“In maletg da mia veta”

Gion Antoni Derungs (1935-2012) is not only Graubünden’s most prominent composer. He is also considered one of Switzerland’s outstanding musical personalities. Ten years after his death, he is receiving an extensive tribute through a biography and a Derungs Festival was held in Chur.
Portrait by Laura Decurtins.

 

Laura Decurtins
The wide-ranging works of Gion Antoni Derungs reflect artistic imagination, strong musical identity and an irrepressible creative urge; he himself described them as the “image of his life”. In his productive engagement with the local musical traditions as well as with the international musical currents of the 20th and 21st centuries, Derungs achieved an unmistakable personal style. Today, his name stands for high-quality musical works of art that range from simple songs to complex instrumental works, speaking to amateurs and professional musicians alike.


Portrait Gion Antoni Derungs zVg. Fundaziun Gion Antoni Derungs

 

Folk Songs as “Roots” and “Source”

Gion Antoni Derungs was born on September 6, 1935 in the small village of Vella in the Val Lumnezia. After his father’s premature death, the family had to make ends meet with hardly any means, but the highly talented mother – sister of the famous musician Duri Sialm – nevertheless attached great importance to the musical education of her children. Romantic piano music, operas and the folk songs of Surselva surrounded Derungs from an early age. Furthermore, he was sometimes allowed to accompany church services on the harmonium, so that he also became familiar with the old Catholic hymns of the Surselva. The “canzun romontscha” became both a musical identity root as well as a source for Derungs’ compositions.

From piano student to musical director

In 1949 Derungs entered the grammar school of Disentis abbey and was taught piano and organ by village music teacher Giusep Huonder as well as by his uncle Duri Sialm. After graduating from high school, he was offered to study at the conservatory in Zurich, where – in addition to piano – he took composition, music theory, organ, conducting and score playing lessons; while at the same time studying school singing at the music academy. In 1960, while still in his studies, he was appointed musical director in Lichtensteig (Toggenburg) as his uncle’s successor and in 1962 he was finally appointed piano and organ teacher at Chur’s Bündner Lehrerseminar, as well as organist and director of the Romansh city choirs Alpina and Rezia.

Guinea pigs and “house interpreters”

In 1968, together with Pastor Gieri Cadruvi, Derungs founded the record series “Canzuns popularas” (CPLP) to promote Romansh songs. Until 1987, 13 recordings were released with a wide variety of programmes and performers. The main interpreter was the Ensemble Quartet grischun, an elite chamber choir founded by Derungs himself and with whom he was able to try out his latest, avant-garde vocal creations, such as the Missa pro defunctis op. 57, for which he won the gold medal at the international composition competition in Ibagué (Colombia).

 

Gion Antoni Derungs, Quintett op 25 für Flöte, Klarinette, Violine, Violoncello und Klavier, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Derungs’ colleagues at the teacher seminar, including his cousin, organist Esther Sialm, became the actual “house interpreters” of his instrumental chamber music. Between 1969 and 1971, Radio Rumantsch offered Derungs’ so-called “musica moderna” a platform – which promptly earned him an ambiguous “modernist” reputation. The works presented included the Quintet op. 25 for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, a “symbiotic” combination of linear-polyphonic moments with cluster sounds and noise explosions, as well as the Silhouettes op. 17b for clarinet and piano, where silhouette-like contours increasingly emerge from an initial “jumble of lines and dots”.

 

Gion Antoni Derungs, Silhouetten op. 17b für Klarinette und Klavier, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

From the avant-garde back to tonality

Derungs composed such “musica moderna” from 1968 to the mid-1970s. Even as a student, he was fascinated by the experiments of the post-war musical avant-garde, serialism, aleatoric and minimal music, but also by the Polish School of the 1960s with its sound surface and timbre music. However, he kept his distance from the Darmstadt circles and their Summer Courses for New Music, which were setting the tone at the time.

In the mid-1970s, Derungs turned to the “simpler”, neo-tonal music of postmodernism, but without wanting to join the relevant circles. He always used the musical languages of his century very freely and undogmatically, whereby everything had to have its justification. Derungs saw “hopeful perspectives” for the further development of his personal style in the regained tonality. However, since he never sought instant success, many works waited decades “in the drawer” for a first performance.

 

“Looking ahead”: breakthrough and success

Derungs achieved his breakthrough in Graubünden with a vocal work written during this period: the opera-ballet Sontga Margriata op. 78. In his perception, returning to tonality also meant getting back to his musical roots: “Preserving tradition means looking forward”, and the folk songs allowed him to create contemporary music with a native tone. From what is probably the oldest Romansh song, La canzun da Sontga Margriata, he created a contemporary work that enjoyed a successful premiere in 1981 through a Graubünden-Geneva collaboration. This nationwide success motivated him to use the Romansh language also for genres that had no tradition in Graubünden: the art song on the one hand, but above all: the grand opera, which he “invented” in 1984 with Il cerchel magic op. 101. The work received a positive response also abroad – but in Romansh-speaking Graubünden, this first “opera rumantscha” has since been regarded as a musical milestone.

 


Gion Antoni Derungs, Il cerchel magic (der magische Kreis), 1984, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Over the years, Derungs composed a large number of instrumental works: from small-scale chamber music and solo concertos to large symphonies – all of which he composed on his own initiative. Over the years, however, he also received commissions from a wide variety of formations at home and abroad, for which he created works tailored to the performers in the shortest possible time. Furthermore, Derungs also set a crime story, a fairy tale and the dramatic life of Red Cross founder Henry Dunant to music; his later work were three sacred vocal operas for the Origen Festival in Surses, based on multilingual libretti by its director Giovanni Netzer. The works are based on a mixture of free-tonal harmonies, impressionistic colours, motet-like techniques and a strong word-sound relationship.

 

“Everyone must step down at some point”

This tonal language showed its maturity in his last a cappella choral work, the Nachtgebet Complet op. 189, which Derungs completed in 2011. In that year he was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly had to get used to the idea of imminent death. In fact, death had accompanied him since childhood and over the years it also found its way into various compositions, connecting them to a certain extent thematically, for example the Requiem op. 74 with the 2nd Symphony op. 110, the Mourning Symphony, or the Sontga Margriata with the 8th Symphony «Sein-Vergehen» (“To Be – To Pass Away”). “Everyone must step down at some point,” Derungs noted about his 8th Symphony. “And we are all aware of this.”

