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Cécile Marti is both composer and sculptor. Being able to pursue these two activities makes her life balanced. On April 3rd 2023, her accordion quartet Spectra will be premiered by the Société de musique contemporaine Lausanne.
“I like to emerge out of absolute silence and I try to maintain this silence for half the day if possible,” says Cécile Marti when we meet at noon for an online conversation. Her mornings are usually dedicated to composing. “Back then, when I came to composing, it grew out of absolute silence and I seek that experience again every day.”
From silence to composition
Cécile Marti had to find her way from silence back to sound after a stroke of fate hit her. Initially, as music-loving young woman, she had a completely different career in mind and wanted to become a violinist.
“I had focused my entire life on the violin, from childhood onwards there were only the violin and the profession of becoming a violinist for me.”
But when she suffered a stroke during her studies that made it impossible for her to play the violin, a long period of letting go followed.
“I had to go through deep worlds and hit rock bottom before I was able to rethink, reinvent and recreate my life from scratch.”
Success with bubble trip
Out of this process, she discovered the composition as a way of continuing to express herself musically, although in a completely different way. She studied with Dieter Ammann, Georg Friedrich Haas and Julian Anderson and soon had her first successes – for example with her orchestral work bubble trip(2004/2007), with which she won the international composition competition at the 9th Weimar Spring Festival for Contemporary Music in 2009.
In Switzerland, bubble trip was premiered in 2010 by the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra.
Quarter tones with the accordion
Cécile Marti has just completed the work Spectra for four accordions, which will be premiered by Ensemble Xamp at the beginning of April. The special feature is that two of the ensemble’s accordions are built in a way that they can produce quarter tones. Cécile Marti has used this opportunity to explore natural tone specters, as she had done in previous works.
Dancing Spectra for sextet from 2018, for instance also relies on natural tone specters as starting point.
Auch in für Sextett aus dem Jahr 2018 nahm Cécile Marti bereits Naturtonspektren zum Ausgangspunkt.
Stones in the afternoon
Cécile Marti devotes her afternoons to stone sculpture, which she discovered when she turned to composition.
Visual design runs in the family, her father worked as graphic designer and was constantly drawing drafts and sketches, while with her ceramist mother, she was often able to follow the process of creating clay pieces. “I grew up in her workshop, so to speak, and was allowed to witness how she shaped pots and bowls and how they were baked to come out of the kiln in all kinds of shapes and colours. That was very exciting.”
Today, she shapes sculptures from hard stone herself – an always challenging process that requires great concentration.
Processes and trajectories in stone and sound
The interaction between the two art forms Cécile Marti devotes herself to on a daily basis also finds its way into her works. In Five stages of a sculpture (2019) for ensemble and two solo violas, for example, five musical movements are presented opposite five different stages in the development of a sculpture. The ensemble symbolises the materiality of the stone, to which the viola voices gradually lend a new form.
Five Stages of a Sculpture by Cécile Marti, played by Ensemble Multilatérale.
Water Crystals from 2020 takes as its starting point various structures of water crystals that researcher Masuro Emoto photographed in different corners of the world in the 1990s. Violin and piano musically explore the hexagonal crystal structures in twelve aphoristic miniatures. Twelve white marble sculptures take a spatial-visual look at the same theme.
Cécile Marti, Water Cristals for violin and piano, 2020, Video 2021 ©Martin Messmer
Cécile Marti has found something fulfilling in her two fields of activity. “It’s just something wonderful and I want to be able to pass on and share this exciting experience” she says. Because shaping and designing also has something self-empowering about it.
“It’s about the form and shaping of our lives. Giving shape and form to our own lives, also in the sense of thinking life for oneself and shaping it from within, the self-determined shaping of our own lives from the bottom up.”
Konzert: 3. April 2023, 19:00/20:15; Société de musique contemporaine Lausanne, Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne (HEMU)| Utopia 1 | Rue de la Grotte 2 | 1003 Lausanne: Das Ensemble Xamp spielt Werke von Cécile Marti und anderen Komponist:innen.
Martin Lorenz started out as drummer and percussionist but his curiosity led him first to experiment with LPs and eventually with synthesizers, turning more and more to composion.
