, this defining institution commits to contemporary music’s preservation and spread. The most important European festival re new music – renown place of world premieres, encounter and debate – will celebrate its 100th birthday with numerous events from October 14 to 17, featuring many historic friends and companions.  

The young, Swiss-based ensemble Nikel will be part of this celebration. Yaron Deutsch, electric guitarist and head of Nikel, has already been to Donaueschingen several times with the ensemble and as a soloist. For its anniversary, Nikel will perform new pieces by Rebecca Saunders and young Turkish composer Didem Coskunseven. Deutsch is also the soloist of a new piece by Stefan Prins with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.

 

Portrait Ensemble Nikel 2016 © Markus Sepperer
Ensemble Nikel  2016, zVg. Ensemble Nikel


Founded in 2006, Nikel now tours worldwide and celebrates its fifteenth anniversary. Its unusual instrumentation, with electric guitar, piano, saxophone and percussion dates back to the very first performance and provides their characteristic ‘alternative chamber music sound’ with a mixture of electronic and organic sounds. The constantly expanding repertoire consists exclusively of original pieces composed for the ensemble.

I had an early morning talk with Yaron Deutsch from his hotle room in Parma via Zoom, on a Saturday. He is a morning person and was up since 4:30am. After performing at the Traiettorie festival for contemporary music, he would head to rehearsals in Bern.  

How did you find your way to contemporary classical music with the electric guitar…?

In 2005 I was searching for my own musical identity. As electric guitarist I was playing mainly rock and jazz, but felt like a ‘copy cat’ of an American culture that doesn’t belong to me. I then came across a piece by Luis Andriessen: ‘Hout‘ (1991) for saxophone, electric guitar, percussion and piano, that felt like a ‘eureka’ moment. The piece mixes musical genres and elements in a straightforward way. I found a connection to my European roots that felt like home in the European classical music avant-garde, that somehow showed me the direction of the musical landscape I was looking for.

 

Ensemble Nikel / Yaron Deutsch 2016, zVg. Ensemble Nikel

 

How did Nikel come about and why this line-up?

With ‘Hout‘ we gave our first concert in Tel Aviv and its instrumentation became Nikel’s permanent line-up. After a few changes, we now have a regular line-up since almost ten years: Brian Archinal on percussion, Antoine Françoise, piano, Patrick Stadler, saxophone, and me on electric guitar. We inspire each other.

Where does the name Nikel come from?

Three points: First, I didn’t want a music related name, then it should feature ‘metal’ as is one of our timbres and lastly, it is reminiscent of Israeli artist Lea Nikel and her abstract colour-intensive works. She was active in Paris and New York in the sixties and seventies and died in Tel Aviv in 2005.

 

It’s like water drops slowly gathering into an organism.


How come you settled in Switzerland?

Three out of four members live in Switzerland. I have always been a ‘missionary’ of non-nation related music-making and ensembles without national nor local definition: for me it’s all about working with the musicians I’m most interested in, who inspire me, no matter where they live. That’s how I got to Patrick Stadler in Basel, for instance. But our vision is international.  

It’s like water drops slowly gathering into an organism.  

Starting from an invitation for a concert we get together. Our task as artists is to be fascinating, interesting and also good enough to create a demand. It’s about passion: as long as we are passionate, we exist as a group.

 


Anne Cleare, the square of yellow light that is your window (excerpt), UA 2014 Ensemble Nikel


How did your first performance in Donaueschingen come about?

In 2010 we performed at the Darmstadt Summer Courses. The new artistic director at the time was Thomas Schäfer and he wanted to present new voices in his first edition, so he invited us and our performance had a great echo. Shortly after, Armin Köhler, Donaueschingen’s artistic director, called and invited us to the festival two years later. In 2012 we were there for the first time.

What did this performance do for Nikel?

The performance in front of a large audience with international resonance was one thing. But Donaueschingen also enabled us to play four world premieres by four important composers who wrote especially for us and our instrumentation. We wouldn’t have had the financial means to commission such pieces ourselves. We have played these completely different pieces all over the world ever since.

This mechanism continues by the way: when the festivals invite us, they commission pieces for us which we then keep in our repertoire. We always get involved in the selection process and suggest composers we are enthusiastic about and this enthusiasm is tangible during our performances.   

For the anniversary edition you’ll be performing a new piece by Rebecca Saunders, with contralto Noa Frenkel and another piece by the young Turkish composer Didem Coskunseven: how did this choice of repertoire come about?

Rebecca Saunders had wanted to work with us since a long time, because I had interpreted pieces by her in other contexts, with Klangforum Wien for example. But it never happened. Then we got lucky, as a large commission could not be realized due to the pandemic, so Rebecca suggested to work on a piece with us and a singer as an alternative. The composer Didem Coskunseven came up with the idea in a conversation with Björn Gottstein.

Nikel’s performances are known for an often radically loud electronic sound – How does Nikel work with the voice…?  

First of all, I have to reject this ‘loud’ ensemble definition as we also play many subtle pieces, quiet, tactile music. Probably our virtuoso quality leads to the impression: “the musicians can make walls shake…. “. (he laughs…)

Masculine power, is not our thing. Our memory tends to remember extremes. But so much happens outside the extremes, in fact most…

After the first week of rehearsals, Rebecca emphasized the good balance between the singer and us. We ‘serve’ her music, give the singer space and found a specific sound for the piece. We are like an ‘electrified string quartet’, an organism that works very well together and whose sound mixes very well. We are able to finetune and find balance between loud and soft.

 


Stefan Prins, Fremdkoerper 2 (excerpt), UA 2010 Ensemble Nikel


Is there a specific Nikel sound?