 


Gion Antoni Derungs, Sinfonie Nr.8, op. 158 (2002/2003), in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Gion Antoni Derungs died on September 4, 2012, two days before his 77th birthday. He left a huge oeuvre with 191 opus works and hundreds of compositions without opus numbers. As early as 1996, he was awarded the honorary title of «Orpheus der Rätoromanen» (“Orpheus of the Rhaetians”), an artist who transcends borders and transfers the local musical tradition into art. However, the highest honour that can be received by a Graubünden citizen was to follow posthumously: in 2015 Derungs was chosen by the Romansh media as “in dils nos” (one of ours).

He never denied his Romansh roots and always considered the “little wishes” of his homeland.
Laura Decurtins

Laura Decurtins is the author of the new biography on Gion Antoni Derungs, published by Chronos in the fall of 2022.

The Chur Gion Antoni Derungs Festival took place from September 1 to 4, 20220, among other places at the Theater Chur, and was mainly performed by the ensemble ö! The concerts were recorded in total on video by RTR and are available on neo.mx3.

 

Gion Antoni Derungs / Fundaziun

Duri Sialm, Giusep Huonder, Gieri Cadruvi, Quartet grischun, Esther Sialm, Giovanni NetzerHenry Dunant

radio features SRF 2 Kultur:
Neue Musik im Konzert, 14.12.22: Gion Antoni Derungs-Festival in Chur, author Cécile Olshausen

neo-profiles:
Gion Antoni Derungs, Ensemble ö!

Communiquer au-delà de la musique

Eric Gaudibert, pianist, composer and lecturer from Geneva has been a key figure in the contemporary and experimental music scene of French-speaking Switzerland. Deceased ten years ago, he influenced a whole generation of musicians as teacher and promoted important ensembles for contemporary music. From December 9 to 17, they will jointly organise a tribute festival and concert marathon in Geneva’s Victoria Hall, which will include the premiere of 22 miniatures composed by his former students.

 

Gabrielle Weber
They are called Contrechamps, Ensemble Vortex, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center or Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC) and have two things in common, they are very active in the contemporary music scene of French-speaking Switzerland and they all have a strong connection to Eric Gaudibert.

Daniel Zea, Serge Vuille and Antoine François, artistic directors of Vortex, Contrechamps and NEC, initiated the festival as a collaborative project: “the idea came up spontaneously, talking about Eric and tackling it together came very naturally,” says Daniel Zea, because Gaudibert has been important for the development of the whole scene. The Haute école de musique Genève (HEMG) will host a conference, a film screening with table ronde, and a concert by Vortex, followed by the concert marathon with the HEMG orchestra at Victoria Hall.

 

Portrait Eric Gaudibert ©DR zVg. Contrechamps

 

Gaudibert described his urge to teach as “communiquer au-delà de la musique”, communicating beyond music. He first experienced this communication in France, where, he worked from 1962 in the fields of “animation” as well as music transmission, in rural regions, after studying piano in Lausanne and composition in Paris. After returning to Switzerland, he taught composition for many years at the Conservatoire Populaire de Genève and then at HEMG. Michael Jarrell and Xavier Dayer, both renowned composers and teachers with roots in Geneva, were his students and he accompanied many other national and international careers as an artistic guiding figure, promoter and networker.

Serge Vuille, director of Contrechamps, did not study with Gaudibert directly, but was still impressed by the “Gaudibert phenomenon” and its lasting presence in the scene, also demonstrated by how quickly other partners agreed to participate in the festival. Contrechamps works constantly with Gaudibert’s former students, be they interpreters or composers. “That’s why I wanted to show this teacher-pupil aspect and its two sides at the festival,” says Vuille.

On one hand, there is Nadia Boulanger, Gaudibert’s theory teacher in Paris: Contrechamps will perform one of her orchestral works. She taught many composers who are now performed all over the world, but her own works are rarely performed. According to Vuille, she is overlooked as composer because she is mainly perceived as a teacher.

On the other hand, Contrechamps commissioned Gaudibert’s former students with short compositions. Considering the high number of 45 graduates, “only” a regionally manageable circle of those still working in or connected with French-speaking Switzerland were asked and, with two exceptions, all of them accepted. “The strong commitment by his students was very impressive,” says Serge Vuille.

Guidelines were a duration of only one minute, but open instrumentation, from large ensemble to solo and even tape, 22 miniatures will now be performed, including works by Arturo Corrales, Fernando Garnero, Dragos Tara or Daniel Zea.

Daniel Zea highlights another aspect of the teacher-pupil communication: “We are all very grateful for what he gave us and what he made possible. At the same time, it was a game of give and take: Eric was open and curious – he was interested in what we were interested in. We influenced him, for example, with traditional music from our countries.” Zea, like some of the graduates of Gaudibert’s composition class, comes from South America. His ensemble Vortex came together in Gaudibert’s classes and was accompanied and supported by him until the end.   


Hekayât, pour rubâb, hautbois, hautbois baryton, alto et percussion, 2013, in house-production SRG/SSR, performed by Khaled Arman on the rubâb, an Arabic lute, is one of Gaudibert’s late works, in which he seeks to integrate instruments, their performers, and modes of play from other cultural spaces.

 

Electroacoustics and diversity 

Gaudibert, born in Vevey in 1936, studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Henry Dutilleux. He is best known for his poetic and visual instrumental works, but there are also other, lesser-known sides: Back in Switzerland, he researched electronic sounds during the early seventies in his self-described “experimental” phase at Lausanne’s radio experimental studio.

 

Portrait Eric Gaudibert zVg. Contrechamps  

Vortex’s concert of December 10 is entirely dedicated to his electroacoustic works, which is consistent with the ensemble’s multimedia orientation: “it’s an important phase of his work that is rarely revealed,” says Daniel Zea. Together with John Menoud, composer and multi-instrumentalist, he visited Gaudibert’s widow Jacqueline and together they went through many videos, audio cassettes and scores. Pieces for instruments and tape or live electronics, often performed only once or twice, will be performed by musicians who worked closely with Gaudibert. Benoît Moreau, for example, who will play En filigrane for epinette (spinet) and tape, which was performed only once, by Gaudibert himself, at the premiere 20018 – with Moreau present.

The choice of repertoire for the final concert shows Gaudibert’s versatility. “We decided to combine key works such as Gong – his last major ensemble work – with rarely performed pieces to show the diversity of his oeuvre,” says Vuille. Gong is dedicated to pianist Antoine Françoise, who will also interpret it at the festival, together with Contrechamps. François, now an internationally sought-after solo pianist and director of the NEC, also had a close relationship with Gaudibert, who, pianist himself, accompanied and supported François’ development from their first meeting when he was 16 years and relied on his skills for Gong’s demanding part when he was only 24.