With the synthesiser trio Lange/Berweck/Lorenz, he will be playing the KONTAKTE Festival in Berlin as well as the Kunstraum Walcheturm in Zurich in September.
Tall and slender, Martin Lorenz looks as if he always needs to bend down a little. When describing his search for special sounds, how the sound of gravel on a driveway or the one of an elevator door closing can be produced with synthesizers, his face lightens up.
Such enthusiasm for sound research is also necessary when working as drummer or percussionist in contemporary music.
Searching for the right sound material
Often percussionists don’t only play the usual percussion instruments, but need to find the necessary objects for the right sound – stones, pieces of wood, cups, etc. – a particular piece of music needs. They thereby take on a great deal of responsibility for how a piece sounds in the end, because composers do not always specify what they have in mind or what pitch a certain drum or even a stone should actually have.
The constant search for new sounds also led Martin Lorenz to explore the possibilities of LPs. During his own turntable performances, he cuts into the records with a knife, so that very specific rhythms and loops emerge when playing it back.
Cuts into vinyl
What is recorded on the cut record is of course decisive for how the loops sound in the end, so it was obvious for Lorenz to have records with his own sounds – and as a consequence he got involved with synthesizers and also founded his own label DUMPF Edition in Zurich, releases his own as well as other people’s experimental music. Actually, he still prefers LPs, but as a small label, relying on vinyl only hasn’t really been much fun lately, says Lorenz.
“There waiting times are too long and there are often delivery problems again, it’s not reliable and finally releasing a record can take ages.”
Lorenz doesn’t dwell on problems for long, however and rather looks for ways to dissolve frustrations and make them fruitful – which can be seen in his path towards composing. Time and again, he felt a certain disappointment when the ensemble in which he was employed as a percussionist commissioned works from composers and the results they presented did not meet his expectations.
“At some point I said to myself, if I have such precise ideas about a piece, maybe I should just write them and compose my own pieces.”
Feedback and spatial sound
A series of works by Martin Lorenz for instruments and live electronics called “Oscillations”, focusses on the feedback arising when instruments are recorded live in space and played back, resulting in complex structures of sound layering.
In 2021, the piece Swift Oscillations was written for the newly founded Eastern Swiss ensemble Orbiter, with Martin Lorenz himself on vibraphone.
Swift Oscillations by Martin Lorenz – 2021, performed by Ensemble Orbiter at Kultbau St. Gallen.
In addition to his work as percussionist and composer, Martin Lorenz has become increasingly involved in electronic sound production, live electronics and analogue as well as digital synthesizers. With his 2014 “Reviving Parmegiani” project, he finally entered the complex world of historical performance practice of electronic musical works together with pianists Sebastian Berweck and Colette Broeckaert. Performing electronic music again at a later date with other performers is often not that easy as sometimes the synthesizers used are no longer manufactured, there are no updates available, or the computer programme that was used doesn’t run on new devices.
Historical Performance Practice: Stries by Bernard Parmegiani
As the performers are often unaware of the problems that might arise in the future, they make no or inadequate records of what sounds they have set and what synthesizers or electronic effects they have used. In “Reviving Parmegiani” the 1980 piece Stries by French composer Bernard Parmegiani (1927-2013) was to be made playable again. Parmegiani had written the piece for the Paris synthesiser trio TM+ and the notations of the piece as well as a recording that could serve as reference were of reasonable quality. Nevertheless, the three performers had to embark on a detailed search to find out how the respective sounds had been produced and how they could be reproduced again at present times.
“In some places we still haven’t found what and how TM+ did exactly,” says Martin Lorenz. “Sometimes it’s just some badly wired spot of an analogue effect or synthesiser – that will remain a mystery forever.”
The lengthy and at the same time highly fascinating work on Stries became the starting point for the synthesiser trio Lange/Berweck/Lorenz, with whom Martin Lorenz still plays regularly. The three musicians Silke Lange, Sebastian Berweck and Martin Lorenz regularly commission compositions from contemporary composers in order to expand the repertoire for the unusual combination of three synthesizers.
It is important to them to work with the composers in the long term. “A first joint work like this is often more of a ”getting to know each other” process,” says Martin Lorenz. “Only when meeting again things like what can be expected of us, what we are good at, and what we might be challenged with become plain to see.”