We always play pieces that are eclectic, mixing elements, but never random or unnecessary. A clear musical, not one-dimensional line connects everything. Nikel concerts always sound different. In this concert you can hear two completely different sides, two completely different timbres.

And how would you describe the timbre  of Didem Coskunseven’s piece?  

Her style cannot be summed up in one sentence, that wouldn’t do her justice.  

It’s safe to say that she works with minimalist material, in a very colourful, expressive and subtle way, not loud. Through continuity and minimalism, variations come to fruition.

 

Didem Coskunseven, Day was departing, UA Manifeste 2021, Ircam / Paris

Let’s step back a bit: was the first appearance in Donaueschingen a career start for Nikel?

Donaueschingen was not the start, but it was a decisive ‘boost’: the familiarity with the international scene was very important for our growth.  

 

Making music is comparable to sports. We always want to give the best…

You are part of the 100th anniversary celebration: what does that mean for Nikel?

There are two answers: a concert is a concert. Making music is comparable to sports. We always want to give our best, no matter how big or small the setting.

But having said that it’s an incredible honour. We are historically conscious people and musicians and Donaueschingen is a ‘ historical platform ‘, the longest existing New Music Festival. We are grateful that our work is so appreciated that we were asked to be part of this important celebration.
Interview: Gabrielle Weber

____________________________

Ensemble Nikel, Louis AndriessenThomas Schäfer, Armin KöhlerBjörn Gottstein, Didem Coskunseven, Stephen MenottiTrio Accanto

 


Performances Ensemble Nikel / Yaron Deutsch @Donaueschingen:

Friday, 15.10.2021, 20h: solo performance, world premiere by Stefan Prins, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg directed by Stefan Volkov.

Sunday, 17.10.2021, 11h: Ensemble Nikel and Noa Frenkel (contralto), World Premiere Rebecca Saunders and Didem Coskunseven

November Music, s’Hertogenbosch:
12.11.21: retake concert Donaueschingen: UA Rebecca Saunders / Didem Coskunseven

WienModern Festival:
14./27./28.11.21: Werke von Thomas Kessler, Klaus Lang, Hugues Dufourt, Leitung Jonathan Stockhammer

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Künste im Gespräch, 14.10.21, 9:00 Uhr: 100 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage, autor Florian Hauser

Kultur Aktuell, 18.10.21, 8:15 Uhr: autor Florian Hauser

Musik unserer Zeit, 3.11.21, 20 Uhr: 100 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage, autor Florian Hauser

neo-profiles:
Ensemble Nikel, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Rebecca Saunders, Beat Furrer, Alexandre Babel, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, Daniel Ott, Johannes Kreidler, Marcus Weiss, Thomas Kessler, Jonathan Stockhammer

Orchestra of excellence for new music

Benjamin Herzog

Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra is the name of a newly created orchestra, whose activity began on August, 13 at the Lucerne Festival. The orchestra is strongly integrated into the newly created “Contemporary” section, a distinctive structure for the performance of new music within he Lucerne Festival. Felix Heri, head of the Contemporary section, explains what is so unique about it.
Its components are between 30 and 35 years old, both current and former Lucerne Festival Academy participants and since this year they are part of an orchestra that, according to Felix Heri, is intended to become an “orchestra of excellence for new music”. Its ambition is similar to that of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (LFO), founded almost twenty years ago. Under the direction of its first conductor Claudio Abbado, this orchestra was said to perform in an almost magical way.

 

Portrait Felix Heri ©Gregor Brändli / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

35-year-old Felix Heri is the head of the Lucerne Festival’s new “Contemporary” section. He studied clarinet in Lucerne and cultural management in Basel, after six years of managing director for the basel sinfonietta, he is now directing the Lucerne Festival Contemporary.

 

Lucerne Festival Contemporary is an umbrella under which a three-part structure is organically growing and constantly evolving. Academy, Orchestra and a new festival (instead of the cancelled Piano Festival) in November, called Lucerne Festival Forward. “We have a unique network of 1300 people around the world,” Heri explains, “musicians who attended the Festival Academy at some point and played in the Academy orchestra at the time or in the alumni orchestra, inside and outside the festival,  of which the best and most motivated now play in the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO).”

 

Founder Boulez

 

The Festival Academy’s goal is to deepen knowledge of how new orchestral music is played. The academy has been founded in 2003 by Pierre Boulez, who died in 2016, as a kind of master class for new music, led for five years by Wolfgang Rihm. Festival visitors have so far been able to enjoy the results of this work during the orchestra’s academy concerts. “An orchestra that – even if only very slightly – had the scent of a student orchestra,” as Heri says today.

 

Magic attraction

 

In 2013, the former academics formed an “alumni orchestra”, shifting gera to the next, more professional level. Apparently, the Lucerne magnet works, as those who have studied here under greats such as Pierre Boulez or Wolfgang Rihm want to come back. The alumni orchestra also played outside the festival and outside Lucerne, performing premieres in New York, London, Beijing, Zurich as well as Lucerne of course testify the ensemble’s network character and charisma.


Wolfgang Rihm, Dis-Kontur für grosses Orchester (1974/84): Lucerne Festival Alumni, conductor Ricardo Chailly, 8.9.2019 KKL Lucerne Festival, in house production SRG SSR

 

Logical further development

 

The now newly founded LFCO is the logical development of this structure, merging the two former orchestras, which were never completely separate in terms of personnel anyway. “All members of the LFCO have attended the Festival Academy at least once,” explains Heri. “This is where the best and most talented of those young talents play.”  In addition, there is one “leader” per segment, fifteen in all. These leaders select the other members of their segment, who gain the right to play in the orchestra for a maximum of two years. These mutual decisions allow an organic growing.