 


Gong &Lémanic moderne ensemble, in house-production SRG/SSR


In addition to his instrumental works, Gaudibert’s electroacoustic phase will also be represented at Victoria Hall: Vortex performs Ecritures from 1975 for one voice and tape, created in Lausanne’s Experimental Studio, in a new version for four voices distributed in the room. “The piece lives on with new technical possibilities, which would have been in Gaudibert’s spirit,” says Zea. Eric Gaudibert would certainly have welcomed the fact that his former students continue to work together – in communication beyond music.
Gabrielle Weber

 

Nadia Boulanger, Henri Dutilleux

 

“Eric Gaudibert, pianiste, compositeur, enseignant”. Film Plans fixes, 48mn, Suisse, 2005 : In this 2005 film portrait, Gaudibert talks about his most beloved themes, such as his fondness for literature and painting, his times in Paris, teaching and the influences of other cultures on his musical work: the film is the focus of a panel at Geneva Festival Gaudibert on December 10.

 

Festival Gaudibert:

9/10 décembre 2022, HEMG : Congrès / Concerts : Composers and lecturers Xavier Dayer, Nicolas Bolens and ethnomusicologist as well as interpreter Khaled Arman, among others, will discuss the portrait at HEMG.
17 décembre 2022, Victoria Hall Genève, 18:30h : Concert marathon Contrechamps, Eklekto, le NEC, Vortex, orchestre de la HEMG, chef d’orchestre : Vimbayi Kaziboni, Gaudibert, Boulanger, UA 22 miniatures

Neo-Profils
Eric Gaudibert, Daniel Zea, Antoine Françoise, Arturo Corrales, Fernando Garnero, Dragos Tara, Ensemble Vortex, Contrechamps, Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, John Menoud, Benoit MoreauEnsemble Batida, Xavier Dayer, Michael Jarrell

Lucerne Festival Forward comes to “a clean end”

Jaronas Scheurer
The Lucerne Festival Forward has taken place in Lucerne from November 18 to 20, 2022. Alongside big international names such as Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Tito Muñoz, the programme also included the collective intervention A Clean End to end the festival.

The Lucerne composer, musician and expert on cleaning machines Urban Mäder, zVg. from Urban Mäder.

During an interview, Lucerne composer and musician Urban Mäder described himself as an expert on all kinds of cleaning machines – and there is a good reason for that. Because for the closing of this year’s Lucerne Festival Forward (LFF), for once it is not the musicians of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO) who are in the spotlight, but, among others, KKL’s cleaning staff and their various types of hoovers, mops and cleaning machines.


Urban Mäder and Peter Allamand: sound installation ‘Balgerei’ at the festival Alpentöne, Altdorf 2015.

Researching at 6 o’clock in the morning

After LFF’s first edition last year and the performance of Ricefall by Michael Pisaro by 49 amatuers, another participative action took place this year: A Clean End. The action is called a collective intervention and its driving forces are Urban Mäder, Nora Vetter, Pia Matthes and Peter Allamand. The intervention took place as closing event of the last concert.

But what is there to do at the end of a festival or a concert? Well, cleaning, so that the whole thing has “a clean end”. This was the premise on which the four artists based their work and dealt intensively with the used cleaning equipment. After every KKL concert, a fifteen people strong cleaning team from Vebego arrives at 6 AM on the following morning and cleans each and every corner of the place, concert hall, foyer, toilets and the numerous rooms. They do not use buckets and brooms, however, but various ultra-modern cleaning machines, which Mäder, Vetter, Matthes and Allamand studied intensively, examining exactly the different sounds they could generate, as Urban Mäder reports. They even went to the KKL at 6 o’clock in the morning to watch the Vebego team at work. Their research and work eventually gave birth to a composition for a group of amateurs who responded to a call from LFF to become the actual A Clean End performers.

The violist, composer and performer Nora Vetter, zVg. from Nora Vetter.

The team behind A Clean End

A Clean End is an initiative by Lucerne composer and improvisation teacher Urban Mäder; violist, composer and performer Nora Vetter; artist and scenographer Pia Matthes, who has a strong bond with sound art and Urban Mäder’s long-time collaborator Peter Allamand. Each of the four artists brought in a different perspective, says Nora Vetter in conversation. Urban Mäder has his very own language and a huge experience in this field, Pia Matthes has a  good feeling for dramaturgy and, as a trained product designer, an eye for visuals, Peter Allamand knows very well how things work and takes great pleasure in trying things out and fiddling around. For example, he brought a leaf blower to a meeting of the four so that they could try out directly in the café where they met how such things sounds and works. As for herself, Nora Vetter explains that, in addition to the focus on the sound and compositional aspects which she shares with Urban Mäder, the political dimension in this work has been of great importance. Thus, she says, it was important for the actual cleaning staff to appear. As a result, fourteen of the fifteen employed cleaners were actually featured and while the musicians on stage come from all over the world and are rightly celebrated for their performances, the cleaning staff, who are often migrants, usually remain hidden. Furthermore, the cliché is attached to this occupation that the cleaners unfortunately have no other choice. “But,” says Nora Vetter, “at the end of the day, both making music and cleaning are work tasks and both are equally necessary for a festival like the LFF to happen.”

 


Nora Vetter: ‘Dream Paralysis’, latenz ensemble, Zürich 2021.

To be taken seriously

To be taken seriously are perhaps the keywords that can be used to summarise the various concerns behind the collective intervention A Clean End. Both the people who do the important but invisible work of cleaning and tidying up, as well as the sonic, even musical potential of the cleaning equipment are to be taken seriously.

The concert hall of the KKL, which will be cleaned at the “clean end” on the 20th of November. ©KKL Luzern

The initiative’s aim is not to put on a funny show, but to take the sonic possibilities of the cleaning activity and the cleaning equipment seriously, says Urban Mäder. Their intervention is based on a clear musical idea, which is comparable to classical compositions. “When you compose for the orchestra, over time you get to know the woodwinds, the brass, the percussion instruments and so on. Now we know about all the cleaning machines and how they sound.” And above all – the audience finally sees the people who make sure that the KKL presents itself clean, tidy and in impeccable at every concert and can thank these mostly invisible people with the applause they deserve.
Jaronas Scheurer

 

Trailer of the intervention “A clean End” from Urban Mäder, Nora Vetter, Peter Allamand and Pia Matthes. Lucerne Festival Forward, November 20 2022, KKL Luzern.

 

The Lucerne Festival Forward took place from November 18 to 20 in Lucerne.
The collective intervention was premiered at the final concert on the 20th of November in the concert hall of the KKL.
Beside Urban Mäder and Nora Vetter, Pia Matthes and Peter Allamand are part of the team behind A Clean End.