Another thing that is plain to see, is that challenges are something that Martin Lorenz is always on the lookout for.
“Bernard Parmegiani: Stries. Broeckaert/ Berweck/Lorenz”, ModeRecords, 2021
“It’s hard to concentrate on work right now,” said pianist Tamriko Kordzaia when I meet her for a Zoom interview in early March. We are both shaken by the Ukraine war, but for Georgian Kordzaia, the events have another meaning. ” I was there demonstrating of course, which did help, but when things go on the same way afterwards, I suddenly feel lonely here…”
Bridges between Georgia and Switzerland
Tamriko Kordzaia has long been kind of a musical ambassador between Switzerland and Georgia. Since 2005, she has directed Close Encounters festival, which aims at performing contemporary music from both countries. The festival takes place every two years in Switzerland and Georgia. Tamriko Kordzaia’s goal is to present the music of contemporary composers from both countries and thereby create encounters. In Georgia, however, it is also about bringing contemporary music to rural regions and away from the capital. “This enables all participants – musicians and listeners alike – to have unique experiences,” Kordzaia emphasises.
This year, works by Peter Conradin Zumthor and Cathy van Eck will be featured alongside new pieces by young Georgian composers. Alexandre Kordzaia (*1994), Tamriko’s son, is also represented at the Close Encounters Festival. He can be considered a mediating bridge between Switzerland and Georgia, but also between classical and electronic music, as he’s not only known for his chamber music works, but also as a club musician under the name KORDZ.
Engagement for a forgotten composer
Tamriko Kordzaia does not only wish to present young composers however. In collaboration with two other Georgian pianists, she has also dedicated herself to the rediscovery of the late Mikheil Shugliashvili (1941-1996). In 2013, the three pianists performed Shugliashvili’s Grand Chromatic Fantasy (Symphony) and released the first recording of this impressive work for three pianos on CD.
Extract of the piece Grand Chromatic Fantasy (Symphony) by Mikheil Shugliashvili at Musikfestival Bern 2020
Building bridges between formations, eras and genres
Tamriko Kordzaia is active in very different musical formations. She plays solo performances, in duo with Dominik Blum from Steamboat Switzerland or with the cellist Karolina Öhman and she’s member of the Mondrian Ensemble since 2008, which covers all possible piano quartet combinations with its programmes.
Currently Mondrian Ensemble features Tamriko Kordzaia with Karolina Öhman, Ivana Pristašová and Petra Ackermann.
Tamriko Kordzaia has been building bridges not only between countries and formations, but also between eras. At the beginning of her career in Georgia, she first made a name for herself with her Mozart and Haydn interpretations, when continuing her studies at Zurich University of Arts, she began to explore contemporary music, with – for example – the works of the Swiss composer Christoph Delz (1950-1993), whose complete piano works she recorded in 2005. Mondrian Ensemble explicitly focusses on presenting both old and new music in its programmes, thereby unveiling unusual connections. The ensemble also implements concepts including space, stage or film play and has no reservations about collaborating with representatives of jazz or club music.
Recording of the Mondrian Ensemble playing Plod on by Martin Jaggi.
Over the long time that Tamriko Kordzaia has been with Mondrian Ensemble, firm and regular relationships and collaborations have developed with composers such as Dieter Ammann, Felix Profos, Antoine Chessex, Martin Jaggi, Jannik Giger, Roland Moser and Thomas Wally.
Tamriko Kordzaia also has a special relationship with the music of Klaus Lang, whose pieces have already found their way into some of the Mondrian Ensemble’s programmes. When the pandemic brought concert life to an abrupt halt, Kordzaia decided to concentrate and deal with Klaus Lang’s piece “sieben sonnengesichter” in detail. The result of this in-depth research can be heard a 2021 CD and recording.
Video of the recording session of sieben sonnengesichter by Klaus Lang. Piano: Tamriko Kordzaia.