Alumni Lucerne Festival Academy in “Gedenkkonzert für Pierre Boulez”, conductor
Matthias Pintscher (Luzern, 20.03.2016) © Priska Ketterer / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

Excellence meets from excellence

 

The leaders, to name a few examples, are currently the four members of the Arditti Quartet, as well as Dutchman Marco Blaauw for the trumpets and pianist Nicolas Hodges for the keyboard instruments. The fact that the LFCO does not judge its members according to which rung of the career ladder they are on, but rather according to personal dedication, is demonstrated by the fact that there is no age limit and that neither academics nor already established musicians are excluded. Thus, musicians from Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Intercontemporain or Frankfurt’s Ensemble Moderne also play in the LFCO.

In this respect, the new Lucerne Modern Orchestra is very similar to its older brother, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Both orchestras feature professionals from the leading orchestras of their genre. In future, both orchestras will have an equally strong external impact on the festival.

 

With or without director? – Participation of the orchestra

 

But unlike the LFO, currently led by Riccardo Chailly, the new orchestra has no chief conductor. “We are discussing whether this is necessary,” says Felix Heri. Such a position having advantages as well as disadvantages, he adds. “The advantages are clear: more charisma, renown, a different kind of network. But it’s also good to select the conductors specifically in each case and for each project.” Another choice, this one, in which LFCO relies on mutual decision by all members. Participation is also important in the choice of the programme, as the artistic orchestra’sartistic director, Wolfgang Rihm, is still responsible for the summer program. However, the programme of the new autumn festival “Forward” will be influenced by the l orchestra’s leader themselves, acting collectively as co-curators.

 

Barblina Meierhans, Auf Distanz, for Bassflöte and kleines Ensemble (UA 2020), Lucerne Festival Alumni, conductor Baldur Brönnimann, Lucerne Festival KKL 23.8.2020, in house production SRG SSR

 

A showcase for new music

This year, LFCO will already perform at the renowned Donaueschingen Music Festival and the Berlin Festival and an international tour is planned for 2022. However, according to Heri, the autumn festival in Lucerne in particular is intended to become a “showcase of new music”, highlighting current trends from Europe, the USA and Asia. This is made possible by the global networking of the orchestra’s members as well as their different leaders.

 

Collective mastermind 

Heri is familiar with fully democratic structures within an orchestra from his earlier work with the “basel sinfonietta”. Although LFCO does not go that far, mutual decisions and discussions generate a strong sense of identification,” emphasizes Heri. This is much more necessary in an orchestra specializing in new music than in a classical symphony orchestra. “We take people and their ideas seriously.” which, he says, is a unique starting point. “We are a collective mastermind.”

He furthermore stresses: “For me, the orchestra should set standards. We want to be brave and perform new concert formats. The integration into the Lucerne Festival is of course an advantage, at the same time, however, we wish to take the necessary liberties to become a counterpart to the Festival Orchestra. That is our goal, that is what we measure ourselves by.”
Benjamin Herzog

 

rehearsal Lucerne Festival Academy, conductor Heinz Holliger © Stefan Deuber / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

The LFCO also performs this year’s Lucerne Theatre opera production in co-production with the Lucerne Festival, Mauricio Kagel’s “Staatstheater” (premiere September 5), programme until September, 19.

 

Lucerne Festival Contemorary Orchestra’s concerts at Lucerne Festival 2021

The new autumn festival for contemporary music Lucerne Festival Forward takes place from november 19. until 21. 2021.

Klangforum WienEnsemble IntercontemporainEnsemble ModernDonaueschinger MusiktageRiccardo ChaillyFelix HeriPierre BoulezWolfgang RihmMauricio KagelClaudio AbbadoArditti QuartetMarco BlaauwNicolas Hodges

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
neoblog, 1.8.21Engagement für neue und neuste Musik – Rebecca Saunders composer in residence @ Lucerne Festival 1, Text Gabrielle Weber

Kontext – Künste im Gespräch 26.8.2021: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence Lucerne Festival, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Kultur kompakt Podcast, 30.8.2021 (ab 4:59min): Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, Redaktion Florian Hauser

Musik unserer Zeit, 22.9.2021, 20h: Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Neue Musik im Konzert, 22.9.2021, 21h: Portraitkonzert Rebecca Saunders 2, u.a. the mouth & skin

neo-profiles:
Lucerne Festival Contemporary OrchestraWolfgang RihmLucerne Festival AcademyLucerne Festival ContemporaryBasel Sinfonietta

Lucerne Festival – Commitment to new and newest music

Gabrielle Weber: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence @ Lucerne Festival1

The celebrated British composer Rebecca Saunders is composer-in-residence at Lucerne Festival, featuring eight Swiss premieres and one world premiere of hers, many of which to be performed by the new ‘Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra’. This represents the festival’s long-term commitment to new and cutting-edge music and forms the artistic core of ‘Lucerne Festival Forward’, the new autumn festival for contemporary music.

Neoblog portrays the new focus on contemporary music at Lucerne Festival with several contributions and posts: The first focusing on Rebecca Saunders – composer-in-residence during the summer festival.

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Astrid Ackermann / zVg Lucerne Festival

Gabrielle Weber
Rebecca Saunders, winner of the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 2019 and highly in demand worldwide, can be experienced up close in Lucerne this year. Since studying with Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe, the British composer has been living in Berlin and is present at every important contemporary music festival: be it with chamber music, orchestral works or even performative sound installations.

In Lucerne, the public can now immerse comprehensively in Saunders’ music, characterised by silence, colour and physicality.  

“Silence is like the screen behind the sound, it frames the sound,” says Saunders, who mixes silence with timbres and quiet changes in timbre. Often the first thing Saunders has in mind when composing is one single sound, a real colour or a mood. “You go into a landscape, into a sonic situation when you compose and at some point, you reach absolute focus – from then on, everything you do is right.”  