Neo-Profile:
Urban Mäder, Nora Vetter, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra

The composer with the soldering iron

When she is not on the road presenting her music, which is played by the most important contemporary ensembles and large symphony orchestras, Lisa Streich lives with her family on the Swedish island of Gotland. She uses the most modern compositional techniques to create a universal musical language that speaks directly to the audience and captures today’s zeitgeist without being ingratiating. Annelis Berger tries to find out how she manages in a conversation.

 

Portrait Lisa Streich zVg. Lisa Streich

 

Annelis Berger
Contrasts, over and over again: sharp whip beats penetrate the ear, and in the gaps – these horrible gaps between the beats – hover strangely enraptured pianissimo chords, where one does not know whether the ear is deceiving itself or the orchestra musicians are softly singing along. One sits there amazed and immersed in a surprising musical language that somehow “makes sense”, although complex and multi-layered. Segel is the title of Lisa Streich’s piece, which premiered at the Lucerne Festival in 2018.

It is my first contact with the Swedish composer’s music. Later, I realised that this musical language is typical of Lisa Streich’s works: they surprise, and at the same time speak directly to the listener. One does not feel excluded, not even at first hearing. There is no hermetic superstructure that one first has to figure out to find access to the music, despite the fact that each of the pieces is the result of very elaborate intellectual, artistic and technical work.

 


In Segel from 2017, Lisa Streich used a “spectral tonality” for the first time.

 

Lisa Streich was born in Sweden in 1985, she trained as organist and later studied composition in Berlin, Stockholm, Salzburg, Paris and Cologne. She avoids the spotlight, the stage is not her thing. But in the gallery, alone at the organ, this “breathing creature that doesn’t belong to you and that smells different in every church”, that’s where she feels comfortable. The same goes for composing at home on the island of Gotland, which lies on the Baltic Sea between the Baltic States and Sweden and where, close to the sea and in the midst of a picturesque landscape, she alternately occupies herself with family fife and composition. This also includes tinkering, handicrafts, building devices. At some point, Lisa Streich started to incorporate electronics into her music, small machines that she builds in an old shed next to her house: She soldered, built, assembled and then, for example, in the piece Pietà for motorised cello and ensemble, created an almost mechanical sound that is so exciting precisely because it becomes universal through mechanical anonymity.

Pietà ends quietly. All of Lisa Streich’s pieces, without exception, end in piano. During the interview, she tells me that, until now, she has forbidden herself to allow loud endings; a fortissimo finale feels like plagiarism to her, like a worn out, cheap effect. Such statements are typical of the Swedish composer, who speaks perfect German. She has a high, almost moral claim to be honest with her music. That is why a statement by the Greek composer Georges Aperghis, according to which an artist must be a good liar, still concerns her today. Somehow, she can see what he means and it makes sense, but it doesn’t work for her, she says.

No, that doesn’t work for Lisa. Her music is instead distinguished by a playful spirituality, one not achieved through artifice, but through authenticity, honesty, not a moralistic sourness, but a sensual truthfulness. How she achieves this remains a secret, but, she says, she perhaps captures a certain feeling of the times with her music, which corresponds to today’s audience. Naturally, one does not have control over this. But sometimes something creeps into a work that hits the core of our time.

 

Portrait Lisa Streich zVg. Lisa Streich

 

So what are the most important compositional elements that make Lisa Streich’s music so authentic, exciting and “current”?

 

Spectral tonality and electronic sounds

 

There is, for example, the so-called spectral tonality, which Lisa Streich used for the first time in the above-mentioned work “Segel”. To create such floating chords, she looks for recordings of amateur choirs, which by their very nature are not perfect. She takes chords from these intonationally not quite clean recordings and makes a spectral analysis of them. She then works with this spectrogram in order to create a microtonal or “spectral tonality”. Lisa Streich says that she loves tonal music, but that through frequent playing and listening she gradually felt nothing more about it. On the other hand, when she listens to amateur choirs that don’t have a completely clean intonation, she experiences tonality in a new way. In other words, when familiar chords are a little off, you can experience major and minor anew.

 

Another compositional mean in Lisa Streich’s music is electronic sounds, which she creates by attaching small devices to the instrument. This creates a very unique, soulful, mechanical atmosphere – often in contrast with sharp ensemble sounds that collide with these mechanical “Olimpia worlds” (E.T.A. Hoffmann).

 

Echoes of Roman polychoralism

There is also an affinity with the human voice and choral traditions that runs through Lisa Streich’s oeuvre. For example, in the wonderful work Stabat for 32 voices and four choirs, written in Rome during Streich’s stay at Villa Massimo. It is one of her longest pieces and inspired by Roman polychoral music, which, unlike the Venetian, is hardly cultivated any more, as it is very expensive to perform this 400-year-old, multi-choral music. In those days, boys sang on the balconies and even in the dome of St. Peter’s, connected to the conductor only by hatches. In the church of S. Giovanni in Laterano, for example, where the choral work was first performed, there are twelve balconies. This many-choir system was originally used to create a kind of unplugged Dolby Surround sound system, which fascinated Lisa Streich and she tried to bring this sound into the 21st century in a four-choir work. The resulting piece is a kind of meditation for choir, suggesting a vast landscape, or a timeless and spaceless level into which one can fall without landing softly nor hard. One simply IS.

 


32 voices distributed over four choirs can be heard in Stabat by Lisa Streich from 2017. Here she translates the 400-year-old Roman polychoral into the 21st century.

 

Lisa Streich answers the question about religious content of such works, which already refer to an ecclesiastical tradition from their title, hesitantly. Yes, religion used to play an important role in her life. Less so today, but it is still important. However, it is less linked to a specific religion. “I am sure that there is a world that is invisible, but stronger and bigger than our visible one. Music, too, allows us to experience or feel things that are perhaps not of this world at all.”

In fact, Streich’s music offers the possibility of spiritual openings, if one allows oneself to be drawn into it. Perhaps this is precisely what appeals in the composer’s work, not the programme, but an underlying current that one consciously or unconsciously perceives.
Annelis Berger

On Saturday, October 8, at 7:3pm, the Collegium Novum Zurich will premiere her piece OFELIA at Zurich Tonhalle.

Georges Aperghis

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 12.10.22, 20h / 15.10.22, 21h: Im Innern der Orgel: Lisa Streich, composer and organist, author Annelis Berger

Neo-Profiles: Lisa StreichCollegium Novum Zürich,

100 Years IGNM – A fellowship of companions

The “International Society for New Music” was founded 100 years ago, with the aim of creating network- as well as showcase-opportunities for contemporary music from all around the world. Its Swiss section, SGNM, was launched in Winterthur the same year. It organised six of the annual “World Music days” in 2004 and contemporary music even travelled through Switzerland by train.
A portrait by Thomas Meyer.