Working with the younger generation
Something that distinguished Tamriko Kordzaia since her beginnings in Switzerland is her work with young musicians – an activity that she enjoys very much these days. At the Zurich University of Arts, she gives piano lessons and helps students find their own voice in the interpretation of not only classical but also contemporary works. In this regard, she also gets in touch with young composers, whom she advises on the development of their pieces. “It’s so great to see what ideas these young people have and how they get on. It always gives me a sense of purpose and helps me to keep going, even if sometimes circumstances are difficult.”
Festival Close Encounters:
Dienstag, 26.4.22 Kunstraum Walcheturm – Favourite Pieces
Donnerstag, 28.4.22 Stanser Musiktage – Georgian music with Gori women choire
Freitag, 29.4.22 Feilenhauer Winterthur – Georgian music with Gori women choire
Samstag, 30.4.22 GDS.FM Club Sender Zürich – Tbilisi Madness
Klaus Lang / Tamriko Kordzaia, sieben sonnengesichter: CD domizil records 2021.
Mikheil Shugliashvili/Tamriko Kordzaia, Tamara Chitadze, Nutsa Kasradze, Grand Chromatic Fantasy (Symphony) For Three Pianos: CD, Edition Wandelweiser Records, 2016.
Christoph Delz: Sils „Reliquie“ – 3 Auszüge aus „Istanbul“, CD, guildmusic, 2005.
Tamriko Kordzaia, Festival Close Encounters, Mondrian Ensemble, Karolina Öhman, Petra Ackermann, Alexandre Kordzaia, Cathy van Eck, Peter Conradin Zumthor, Jannik Giger, Dieter Ammann, Martin Jaggi, Roland Moser, Felix Profos, Antoine Chessex, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Musikfestival Bern
The MaerzMusik festival will take place in Berlin from 18 to 27 March 2022. One of its main focusses will be the work of Éliane Radigue on the occasion of the composer’s 90th birthday. Friederike Kenneweg spoke with French-Swiss musician François J. Bonnet, who’ll be sound director for all of Radigue’s electronic works performances during the festival.
When shaping the 2022 programme, curators Berno Odo Polzer and Kamila Metwaly, kept in mind both the visible and invisible relationships that hold us all together, in music and beyond. They used the mushroom mycelium’s root-like structure as a metaphor. What we commonly call mushrooms, are in fact mainly the fruiting bodies, but the fungus also includes the multifaceted interconnections of its roots, some of which extend over large areas underground. The influence that these connections have on their environment is still largely a mystery to science.
Such an unmanageable network of connections is also formed by the festival’s events, which run through districts, flats, cafés, pubs and venues, linking places as diverse as the Philharmonie, the Zeiss-Großplanetarium in Prenzlauer Berg and the Kulturquartier silent green in Wedding.
The image of a subterranean network also fits the music of Éliane Radigue, whose complete electronic works will be presented live at Maerzmusik. At first it seems like an infinite, almost static sound surface, although subtle changes take place in the various musical layers.
Engage in a different perception
Sound director François J. Bonnet recommends that those who attend the concerts fully engage with the perception of these subtle changes, as they allow open up a completely new horizon to the listeners. Bonnet is in charge of 17 events, covering the composer’s works from 1971 to the year 2000. Bonnet, who is an active musician himself under the name Kassel Jaeger, is the current director of INA GRM(Institut national de l’audiovisuel / Groupe de Recherches Musicales). He thus presides over today’s version of the legendary institution that Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer, founding fathers of “musique concrète”, brought into being in the 1940s. Radigue also worked with Schaeffer and Henry for a long time. Today, her name is primarily associated with her work with the ARP 2500 synthesiser, of which she was one of the pioneers in the 1970s.
François J. Bonnet is an expert of Radigue’s also because he published an extensive edition of her electronic works with the composer herself, leading to a close relationship of trust between the two. Furthermore, he gained a precise sense of how the composer’s procedures and what matters to her in each individual composition.
The underrated importance of sound direction
Bonnet actually decides for each venue how the playback position should look and filters out certain frequencies or emphasises them during the performance – entirely according to the room’s acoustics. Even if the works are final recorded mixes, he still enhances parts during the performance or gives them a certain sparkle. This influence can lead to the same piece sounding completely different according to the venue. Once, Éliane Radigue herself told him after a concert that she had perceived her own piece with completely different ears that day.