Whenever possible, Saunders tackles her new pieces with the interpreters, carefully approaching the instruments’ peculiarities with them. “What could be better than exchanging ideas with the musicians and discussing every little detail until the very end?”  

Saunders composed the solo piece blaauw from 2004, for example, for the Dutch trumpeter Marco Blaauw, who will perform it in Lucerne. In this work, Blaauw uses the double funnel trumpet he developed to conduct a conversation, not only between the two partial trumpets, but also with the room’s acoustics, with a grand piano, in whose resonance chamber the trumpet plays, and with the audience. The title stands for the performer Blaauw and is at the same time a gentle winking allusion to Saunders’ love of colours.  

 

Rebecca Saunders: blaauw, 2004, Nenad Markovic, trumpet / Ensemble Laboratorium, Davos Festival 2012, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Blaauw’s double funnel trumpet can not only play quarter tones, but also subtle and abrupt changes in timbre or extremely long and large glissandi.  

The “glissando technique” also defines the new piano concerto To an Utterance, written for pianist Nicolas Hodges, in which Saunders explores the almost physical limits of pianistic virtuosity, as she explained in a preliminary talk with Marc Sattler, festival dramaturge for contemporary music at the Lucerne Festival.   

Together with pianist Nicolas Hodges, she explored the feasibility of extreme glissandi under various conditions, e.g. including only all black or all white keys. These energy-loaded sound gestures, combined with melodic lines, run through the piece and create a colourful richness.

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Astrid Ackermann / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

“The piano is my home,” says Saunders. The strong relationship with the instrument is the reason why she has written many pieces for it and felt a strong desire to write a piano concerto for years. With the premiere of To an Utterance, her first piano concerto, the dream will now come true in Lucerne.

 


Rebecca Saunders, The underside of green for Clarinet, Violin &Klavier 1994, Collegium Novum Zürich, in house-production SRG/SSR: The underside of green is part of a series of compositions inspired by the final monologue of Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Literature, prose, poetry but also lexical and non-fiction texts have always fascinated Saunders and authors such as Samuel Becket or James Joyce constantly accompany her composing.  

This fascination sometimes blossoms into pure instrumental pieces, based on texts or words, but without words. Then Saunders translates the colour of language into sound, as she did in Fletch (première 2012), a string quartet transforming the hissing pronunciation of the word fletch, into arrow-like, impulsive gestures of the string sound.  

Or they result in vocal works focusing on text, or sometimes single words. Nether for soprano and ensemble (premiere 2019), for example, revolves around Molly Bloom’s monologue from the last chapter of James Joyce’s epic poem ‘Ulysses’. The vocal part will be performed in Lucerne by the British soprano Juliet Fraser, with whom Saunders has worked for a long time.  

Her aim is not just to set a text to music, but to render what makes a text audible and perceptible, explains Saunders. A lot happens ‘behind and in between the lyrics’, hidden beneath the surface as the title suggests. Molly’s monologue becomes an emotional, almost theatrical, spatially arranged vocal performance. “The listeners are inside the music,” says Saunders, “as if they were sitting in the middle of a musical sculpture, in the fabric of sound.”

The Mouth for soprano and tape as well as Skin for voice and ensemble were specifically written for Fraser’s body or voice. Saunders sees mouth and skin are two of the most important interfaces between a human’s inner and outer world. For The Mouth, Saunders worked closely with Fraser to develop ‘unused forms of articulation’, in order to make this interface tangible.

 

Rebecca Saunders, The mouth, Juliet Fraser, World premiere 2020, Centre Pompidou Paris

 

In the composer’s own words, the piece wants to ‘penetrate from the surface of the sound to the essence of the voice: the physical body that produces that sound’. – Saunders re. The Mouth (UA 2020) – “Sound is a physical experience, one that engages all five senses,” says Saunders.  
Gabrielle Weber

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Johannes List – Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

Rebecca Saunders – composer-in-residence at Lucerne Festival

Portrait concerts:
21.8., 11h: Marco Blaauw, trumpet, Arditti Quartet, Trio Accanto (including blaauw, fletch).
4.9, 11h: Juliet Fraser, soprano, soloists of the Lucerne School of Music: Daniela Argentino, soprano, Clemens Heil, conductor (a.o. The Mouth / Skin)

Other mentioned concerts:
28.8., 22h: Juliet Fraser, soprano, ensemble of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, conductor: Johanna Malangré (among others Nether, Swiss premiere).
4.9., 18:30h: Nicolas Hodges, piano, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, conductor: Ilan Volkov (among others to an utterance, world premiere)

 

Rebecca SaundersWolfgang Rihm, Juliet Fraser, Marco Blaauw, Arditti Quartet, Trio Accanto

Broadcasts SRF2Kultur:
Kultur-Aktualität, 17.1.2019: Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis an Rebecca Saunders: die Lautmalerin der Stille, Redaktion Florian Hauser (verlinken):

Musikmagazin, 22.10.2016: Kaffee mit Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Florian Hauser

Kontext – Künste im Gespräch 26.8.2021: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence Lucerne Festival, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Musik unserer Zeit, 22.9.2021, 20h: Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Neue Musik im Konzert, 22.9.2021, 21h: Portraitkonzert Rebecca Saunders 2, u.a. the mouth & skin

 

Neo-profiles:
Rebecca SaundersLucerne Festival ContemporaryLucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, Davos Festival – Young artists in concert, Collegium Novum Zürich

Fly bird, fly!

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.

 

Nicolas Buzzi im Klang-Rohr, Portrait ©zVg Nicolas Buzzi

 

Benjamin Herzog
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.  

 

Nicolas Buzzi at Buchla, Portrait ©zVg Nicolas Buzzi

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?