 

Two works from Switzerland were premiered in 2016 in Tongyeong, South Korea: by Claude Berset (La Ménagerie de Tristan, a semi-staged chamber suite for children on poems by the surrealist Robert Desnos) and by Iris Szeghy (Gratia gratiam parit for choir a cappella).

 

Thomas Meyer
31 years ago, in the church of Boswil, the ‘ensemble für neue musik zürich’ played an exciting programme, including works by Japanese composer Noriko Hisada and Australian composer Liza Lim. The two were not yet thirty years old and unknown in this country at the time – but they were not to remain so for long, as the ensemble was enthusiastic and gave them both several commissions over the decades. CDs were made and a long friendship developed. That concert is a beautiful example to me of what could happen at the so-called “World Music Days”.

 


Voodoo Child by Liza Lim (1990) – ensemble für neue musik zürich directed by Jürg Henneberger / Soprano: Sylvia Nopper, Kunsthaus Zürich 1997, © SRG/SSR

 

The festival took place in Zurich in 1991, gathering musicians from all over the world and on one afternoon the guests were taken to the idyllic Freiamt. These “World Music Days” thus fulfilled precisely the purpose of bringing new music from all countries together across oceans and continents, as stated by the festival’s organisers: the “International Society for Contemporary Music IGNM” or ISCM.  The input came from the composers Rudolf Réti and Egon Wellesz. On 11 August 1922, an illustrious crowd met at the Café Bazar in Salzburg. Names like Béla Bartók, Paul Hindemith, Arthur Honegger, Zoltán Kodály, Darius Milhaud and Anton Webern were among those present; others had excused themselves.

The time were highly interesting, immediately after the world war had destroyed all order and nothing could be taken for granted any more. New music found itself in a changed culture. Exhausted by the war, but also by the violent scandals of 1913, it began to withdraw and organise itself. Schönberg and his circle in Vienna during the years 1918-21 with their “Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen”. Edgard Varèse founded the “International Composers’ Guild” in New York in 1921 with the aim of performing modern music. In the same year, the «Kammermusikaufführungen zur Förderung zeitgenössischer Tonkunst» were held for the first time in Donaueschingen. The name is significant, contemporary music had to do something and reform itself.

Richard Strauss was involved as president in IGNM’s founding, but soon handed the office over to English musicologist Edward Dent. Although the first impulse came from the Austrians, the British soon took over both leadership and administration. National sections came into being. As early as October, Werner Reinhart, a patron of the arts from Winterthur, Switzerland, came forward and announced a Swiss section. He had money and an interest in contemporary music, so the section took up residence at Rychenberg. In 1926, the World Music Days were held for the first time in Zurich, where, for example, Webern’s Five Orchestral Pieces op. 10 were premiered, followed by Geneva in 1929. The IGNM ship set sail and crossed the continents for its festivals.

 

World music festivals stand for communication and exchange between countries

The World Music Festivals are the heart of the organization, trying to do something in order to unite nations – even if only by approaches. “No music festival, no arts community would be able to prevent catastrophes like the one that broke out in 1914,” wrote Austrian music historian Paul Stefan after the Geneva festival. “But every bond has been tightened since then, and quite unlike in the past, the artists of today have become companions.” Admittedly, this degenerated into conflict again a few years later, when in 1934, on the initiative of Richard Strauss, a counter-organisation, the Nazi-affiliated “Permanent Council for the International Cooperation of Composers”, was set up to undermine the influence of the IGNM. In 1939, for example, Czechoslovak musicians were forbidden to travel to the World Music Festival in Warsaw.

All member countries propose compositions for the World Music Festivals, which are then evaluated by a jury on site and supplemented with programme ideas from local organisers. Fifty-fifty should be the ratio between the two parts. The programme is colourful and usually has no common denominator. But taking a look at the list of works, one can find many masterpieces. For example, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron was premiered in Zurich in 1957. Some things might get lost or forgotten, but long and lasting connections are made, which is IGNM’s essence: communication and exchange between countries.

 


Gemini, Konzert für zwei Violinen und Orchester by Helena Winkelman, Premiere with Sinfonieorchester Basel and Ivor Bolton, violins: Patricia Kopatchinskaja / Helena Winkelman: the first woman to represent Switzerland at the World Music Days in Ljubljana in 2015, where her piece Bandes dessinées was premiered.

 

In 1970, the World Music Days took place in Basel, in 1991 in Zurich, and in 2004 the IGNM delegation travelled by train throughout Switzerland. This unusual idea under the title Trans-it was developed by a team around composer Mathias Steinauer, a completely new kind of impulse.

 


Steinschlag (1999) by Mathias Steinauer «World Music days» 2004 at Infocentro NEAT.

Those were the highlights, but in general the Swiss section, SGNM, is rather quiet and anchored in the local scene. The national society currently consists of eight regional groups. Several festivals and ensembles are also affiliated members, all organising concert series and often bringing unknown music to this country.

The national section has become significantly more active again in recent years however. Singer, performer and composer Javier Hagen has set some accents since taking over presidency in 2014.

 

The Valais singer, performer and composer Javier Hagen has been president of the SGNM since 2014

 

First of all, this concerns historical examination, as some things had been handed down incorrectly and had to be corrected – which was especially important in view of the centenary. Valuable correspondence on the founding period was found in Winterthur. Documentation is necessary because much has been lost and difficult to find. Fortunately, former SGNM president, Zurich critic and organist Fritz Muggler, has a rich archive.

 

66 IGNM sections from 44 countries

The world music festivals are also documented. Not only the past, but also the present comes alive. Even if you were to travel to the festivals every year and listen to around 120 works each time, that would still make it impossible to get an overview of what is happening in all 66 sections from 44 countries. That is why the SGNM regularly presents music from all over the world in its “Collaborative Series” online.

For the jubilee, the Swiss organised a choral competition in four categories together with the Basques, Latvians and Estonians – a sign that SGNM wants to open up to other circles. 108 compositions from 78 countries arrived, with Luc Goedert from Luxembourg and Cyrill Schürch from Switzerland winning the first prize aequo.

 


Cyrill Schürch, Nihil est toto – Metamorphosen for choir a capella, premiere with the Zürcher Sing-Akademie and Florian Helgath, Zurich 2018, inhouse-production SRG/SSR.