Acoustic music, orally transmitted
After a long period of working with the synthesiser, from 2000 onwards Éliane Radigue turned to purely acoustic music, which she developed with her respective “musician partners”. Occam Océan was created in 2015 in collaboration with Paris based ensemble ONCEIM (l’Orchestre de Nouvelles Créations, Expérimentations et Improvisation Musicales).
Éliane Radigue, Occam Occéan, Premiere 26.9.2015, Festival CRAK Paris
The extraordinary aspect is that there is no written version of the orchestral work, as the piece is transmitted orally and through listening. In a further joint transmission process, the ensemble ONCEIM passes the composition on to Klangforum Wien and performs Occam Océan in a joint performance in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie.
Furrow, groove, path
As part of this concert, the ensemble ONCEIM will also perform Sillon for 27 improvising musicians by Patricia Bosshard (2018). Sillon means furrow, groove, path. The repetitive piece is about movements from the individual voice to the overall sound and about connecting lines between various instrument groups through musical material, timbre and sound.
Patricia Bosshard’s Foumilierewith Orchestre du Grand Eustache (2018) also focuses on shared practice and listening rather than on written scores
MaerzMusik will be the starting point of tracks like Sillon to also run through people, through the city, through the world – music as a mushroom meshwork that connects us all in one way or another.
Berno Odo Polzer, Kamila Metwaly, Zeiss-Großplanetarium Berlin, silent green Kulturquartier Berlin, Philharmonie Berlin, Occam Océan, Pierre Henry, Pierre Schaefer, INA GRM, Ensemble ONCEIM, Klangforum Wien
Selected / mentioned concerts:
21.3.2022 Zeiss-Grossplanetarium: Éliane Radigue: The Electronic Works 1: Trilogie de la Mort I. Kyema (1988)
22.3.2022 Zeiss-Grossplanetarium: Éliane Radigue: The Electronic Works 4: Adnos (1974)
23.3.2022 Philharmonie Berlin: Occam Océan, Klangforum Wien und Ensemble ONCEIM
SONIC MATTER Festival to start in Zurich
What does the city sound like underground? Does music sound different when it’s played for a single person? Can it help to survive in a damaged ecosystem? December 2 to 5 2021, artists and festival organisers of SONIC MATTER Festival in Zurich will be looking for answers to these and other questions of our time.
This year’s festival motto is TURN. Different formats, like of course concerts, but also exhibitions and round tables, address such moments of change in music, but also in environment and society.
The Walcheturm art space, for example, will be transformed into a 48-hour listening and video lounge during the festival under the title “weichekissenheisseohren”.
Danceable music, anticipating the catastrophe
At the same venue, Andreas Eduardo Frank explores the relationship between „Musik&Katastrophen“ (“music & catastrophes”) in the “border line club culture”. Being electrified, expecting the inevitable, tense and on the verge of discharge – Frank translates this pandemic era attitude to life into electronic music with his synthesiser. The tense audience can let the steam out by dancing. At the end of the festival, the GLENN will loudly invite the Walcheturm art space audience to dance.
Process-oriented and sustainable
The festival should be process-oriented and sustainable, as artistic director Katharina Rosenberger put it in an interview with SRF 2 Kultur in May 2021. The composer has founded a collective with artist and director Julie Beauvais and cultural manager as well as music journalist Lisa Nolte to manage the festival. The three women attach great importance to long-term cooperation with artists and the continuous development of contact with the audience. That’s why they also have a SONIC MATTER website, serving as platform for artistic exchange, research and encounters. Some of the results of this collaboration will be presented during the festival.
SONIC MATTER_OPENLAB, for example will feature works by artists, scientists and activists from Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, the USA, Brazil and Switzerland in a joint performance. From very different places in the world, all these actors use their respective means to draw attention to the threats facing our planet. In a deep listening experiment, these different voices, approaches and perspectives are made accessible to the audience.
The SONIC MATTER_village explores the sound of Zurich’s city districts together with its residents. Audio pieces have been created during workshops with residents and will be presented in the festival programme.
The opening concert at the Schauspielhaus Zurich will feature the International Contemporary Ensemble from New York under the title CONNECTIVITY. The programme includes compositions by George Lewis, Nicole Mitchell, Helga Arias and Murat Çolak. A work by the Swiss composer Jessie Cox from Biel, but currently studying in New York and very recently premiered at Lucerne Festival Forward, will also be performed.