 

Nicolas Buzzi am Buchla von hinten ©zVg Nicolas Buzzi

 

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!
Benjamin Herzog

 

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 September 21 to 23, the project Rohrwerk – Fabrique sonore, featuring sound installations by Nicolas Buzzi, German Toro Perez, Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, etc. will be presented again (after Basel, Zurich and Lausanne SMC) at Lausannes’ Rolex Learning Center at EPFL.

 

Don Buchla, Li Tavor

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, 2.9.2019Reibung erzeugt Wärme: Marianthi Papalexandri Alexandri @ Rohrwerk – Fabrique sonore/Zeiträume Basel, autor Theresa Beyer

Neo-profiles:
Nicolas Buzzi, thélème, Germán Toro Pérez, Marianthi Papalexandri Alexandri,  Musikpodium der Stadt Zürich, Beat Gysin, Société de musique contemporaine – SMC Lausanne

tuns contemporans 2021 – Graubünden meets the world

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.  

Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden ©zVg Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden

 

Gabrielle Weber
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.  

 

David Sonton Caflisch ©zVg David Sonton Caflisch

 

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 contemporansartistic 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. 

 

Katrin Klose: winner Call for Scores / Kat. Kammerorchester, world creation Accord with Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden, opening concert Theater Chur, friday, 9.4.21, 19h.

 

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 contemporanspromising 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!
Gabrielle Weber

 

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 contemporanshomepage  

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. 

 

tuns contemporans, Magnus Lindberg, Katrin KloseElnaz SeyediVera Ivanova


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

Neo-profiles:
Ensemble ö!, Kammerphilharmonie Graubünden, David Sontòn Caflisch, Karolina Öhman, Asia Ahmetjanova, Basel Sinfonietta, Ensemble Phoenix Basel, Philippe BachStefanie Haensler

Musique de creation – An insider tip from Geneva at GdN Basel

Gabrielle Weber: Interview with Jeanne Larrouturou, Ensemble Batida & Diĝita: Romandie @GdN Basel_1, 26.11.10

The instrumentation is unusual… and convincing: three percussionists and two pianos. Even more unusual is the collaboration with the cartoon collective Hécatombe. At Diĝita, Geneva-based ensemble Batida combines music with comics. On November 26, at the Gare du Nord, focus of the “Romandie” season.

Basel’s Gâre du Nord, the Station for New Music’s main focus extends over three seasons, with three times three concerts. In the long run, this will build solid bridges to the other Swiss language region, which is of high importance, especially now, as the ensembles of the French-speacking part of Switzerland cannot perform there due to the regional lockdown.

Neoblog portrays the guest ensembles and neo.mx3 accompanies the concerts’ live broadcasts together with RTS.
Episode one: Ensemble Batida Genève: A portrait

Gabrielle Weber
I met Jeanne Larrouturou, percussionist and co-artistic director, for a conversation via Zoom during the Geneva Lockdown. Larrouturou comes from France, grew up in Geneva, and after her studies at the Haute école de musique Genève (HME), she specialised in contemporary music at the Musikhochschule Basel. Since then she has been acting as bridge-builder between the two regions’ music scenes.

Ensemble Batida: Concert Le Scorpion © Pierre-William Henry

Batida’s lineup was rather accidental. Larrouturou explains that the ensemble originated as a “classic Bartok formation”, referring to Bartok’s 1937/38 sonata for two pianos and percussion. In 2010 four of the ensemble members formed for a concert at the HME and further joint performances followed. When a percussionist left for abroad, Larrouturou stepped in and stayed. The core formation has since then remained unchanged: three percussionists Jeanne Larrouturou, Alexandra Bellon and Anne Briset complement Viva Sanchez Reinoso and Raphaël Krajka on piano.

A stroke of luck, because many new works were created for this unique lineup. On one hand by composers, on the other hand by collective composition of the ensemble’s members themselves, which also began by chance. During a project with a dance company, the choreographer asked Batida to compose something. “This is how the first composition commission happened and we carried on composing together afterwards. Next came music for a project with a puppet theatre,” says Larrouturou.

Ensemble Batida, Haïku, collective composition 2013

“The way we compose strongly draws on experimentation. We start from an idea of general structure, a concept and then we “go”: we play, we listen to each other, record ourselves, listen to the recordings together. We structure, organise and record “. A kind of creation that combines improvisation and notation. Generally, the improvisational elements are retained.

musique de création

Batida does not want to get stuck in a set musical genre. “We see ourselves in contemporary music, but don’t like what’s behind that label very much” says Larrouturou. In France there are several more fitting designations: ‘Musique de création’ is the most appropriate for her: “it’s sufficiently open, but at the same time excludes traditional ‘contemporary music’.”

Ensemble Batida: Mean E, kollektive Komposition 2013

The ensemble has hardly had performances in German-speaking Switzerland so far. After the Concours Nicati in Bern 2014, performances at the festival Zeiträume Basel and in Andermatt followed. Quite the opposite to the Romandie , as well as abroad, where the ensemble performed at many festivals, toured France, Russia, Portugal and Cyprus. Another tour – with Diĝita – was planned in the USA (but had to be postponed due to the pandemic).

Larrouturou explains the meagre exchanges between language regions as follows: “I have been living in Basel for about four years now and my network is in Basel, Geneva and Lausanne. It never ceases to amaze me how little the scenes know each other. At the university in Basel, I noticed that there were fundamental differences in aesthetic orientation. Certain very highly considered musicians in Basel, are hardly known in the French-speaking part Switzerland. The French-speaking part is more closely linked to France, while the German-speaking part is to Germany,”.