 

There has also been an opening inside the head association, ISCM. At Javier Hagen’s suggestion, the number of official ISCM languages – so far German, English and French – has been expanded to include Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish. The world is opening up – and music with it. A sign of this is that next year the IGNM will meet for the first time in South Africa, in Johannesburg/Soweto. 
Thomas Meyer

Read more about the association’s first six decades, in the exhaustive volume IGNM – The International Society for New Music by Swiss musicologist Anton Haefeli.

The SGNM homepage features many tracks as well as visuals documents.

SGNM is also committed to Swiss Music Edition (distribution of musical scores) and musinfo database, two important tools for local music and its distribution.

neo-profiles:
ISCM SwitzerlandJavier HagenMathias Steinauer, Helena Winkelman, Liza Lim, ensemble für neue musik zürichCyrill Schürch, Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Improvised Music in Geneva – The world of AMR

Geneva’s AMR association (AMR stands for “Association pour l’encouragement de la Musique improvise”) is the oldest Swiss institution for improvised music. Since it’s foundation in 1973, it has been committed not only to improvised concerts but also to offer rehearsal opportunities and lessons in improvised music. Its almost 50-year commitment is now being recognised with the Special Music Prize 2022.

The “Sud des Alpes” of the AMR

Jaronas Scheurer

Especially in niche genres like improvised music, most of the work is done on a voluntary basis. Fees for the musicians are low, the work behind the scenes is based on goodwill and the money for the organisers is generally scarce. The pandemic, during which no concerts could be held for months and general uncertainty reigned for even longer, exacerbated this deplorable situation. Not so in Geneva – where AMR managed to paid both the musicians who were booked but couldn’t perform as well as the technicians and staff who were unable to work. This is not only extremely honourable, but also quite unusual. “We had the money and we had booked them, furthermore the musicians were worse off than the organisers,” explains Brooks Giger, secretary of the AMR programme committee and double bass player.

 


John Menoud: Which way does the blood red river flow? Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain and the trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, 2017. John Menoud is member of the AMR programme committee.

 

Milestone of Geneva’s cultural landscape

The AMR exists since 1973, almost fifty years. In the 1970s, the free jazz scene in Europe was buzzing. Peter Brötzmann, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Peter Kowald & Co. in Germany, Irène Schweizer and Pierre Favre in Switzerland. John Stevens and his “Spontaneous Music Ensemble” or the improvisation ensemble AMM in the UK, not to mention the USA with Charles Mingus, Alice and John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sam Rivers, etc. The time was right for a few musicians in Geneva, who go together and devoted themselves to this musical genre.

This is how the AMR idea came about. When the association was founded in 1973, its members already knew that they wanted more than just a stage and organising concerts. “There was this great desire of the founding members to have something where they could gather, work together and create. Where they can listen to this music in concert and share it in the classroom.” – says Brooks Giger. From the beginning, AMR included also a music school as well as rehearsal rooms. The City of Geneva was receptive to this concept and soon financial support was allocated. “We were also very, very lucky that we received support from the city in the 70s and to this day,” Brooks Giger says regarding Geneva and its special situation.

In 1981, the AMR was able to rent a building on Rue des Alpes, the “Sud des Alpes”, which is still the association’s centre and headquarter. Until 2006, the “Sud des Alpes” was gradually renovated and today, it houses not only the AMR offices, but also 13 rehearsal rooms (including two large ones for ensembles) and two concert halls, one in the basement for 50 people and one on the ground floor for 120 people. In the meantime, AMR has become an integral part of the city’s cultural landscape. Brooks Giger describes it this way: “If someone in town asks where to listen to some jazz – AMR. If someone is looking for musicians for a gig – AMR.” In the meantime, they have become an institution for jazz and improvised music in Geneva, which means they still get money from the city – “on croise les doigts” (fingers crossed), says Brooks Giger.

From the founding era of the AMR 1973


Concert programme between local scene and international stars

The City of Geneva’s financial support is tied to the condition that at least 60 per cent of the performing musicians must be from the region. The programming of the 250 to 300 annual concerts and the two festivals is therefore always balanced between local artists, national stars and international guests. The workshops held at the AMR also show what they have learned in regular concerts. So it may well be that in the same week one can enjoy the New York star saxophonist Chris Potter with his quartet, a South African-Swiss combo, a local jazz band and the AMR’s funk workshop. Fair play reigns not only through the concert programme, as the AMR staff is composed of musicians and thanks to the part-time employment at AMR, they are assured a regular income. Performing musicians who live in Switzerland can also be employed by the AMR, which ensures certain employment and welfare benefits. The ticket prices are moderate, so that everyone can afford the AMR concerts and since a few years ago, a group of members promotes gender-balanced concert programmes.

The group Noe Tavelli & The Argonauts from Geneva at the AMR Jazz Festival 2022

A Geneva gem for improvised music

In 2022, AMR is on solid fondations: it has a location with the necessary premises for lessons, concerts and rehearsals, financial support seems to be secured for the longer term, it has survived the pandemic and is again presenting a colourful, interesting concert programme. But above all, the AMR has a lively and committed music scene behind it and its commitment to improvised music has now been recognised by the Federal Office of Culture with the Special Music Prize 2022: “The association is a place of culture, equality, debate and growth,” writes the FOC on the reasons that led to the award.

Nasheet Waits Equality Quartet at the AMR Jazz Festival 2013, ©Juan Carlos Hernandez

Brooks Giger, however, doesn’t see growth as a top priority. “We already do a lot with concerts, festivals, workshops and the rehearsal rooms. There is no need to do more. What we have is already a gem, a diamond. We just have to keep polishing it and taking care of it.”

Next year, AMR will turn 50. There will of course be some special events, such as a photo exhibition at Bains de Pâquis and a publication with photos and essays. Furthermore, a documentary about the AMR is currently in the making and last but not least, there will of course be plenty of good, improvised music from Geneva, Switzerland and from all over the world at “Sud des Alpes”.
Jaronas Scheurer

The website of the AMR and its concert programme.
The laudation of the jury of the Special Music Prize 2022 for the AMR.
The YouTube channel of the AMR.

Neo-Profile:
John Menoud, d’incise, Alexander Babel, Daniel Zea

Between circuits and percussions

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.

 

Der Schlagzeuger Martin Lorenz, konzentriert mit diversen Schlegeln in der Hand. Foto: Heidi Hiltebrand
Portrait Martin Lorenz © Heidi Hiltebrand

 

Friederike Kenneweg

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.”

 

Martin Lorenz hat ein Gerät, vielleicht ein Mischpult, auf dem Schoß und widmet sich vertieft den bunten Kabeln und Knöpfen.
Portrait Martin Lorenz © Florian Japp

 

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.