Jessie Cox’s Black as a Hack for Cyborgification, world creation 2020 online (concert recording october 7th 2021 with International Contemporary Ensemble, Target Margin Theatre in Brooklyn) will be performed at concert CONNECTIVITY.
The orchestra’s sensuality
Entirely in the spirit of the festival’s motto, the orchestra concert in the Tonhalle Zurich will feature Dieter Ammann’s 2010 work TURN, which traces the transformation from one state of things to another with the means of the orchestra. “Exactly where the music becomes quite clear, easily graspable for the listener, the turn happens, a turning point at which the previous sonority completely implodes and abruptly changes into another sound image,” says Dieter Ammann about his work. “It’s comparable to a scene on a stage, where lighting and technology suddenly create a new atmosphere.”
Dieter Ammann, Glut for orchestra, world premiere september first 2019 Lucerne Festival Academy, conductor George Benjamin, inhouse-production SRG/SSR
Das Stück für großes Orchester dropped.drowned von Sarah Nemtsov aus dem Jahr 2017 spielt auf feinsinnige Art mit den Klangfarben des Orchesters und macht im Gegensatz dazu Wandlungsprozesse erfahrbar, die sich eher allmählich vollziehen.
Chasing the sound of the city
Those who want to tune their ears to this kind of sensuality by listening to the sounds of the city can do so on Friday afternoon during a listening walk with sound artist Andres Bosshard, who will set out from the viaduct at the Markthalle in search of special soundscapes or tranquillity and listen, among other things, to the water murmuring of the river Limmat.
At the sound trail “Unter der Klopstockwiese” by sound artist Kaspar König, Zurich’s sound is presented from a completely different perspective: from down below. „Begehbare Hörlandschaft unter der Erde“ (“walkable listening landscape under the earth”) opens a distorted listening world, turning familiar sounds into something alien: enraptured and ghostly.
broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 8.12.21, 20h: Sonic matter – ein neues Festival in Zürich, Redaktion Moritz Weber
neoblog, 11.11.21: neue Hörsituationen für neue Musik – Lucerne Festival Forward / u.a. zur UA von Jessie Cox, Autorin Gabrielle Weber
neoblog, 17.11.20: musique de création – Geheimtipp aus Genf im GdN Basel: Gabrielle Weber: Interview mit Jeanne Larrouturou zum Projekt Diĝita
Michael Pelzel, Composer in Residence at this year’s Musikfestival Bern, shows the range of his compositional work through numerous world premieres. He can also a renowned organ player and interpreter. A conversational portrait by Friederike Kenneweg.
When I tried to arrange an interview with Michael Pelzel in mid-July 2021, he was not easy to reach and there’s a good reason for that: the works to be premiered featuring him as Composer in Residence at the Musikfestival Bern are piling up on his desk. “It’s one after the other,” he tells me, when we finally manage to talk. The piece that is in front of him as we speak on the phone is called Aus 133 Fenstern. Although “composer in residence” in Bern doesn’t mean that you actually have to be there for an extended period of time, the conditions at the festival venue have inspired Michael Pelzel to create a special spatial composition.
From the multitude of windows that open out from the PROGR Cultural Center onto the courtyard, the audience is treated to bells, triangles, lotus flutes and ocarinas, played by children and young people and even if the target of 133 musicians is not quite reached, there is no doubt that a unique spatial and sound event awaits the audience.
The piece is composed and written out in detail. Pelzel however does not expect the amateur musicians to manage to play in synch with each other under the special spatial circumstances. “Even professionals can’t manage to hit the percussion instruments at exactly the same time,” says Pelzel. But it is precisely this blurring tonal effect, the composer is particularly interested in. “Composers are, after all, always on the lookout for new, unheard sounds and the choral use of these metal percussion instruments is – in my opinion – not yet been explored in its full potential.”