Larrouturou curates the Lausanne concert series Fracanaüm together with composer Kevin Juillerat, a fellow student from Basel, based in Lausanne. They try to transcend such divisions. “We don’t even ask ourselves where someone comes from and invite musicians from our network from both regions. I’m convinced that these small initiatives create and develop long term relationships”.

But Batida is also about building bridges between divisions. Most projects are transdisciplinary and developed in collaboration with other artists, with dance, puppet theatre, architecture, video or comic artists.

The collaboration with the Geneva-based drawing collective Hécatombe is ongoing, since their first joint project in 2016.

Ensemble Batida & Hécatombe: Oblikvaj, collective composition 2016-2018

“In our first project Oblikvaj (2016-2018), it immediately became apparent, that we were on the same wavelength. Each of the five members of Hécatombe created a graphic score, in form of a 24-page black and white comic strip and Batida reacted with collective compositions. It worked brilliantly”. Concerts with live encounters followed.

Diĝita is primarily about the joint creation process. “In the summer of 2019 we took a 14-day retreat in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t bring any instruments, but collected and recorded existing sounds, for example big machines, tractors and engines.

Diĝita, Trailer ©Gare du Nord, Batida & Hécatombe

The title Diĝita stands on one hand for the ‘fingers’, on the other hand for digital vs. analogue. The recorded and sampled sounds refer to the digital realm, while the music performers work with their fingers. The musicians perform within a transparent cube, with screen-display walls onto which 3D videos by the drawing collective are projected: life-size comic figures on the videos overlap and thus alienate the real bodies of the musicians in the cube.

Diĝita was able to give a concert in Lausanne on 31 October: “It was an extreme experience as we all knew that we wouldn’t be playing live again for a while, so we enjoyed the moment even more,” says Larrouturou. The Diĝita tour with follow-up concerts in Geneva was unfortunately interrupted by the lockdown.

During our conversation, it turned out that Batida is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. A party with partners and audience is planned in Geneva, but due to the pandemic it will not take place before 2021.
Gabrielle Weber

Ensemble Batida Portrait ©Batida

Ensemble Batida: Klaviere: Viva Sanchez Reinoso, Raphaël Krajka
Percussion; Jeanne Larrouturou, Alexandra Bellon, Anne Briset
Diĝita: Video: Giuseppe Greco, Ton: David Poissonnier

Gare du Nord: Batida & Hécatombe: Diĝita, 26.11.20, 20h
(because of lockdown in Basel, they played twice for 15 persons, combined with a Livestream for everybody else)

Ensemble Batida, FracanaümKevin Juillerat, haute école de musique genève – neuchâtel, Hochschule Musik Basel, Hécatombe,

broadcast RTS:
l’écho des pavanes, 20.11.20, rédaction Anne Gillot, Gespräch mit Désirée Meiser, Intendantin Gare du Nord
broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
in Musik unserer Zeit zu neo.mx3, 21.10.20, Redaktion Florian Hauser / Gabrielle Weber

neo-Profiles: Ensemble Batida, Gare du NordAssociation Amalthea, Kevin Juillerat

Wien Modern playing with no audience

17 new streaming productions during lockdown: 6.-29.11.20

Gabrielle Weber
The city of Vienna is going through troubled times. Hit hard by the pandemic and declared quarantine region at an early stage, then locked down at short notice during the month of November. Not to mention the outrageous terrorist attack. The unique Wien Modern music festival happens to be, both in terms of time and geography, in the midst of it, as it’s usually staged in various locations of the city centre throughout the month.

Konzerthaus Wien without public ©Markus Sepperer 

Under the slogan Stimmung (‘mood’ as well as ‘tuning’), the festival traces the current 2020 mood in complex and diverse ways. 44 new productions and 85 new pieces should have been performed, over 32 days, but only the opening weekend could take place in front of an audience, showing six productions, a mere 14% of the total programme.

On the third (as well as second-last) evening, the premiere of Edu Haubensak’s “Grosse Stimmung” could be presented. Wien Modern spared no effort and – almost in anticipation of what was to come – the Wiener Konzerthaus’ auditorium was emptied for eleven differently tuned grand pianos. The audience was, of course, still present – but in the stands only.

This allowed Haubensak’s work to be experienced live and in its integrity for the first time. After partial performances, the planned integral premiere at the Ruhrtriennale had to be cancelled in summer due to the pandemic. Despite quarantine, the three Swiss pianists Simone Keller, Tomas Bächli and Stefan Wirth were there to perform.

Edu Haubensak, Grosse Stimmung © Markus Sepperer

Then came the lockdown with its banned events and curfew. The quick decision in response was that a total of 24 events, i.e. more than half of the concerts, will now be performed without an audience and streamed free of charge.

Five days only after the lockdown was declared, the first streaming concert took place in front of an empty Musikverein hall on the 6th of November: the world premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s long-awaited new orchestral work “Der Zorn Gottes” performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO) and directed by Oksana Lyniv. The planned premiere at the Salzburg Easter Festival with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann had already been cancelled after several postponements.

The fact that it eventually premiered online is of significant importance given the situation as well as the terror that Vienna had to endure. Gubaidulina sees the performance as a sign of peace in times of increasing hatred and “a general overstrain affecting civilisation”.

Klaus Lang: tönendes Licht

Livestream from Stephansdom Wien: Klaus Lang, tönendes Licht, world creation 19.11.20

Other important highlights are a concert with three world premieres on November 18, in the Vienna Konzerthaus. In addition to new works by Friedrich Cerha and Johannes Kalitze, a piece by Matthias Kranebitter, winner of the Erste Bank Composition Prize, will be premiered – “a new encyclopaedia of pitch and deviation”. Performed by Klangforum Wien and directed by Kalitzke himself. On November 19, live from Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the premiere of  the “giant organ concerto” (cit. Wien Modern) “tönendes licht” by Klaus Lang, for a space wise dispersed Vienna Symphony Orchestra, directed by Peter Rundel.