Friederike Kenneweg

 

Lange/Berweck/Lorenz, Silke Lange, Sebastian Berweck, Martin Lorenz, Akademie der Künste Berlin, KONTAKTE Festival,

Mentioned Events:
23.09.2022 Concert by Lange/Berweck/Lorenz at KONTAKTE-Festival, Akademie der Künste, Berlin
28.09.2022 Lange/Berweck/Lorenz at Kunstraum Walcheturm Zürich

Mentioned Recording:
“Bernard Parmegiani: Stries. Broeckaert/ Berweck/Lorenz”, ModeRecords, 2021

neo-profiles:
Martin Lorenz, Ensemble Orbiter, Kunstraum Walcheturm Zürich

 

 

Thomas Adès, the alchemist

Thomas Adès, one of the most successful and played composers of our time, is “composer in residence” at the Lucerne Festival this summer 2022. In many ways, the 51-year-old Adès is a perfect fit for this year’s motto “Diversity”.

 

Moritz Weber
It is not a very common thing these days to see a busy and internationally active composer also appear regularly as a conductor and instrumentalist. British composer Thomas Adès, however, appears in the music world in many different ways: in addition to his creative work, he gives concerts as a pianist, chamber musician and song accompanist, records works and conducts his own works as well as the classical-romantic repertoire.

 

Portrait Thomas Adès ©Marco Borggreve

 

In his professional life, most of his time is spent composing, “because no one but myself can compose my pieces,” says Thomas Adès laconically in his deep bass voice.

During Lucerne Festival too, he’ll appear in all three roles, plus as conducting teacher. Playing, conducting and composing are obviously very compatible for him: “Playing the piano always goes along with it, so to speak, because I compose on the piano. But during one activity I can also well recover from the other. In contrast to the creative process, playing, for example, is a more muscular process, the fingers have to stay fit and you have to train them like a racehorse,” says Adès, showing his impressive paws.

 

Time for imagination and dreams at the piano

 

When he has time for himself, not practising or composing, he likes to take any scores from his shelf and play whatever he feels like. “It stimulates the imagination and dreaming. I love playing other people’s music, feeling its shape and form in time.” Very often it is Schumann and also Beethoven’s scores “usually don’t make it back to the shelf”. But Adès also likes to play other great composers such as Chopin, Haydn, Mozart or Couperin again and again.

He explicitly refers to François Couperin in three of his works, Sonata da Caccia (1993) for horn, baroque oboe and harpsichord, Les baricades mistérieuses (1994) for chamber ensemble and Three Studies from Couperin (2006) for chamber orchestra.

 


Thomas Adès, Three studies for Couperin for chamber orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester, conductor Alan Gilbert, 2006, inhouse-production SRG/SSR

 

Thomas Adès generally likes to draw inspiration from already existing music. Like many contemporary composers, he draws on various styles and periods and is not an avant-gardist in the sense that his cause is to radically break with all tradition. Igor Stravinsky, for example, was and is in some respects a “guiding star” for Adès, a kind of mentor and “father figure”.

 

Varied, brilliant music

Thomas Adès achieved an international breakthrough in his early 20s. Compositions such as Still Sorrowing (1992) for prepared piano earned praise, and his stellar career was further fuelled, among other things, by winning the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his first major orchestral work, Asyla (1997) – making him the youngest awarded composer.

 

Opera about an outcast

The choice of material for his first full-length stage work, the chamber opera Powder her face (1995) was daring and audacious. “I sat down with lyricist Philip Hensher and told him that I would like to write an opera about a person who is brought down by external forces. This would fit well with my musical language.” Hensher immediately suggested the scandalous divorce of Margaret Campbell, which had been widely exploited by the media. “We can’t do that,” was Adès’ first reaction, but the two quickly came up with ideas for individual scenes.

In the resulting tragicomic grotesque about the love affairs of hedonistic and fun-loving Duchess of Argyll, the composer was able to bring in his humor. But not only: “It was actually also about ourselves: two adolescent gay men in 90s London against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis. We felt that the society we were living in perceived us as scandalous, sacrilegious and even dangerous – a society that outrageously pretended it had never heard of oral sex. We wanted to put this and hypocrisy at the centre of my first opera. Because even if it’s hard to admit: I think there’s one or two of the Duchess’ characteristics in most of us.”

The result is a cheeky, swinging and extremely stage-effective chamber opera full of ravishing tango and music hall echoes, including a musically very explicit fellatio aria by the Duchess.

 


Thomas Adès, Powder her face, Ópera de Cámara Teatro Colón 2019

 

Towards the end of the piece, on the other hand, the composer found a touching tone for the Duchess, who is dying because of society’s given prudery and cruelty. Every note radiates compassion and identification with his character there.

Two more full-length operas with large casts followed this first coup: the modern Shakespearean opera The Tempest (2003) and the supernaturally creepy The Exterminating Angel (2016), inspired by Luis Buñuel’s film of the same title.

 

Creation as a Piano Concerto

This year’s Lucerne Festival will also feature one of Adès’ few multimedia works, a piano concerto on creation entitled In Seven Days (2008) with visuals by his then life partner, filmmaker and video artist Tal Rosner. Formally, they are variations on a chord progression that the composer already had in mind for The Tempest, but didn’t find the right place for it in the opera. One of the particularly charming moments in this concert piece is the fifth part: a tricky fugue with which Adès portrays the creation of animals and their scurrying out into the world.

 

Portrait Thomas Adès Photo © Marco Borggreve

 

Premiere of the new piece for violin and orchestra with Anne-Sophie Mutter

This year’s commission from “ Roche Commissions” is a work for soloist and orchestra, simply called “Air” and will be premiered by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. In contrast to Adès’ first violin concerto, which swirled up in whirling figures, the movement here seems more concentrated, almost reduced, after a first glance at the score. Mainly in quiet quarter notes, a seemingly endless song unfolds, hovering for almost 15 minutes in those ethereal the composer loves so much. “The endurance, concentration, purity and clarity of her playing inspired me to write this music” says the composer. “Musically, several lines shift against each other in a tight canon. In terms of content, it is also a contemplation on what we have experienced during this pandemic, a kind of lament. During the composition, I condensed the texture more and more, deleted a lot – as I often do – until I finally got to the essence of the music.”