Pelzel’s fascination with metal percussion instruments comes to the fore in several occasions during the festival. In composition Glissomaniac for two pianos and two percussionists, for example, where tubular bells produce this kind of blurs as the two percussionists and pianists play in unison. “Micro-arpeggios” is how Michael Pelzel defines the result. “It’s a bit like a river delta. Many little tributaries, each one with its peculiar course, but all with a common direction, flowing towards the sea.”
Michael Pelzel already combined vocal ensemble and percussion in 2019 in the piece Hagzusa zum Galsterei, premiered by the SWR Vokalensemble at Eclat Festival Stuttgart.
Michael Pelzel also relies on this effect in the vocal composition Luna for eight singers and percussion, with not only the percussionist using instruments, but also the eight singers playing triangles of different sizes. Due to the minimal temporal shift in the attack, metal sound clouds of different dimensions and never entirely predictable arise again and again.
Luna is a work commissioned by KlangForum Heidelberg as part of the ensemble’s series of works “Sternbild: Mensch” (Constellation: Man) and was actually to be premiered elsewhere. But as so often, had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
The work has already been premiered, but so far only in digital form. The “analogue” premiere in front of a physically present audience will now be able to take place in Bern: a special highlight in the context of a concert entitled Ferne Lichterschwärme.
Michael Pelzel, La Luna, KlangForum Heidelberg, ‘Uraufnahme’ online june 2021
In combination with Pelzel’s piece La Luna, the programme also includes orchestral works by Georg Friedrich Haas (born 1953) and György Ligeti (1923-2006) and Pelzel’s compositions will be presented together with works by Haas and Ligeti also during other concerts. Probably because there is a certain affinity between the three composers, as – just like Ligeti – Pelzel appreciates intricate micro-rhythms and shares a passion for microtones with Georg Friedrich Haas. Accordingly, the combination of his works with these two greats suits him perfectly: “Between Georg Friedrich Haas, who was my esteemed teacher and György Ligeti, an important musical reference for me in many respects, I feel very comfortable”.
Michael Pelzel, in memoriam György Ligeti: intricate micro-rhythms link the works of György Ligeti and Michael Pelzel, inhouse production SRG/SSR
György Ligeti also plays an important role for Michael Pelzel as an organist. Accordingly, the organ concert with Michael Pelzel as part of the festival will feature Ligeti’s organ work Harmonies from 1967. The composition …stream of debris… by Michael Pelzel, which he will premiere himself, is seen by the composer as part of the same tradition. “It’s also a bit of a tribute to Ligeti, who worked a lot with clusters in his organ music. When I improvise on the organ myself, I also take clusters as a starting point, but I try not to simply repeat that, but also to further develop Ligeti’s approach for the present times.”
Streamed Polyphony for strings, which will be premiered by CAMERATA BERN, is appropriately announced in the programme as a “swarmig piece” in line with the festival motto “swarms”. “Swarming is not actually correct,” says Pelzel when I ask him about it. “I rather thought of three insects buzzing around a light source while composing it.”
That is why the distribution of the musicians in the room plays an important role in this piece, allowing the sound of the strings to literally buzz around the room. Even if the title of the composition no longer suggests the association with insects: perhaps the swarming and buzzing effect will still be recognizable to the listeners during the CAMERATA BERN concert.
This year’s Bern Music Festival will take place from September 1 to 5 under the motto “schwärme” (swarms) with works and world premieres by Salvatore Sciarrino, Fritz Hauser, Jürg Frey, Johanna Schwarzl, Hans Eugen Frischknecht, Pierre-André Bovey, Thomas Kessler and Jean-Luc Darbellay, among others.
The festival also features a cinema matinée on György Ligeti (documentary: Wenn die Zahnräder Menschen sind, 1996) followed by a discussion between Michael Pelzel, composer in residence, and Thomas Meyer, music journalist (Thursday, 2.9., 10h).
World creations by Michael Pelzel:
Aus 133 Fenstern, Mittwoch, 1.9. 17h
Streamed Polyphony, in concert: Open the Spaces, Mittwoch, .1.9. 19h
Glissomania, in concert: Durch unausdenkliche Wälder, Freitag, 3.9. 21h
La Luna, in conczert: Ferne Lichterschwärme, Samstag, 4.9. 19h
Harmonies / ...stream of debris… in concert: Con Passione, Sonntag, 5.9. 17h
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