20 years Ensemble Mondrian – Anniversary concert in Vienna:
This production has unfortunately been postponed to 2021, due to Swiss quarantine regulation guidelines.

Portrait Mondrian Ensemble & Thomas Wally © Markus Sepperer

There is also something to be heard from the Swiss side: On November 21, the Mondrian Ensemble will mark its 20th anniversary by presenting works by Martin Jaggi and Thomas Wally, both long-time collaborators of the Basel based ensemble.


Ensemble Mondrian, Thomas Wally, Podcast

Premieres of Andres Bosshard with Zahra Mani and Mia Zabelka, however, had to be postponed to November 2021. Same for Basel ensemble Nikel’s concert with works by Thomas Kessler and Hugues Dufourt.

Bernhard Günther, artistic director of Wien Modern, made the following statement in a in-depth reflection on the lockdown and the cultural mood in Austria: “The current mood here indicates that clear signals are urgently needed to prevent culture from being perceived as a victim of the health system, winter tourism in the mountains and Christmas shopping. A captain must of course try and avoid the iceberg, but at the moment he must also do everything he can to prevent the ship from sinking on the opposite side”.

Through streaming, Wien Modern now tries to maintain Vienna’s cultural life and make part of it accessible. Perhaps – to stick with the festival’s motto – the actual mood can be somewhat improved, even if this doesn’t diminish the life threatening situation that cultural production is currently facing.

To express our solidarity, SRF 2 Kultur and neo.mx3, are pleased to inform their public, users and listeners regarding the different streaming possibilities and details.
Gabrielle Weber

Portrait Bernhard Günther © Wien Modern

All streams on: Wien Modern or (partially) on Musikverein and ORF RSO 

Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur

Kultur kompakt Podcast9.11.20: Theresa Beyer, “Der Zorn Gottes” entlädt sich im Stream zur UA Wien Modern, Sofia Gubaidulina:

Neoblog, Corinne Holtz: Wenn aus Leidenschaft Subversion wird – Portrait Simone Keller

Kontext, 21.10.20, Corinne Holtz: Zehn neu gestimmte Klaviere

In Musik unserer Zeit21.10.20: Florian Hauser / Gabrielle Weber:  zu neo.mx3: Simone Keller & Edu Haubensak

Neo-profiles
Simone Keller, Stefan Wirth, Wien Modern, Edu Haubensak, Mondrian Ensemble, Martin Jaggi, Thomas Kessler

“The universe of sounds is limitless”

Christian Fluri / Gabrielle Weber: Interview Martin Bliggenstorfer – 10 years ensemble proton bern: Anniversary season 2020/21

This is where a brilliant birthday portrait regarding ensemble proton bern’s 10 years activity, with plenty of notes regarding the anniversary season was meant to be found.

Christian Fluri talked with Martin Bliggenstorfer, the Managing Director, shortly after the lockdown of the first pandemic wave. At that time, he expressed confidence and urge for action.

Now, shortly before the big anniversary celebration of November 16th was originally planned, we find ourselves in the midst of a second wave, hitting with unexpected violence.

I therefore discussed the effects of the new situation on the ensemble proton bern and its anniversary season with Bliggenstorfer in a second conversation, immediately after the Federal authorities announced the new guidelines of October 18th. Since then, measures and guidelines have been changing constantly and most performances have become virtually impossible.

The ensemble proton bern is thus representative of many ensembles, musicians and organisers who are suddenly facing cancellations, postponements and an uncertain future.

ensemble proton bern: Gruppenportrait © Oliver Oettli


Christian Fluri
ensemble proton bern has been researching with great passion since ten years now, looking for new sounds, new works and new composers. It is now one of the most in-demand ensembles in and outside Europe.

Since its foundation in 2010, the ensemble, which is based in the Dampfzentrale Bern, has performed some 273 works by 180 composers in 128 concerts, 175 of the works were world premieres. Among other highlights, its concerts at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Concert Hall in in front of large audiences and a West Coast tour of the USA.

During the first wave of Corona, the ensemble was quite lucky, as managing director, oboist and lupophone player Martin Bliggenstorfer states: “Right before the lockdown, we were able to play the protonwerk no. 9 concert in the Dampfzentrale. But we had to cancel the second performance at Basel’s Gare du Nord.”

protonwerk is a support programme for young composers* to whom the ensemble commissions works.


Adrian Nagel, Netzwerk, UA: protonwerk no.7 / ensemble proton bern 2017

“We were able to postpone our programme terrible ten, a concert with world premieres by Thomas Kessler (My lady soul) as well as Michael Pelzel and Stefan Wirth, which was planned for May, at short notice and managed to play in September. So not all of our planned programmes went completely lost,” says Bliggenstorfer happily.

Making music together is missed

The ensemble could hardly wait to get back playing concerts after the lockdown. So terrible ten became somewhat extraordinary as making music together again after such a long time and sharing music live with the audience was a great experience for everyone involved, says Bliggentorfer.


Thomas Kessler, My lady soul, UA ensemble proton bern 2019

Even though the ensemble’s musicians were able to make productive use of the lockdown period. “What we missed was making music together, being in direct contact with each other and rehearse with the concerts in mind. But at the same time it was also good to let our brains and bodies rest for a few weeks.”

Fortunately, the ensemble’s existence is currently not in danger. “We didn’t have to return any of the received subsidies or support for the cancelled concerts. That way we’ve been able to pay out our own fees as well as those of our guest performers”. Bliggenstorfer is very grateful for the generous attitude of Switzerland’s donors.

“The universe of sounds is limitless…”

The ensemble is therefore still in an excellent position and constantly striving to develop further. This, however, will happen without its long-time conductor Matthias Kuhn, with the ensemble since its founding. “He wishes to reorient himself artistically” which is something that Bliggenstorfer understands, however important Kuhn has been for the young ensemble’s development. In the future, the work will go on with a core of eight members and without a permanent conductor, in order to develop chamber music projects as well as concerts and performances with larger ensembles and guest conductors.

The passion for contemporary music in its various genres and orientations never changed as the ensemble has no blinders on and joyfully plays and shows how full of enthusiasm, lively and vital contemporary music can be. “The universe of sounds and their possible combinations is infinite”, and Bliggenstorfer knows that ” there are new discoveries to be made throughout an entire lifespan”.


Verschiedene Komponisten click & faun, ensemble proton bern 2019

Sound possibilities of new instruments are also far from being exhausted: i.e. the “clarinet d’amore” rediscovered by Richard Haynes, the double-reed instruments “lupophone” and “contraforte” played by Martin Bliggenstorfer and Elise Jacoberger or Maximilian Haft’s “straw violin” – not to mention the variety in the realmof electronic sound production. ensemble proton bern will continue to research.
Christian Fluri

2nd interview, October 21, 2020:
Gabrielle Weber
Despite growing uncertainties and the threat of new restrictions, Bliggenstorfer still appeared to be confident regarding future concert possibilities on October 21: “Cultural events should not be cancelled as long as they are not officially prohibited. Protection concepts must of course be implemented perfectly, which worked well so far”.

Fixed appearances as main act were planned as part of the “5 years Kultur-Kino Rex” anniversary programme, with two visual artists, during which composer Ennio Morricone was to be shown from an much less known side. “Morricone is well known as film music composer – but he was also active in so called ‘art music’, among others as trumpet player of the “Gruppo di improvisazzione Nuova Consonanza” in the 60s/70s.

However, the new Berne guidelines of October 23, closed cinemas and museums with immediately effect and  the concerts had to be cancelled shortly afterwards.

“fette fête” (big fat party) – the ensemble’s 10th anniversary concert

The “fette fête” was planned for 16 November in Bern: a huge birthday party with premieres and works by Louis Andriessen, Christian Henking and Annette Schmucki. The ensemble also commissioned a work by young Swiss composer Tobias Krebs. “We are extremely pleased about this – he is an outstanding young composer whom we know from protonwerk”.


Tobias Krebs, ambra, UA Duo Vers 2018

During the interview, Bliggenstorfer held on to the possibility of performing, for “as long as it is possible to propose art as a live experience, we do not want to give up the opportunity to perform. We want to deal with the situation responsibly by observing the protection rules and concepts”.

Unfortunately, the concert had to be cancelled (as of October 30 guidelines) and will be rescheduled to February 2021 (tbc.).

Further uncertainties arise regarding future projects with guests from abroad: “If they cannot enter or travel, we will have to look for replacements. Furthermore, engagements abroad are cancelled for the time being. For the anniversary season, the ensemble had invitations to New York and Salzburg, for example.”

The financial consequences of the current situation cannot be assessed yet: “At the moment we are still in a good position financially, but the medium to long-term impact of the crisis on the funding landscape is uncertain.”

The ensemble continues to show its full commitment. The urge of research and innovation, as well as the desire to play and discover, remain intact.

However, it is impossible to foresee long-term consequences regarding live concerts, in particular as far as the international situation is concerned.
Gabrielle Weber

ensemble proton bern Gruppenportrait © Oliver Oettli

Konzerte Jubiläumssaison 20/21 &aktuelle updates

30.Oktober: The dark side of Ennio Morricone, Kino Rex Bern: ABGESAGT

16. November: “fette fête” – 10Jahre proton, Dampfzentrale Bern: ABGESAGT: VERSCHIEBEDATUM 2. Februar 2021 (tbc)**
17. November, 20h, Konzert Gare du Nord Basel: protonwerk nr.9 (Wiederaufnahme)

Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 28.10.20: Redaktion Florian Hauser, Gespräch zu My lady soul, mit Thomas Kessler, Martin Bliggenstorfer, Bettina Berger, Vera Schnider
Neue Musik im Konzert
, 28.10.20: My lady soul mit terrible ten, Konzertaufzeichnung vom 15.9.20, Dampfzentrale Bern, Redaktion Florian Hauser.
Musikmagazin, 25.7.20: u.a. Richard Haynes, Redaktion Florian Hauser

**DATUM OFFEN: Neue Musik im Konzert: “fette fête”, Konzertaufzeichnung, Dampfzentrale Bern, Redaktion Florian Hauser.

ensemble proton bern, Martin Bliggenstorfer, Matthias Kuhn, Richard HaynesHanspeter Kyburz, Louis Andriessen

neo-profiles: ensemble proton bern, Thomas Kessler, Michael Pelzel, Stefan Wirth, Christian Henking, Annette SchmuckiTobias KrebsTobias Krebs

(Deutsch) Musicus universalis – Rudolf Kelterborn

 

Episode 4 of neoblog portraits concerning the Swiss Music Prize 2020:

Rudolf Kelterborn is one of the Swiss Music Prize 2020 winners.

Florian Hauser
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.

Rudolf Kelterborn Portrait in jungen Jahren

“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.”

“creating something fundamentally new..”

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 für Orchester 1984/85, Basel Sinfonietta

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

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.
Florian Hauser

Rudolf Kelterborn Portrait © Universität Oldenburg

Rudolf Kelterborn: Musinfo; Ricordi

Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 16.9.2020: Portrait Rudolf Kelterborn, Redaktion Florian Hauser

Neo-Profiles: Rudolf Kelterborn, Klavierduo Soós-Haag, Basel Sinfonietta, Swiss Music Prize