 

Older and new chamber music  

The wide-ranging spectrum of Thomas Adès’ oeuvre will be rounded off with chamber music with Quatuor Diotima performing the early string quartet Arcadiana (1996) and, together with clarinettist Mark Simpson, the clarinet quintet Alchymia, premiered last year. The title refers to the alchemists of Elizabethan London around 1600: “I think all creative artists, including myself, act alchemically, so to speak. We bring motionless material to life and magically transform it into gold, if all goes well. In Alchymia I was able to express in a very intimate way how I personally feel and think about the world.”
Moritz Weber

 

Thomas Adès, faber musicTal Rosner, Philip Hensher

Thomas Adès at Lucerne Festival – concerts mentioned
20.8.22., 22h, Luzerner Saal KKL, Lucerne Festival Contamporary Orchestra, conductor Elena Schwarz, u.a. In Seven Days
27.8.22., 19:30h, Konzertsaal KKL, Anne-Sophie Mutter, a.o. Air
4.9.22., 16h, Musikhochschule Salquin Saal, chamber music Quatuor Diotima

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur
Musik unserer Zeit, 7.9.22, author Moritz Weber
Weltklasse live aus Luzern, 27.8.22, u.a. UA “Air”, with Florian Hauser
MusikMagazin
, 10.9.22 Thomas Adès: talk with Moritz Weber
SRF-online-Text: Früher gemobbt, heute berühmt: Thomas Adès steht für Vielfalt, author Moritz Weber

neo-profiles
Thomas AdèsLucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra

Nature and culture are deeply intertwined

Liza Lim’s new piece “String Creatures”, composed for the Jack Quartet (USA), will be premiered at the Lucerne Festival on 14 August. Nature and culture in their relationship as well as the interplay of different cultures are the Australian composer’s main themes, raising awareness on ecological issues with her view of nature’s dwindling beauty. A portrait.

 

Portrait Liza Lim ©Ricordi/Harald Hoffmann

 

Gabrielle Weber
Transcultural ideas and collaboration, beauty of nature, perception of time, ritual and ecological connections – this is how Liza Lim describes her artistic intentions. Her homepage with personal blog features photographs of nature – always in connection with people: in the latest post, readers can see impressions of recreational areas in Berlin, framed views from a window or house facades at night in the countryside.

 

The view from Liza Lims study room ©Liza Lim

 

During one year in 2021/22, Liza Lim has been composer in residence at the Wissenschaftskolleg (WIKO) in Berlin. After two years of lack of concerts due to the pandemic, she writes euphorically about Berlin’s vibrant concert life and the numerous encounters at WIKO. Covid’s aftermath, the war in Ukraine, both the support for cultural workers who had fled, but also the emotional complexity of dealing with musicians from Ukraine and Russia in Berlin made a deep impression on her. The mood has found its way into the new pieces she composed in the city.

The view from her Berlin window has an inner connection with her artistic work, as Lim lives closely related to nature and always sees it in connection with people. Her music addresses ecology, climate protection and the environmental changes due to people in the Anthropocene, the age of the planet determined by the acts of mankind.

Born in the city of Perth, Australia, on the Indian Ocean in 1966, Lim grew up in Brunei on the island of Borneo before returning to Australia for her education. Her early childhood in a tropical paradise and the relationship between western and indigenous cultures as well as Australia’s nature shaped her sensibility for nature and culture, but also for the interplay between different cultures. Lim is professor at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music since 2017 and she has composed solo, chamber and ensemble works as well as four operas, including Tree of Codes (2016), a music theatre piece about origins, memory and time. In addition, she repeatedly works across genres and installations, such as Escalier du chant (2011), an architectural intervention with performance, premiered by the Neue Vokalsolisten Stuttgart at the Pinakothek in Munich, together with light artist Carsten Nicolai.

In Berlin, she composed several works in which she processed her turbulent impressions. For example, the piano-orchestral work World as Lover, world as self, premiered at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2021.

 

Liza Lim, World as lover world as self for piano and orchestra, worldd creation Donaueschingen 15.10. 2021, Orchestre philharmonique de Luxembourg, conductor Ilan Volkov, Tamara Stefanovich, piano.

 

World as lover, world as self is defined by the concept of mourning. The title refers to a publication by environmental activist, ecologist and buddhist Joanna Macy, whose ideas have accompanied Lim for a long time. According to Macy, a new relationship to life and a greater intimate joy could arise from grief as well as deep empathy.

 

Magic rope tricks

During her year in Berlin, Lim also created her new 30-minute string quartet String Creatures for the Jack Quartet, which also focusses on the duality of grief and joy.

 

Workshop Jack Quartet, WIKO Berlin january 2022 ©Liza Lim: Here violist John Richards exposes his instrument to rope tricks.

 

The composer sees the piece as a living whole, as a hybrid multi-headed organism. For Lim, the intrument’s strings have something magical about them, being a living and animated material. The opening sequence entitled “Cats Craddle: 3 diagrams of griev”, questions the strings as a natural material that could serve as the origin of tissue by means of knotting, braiding or weaving. At a workshop with the quartet in January, she experimented with magic rope tricks and also mentions finger-thread games as played by children as an inspiration. Both metaphorically found their way into the piece as a constantly interweaving web of sound.

String Creatures ends with the metaphor of building a nest, the embodiment of security. A nest is woven from the inside out with the bird building it around its own body.

 

Nonverbal communication

String instruments always played a central role in Lim’s body of work. The string sound stands for subtle non-verbal communication.  In her large ensemble work Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus (2018), a crucial scene features a violinist attempting to teach a percussionist how to play the violin on his tambourine. The resulting sounds have a beauty of their own, full of scratchy harmonies and the communication happens on a different level than the music-linguistic one.

 


Liza Lim: Extinction, Events and Dawn Chorus, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO), Lucerne Festival Forward 2021, Dir. Mariano Chaicchiarini, Luzern 2021, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Liza Lim knows how to weave opposites into beauty while at the same time asserting her concerns. We humans are responsible for nature, for our coexistence and the fate of the planet is in our hands. This makes her a groundbreaking example for a younger generation of composers who are concerned regarding our actions’ consequences as well as the future of our world beyond music.
Gabrielle Weber

 
Lucerne Festival, Konzert Sonntag, 14.8., 14:30hString creatures, world creation Liza Lim &Jack Quartett,
Liza LimJoanna Macy, Carsten Nicolai, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

Lucerne Festival, 8.8.-11.9.2022: Under the motto Diversity, the festival dedicates this edition in particular to the musical work of people of color, which is still neglected in the classical music business.

After Lucerne, String Creatures will go on tour to New York, Berlin, Schwaz and Melbourne.

radio features SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 14.9.2022: Liza Lim – Verwebung von Natur und Kultur (Interweaving nature and culture), Redaktion Gabrielle Weber

Musik unserer Zeit, 1.12.2021: Lucerne Festival Forward – new listening situations for new music, Redaktion Gabrielle Weber


Neo-Profiles:
Liza Lim, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO)