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Institutions meant to support young composers who have graduated or are about to graduate are very important, essential actually. With protonwerk, ensemble proton bern has operated groundbreakingly and achieved a great deal in this field, which can also be discovered on neo.mx3.ch. This year’s Musikforum Biel/Bienne, aiming to support orchestral music, will present works by Spanish composer Gemma Ragués Pujol, Swiss composer Michal Muggli and Armenian composer Argenaz Martirosyan in three world premieres with the Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn directed by its principal conductor Kaspar Zehnder on May, 19. All three young composers currently live in Switzerland, are studying or have completed their studies here and already won various prizes for their high-quality works. They create music of great density and tension, with an independent language that is at the cutting edge of our time.
Order, Disruption, Deconstruction
The 30-year-old Michal Muggli, who grew up near Zurich, already has a large catalogue of works. She completed her studies under the supervision of Beat Furrer with a Master’s degree in Graz – after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in composition with honours at Bern’s University of Arts two years earlier.
In 2014 she won protonwerk 4 with DICKdünn II for flute, lupophone, bass clarinet, violin, violoncello, harp, piano and conductor. The first part of the eight-minute piece is of gripping intensity, tonally dense and of demonic expression. The dense, earthy and progressive soundscape is broken down into individual, fragmentary figures, alternating with sombre, rebellious clusters. Muggli leads her music into a turmoil of overlapping spoken words voices, merging into instrumental speaking, sighing, lamenting. A convincing work that also tells the listeners more about Muggli’s artistic passions: music and literature. She is now studying French literature and language as well as musicology and hermeneutics.
Michal Muggli, DICKdünn II, UA ensemble proton Bern, UA 2014 Bern / 2015 St. Petersburg International New Music Festival
Her new orchestral piece, Unruh, which will be premiered at the Musikforum Biel/Bienne, is once more focussing on order – in this case of clock mechanics – and disruption. Muggli writes about her composition that ‘…seemingly uncontrolled excursions of a sprial spring’ maintain ‘the regulated order of the gears’. Subliminally, the restlessness (Unruhen) is rebelling against the mechanical order of the passing of time and thus keeps it going. In her music, Muggli develops a dialectical process that also lets the sound wander through the orchestra, as she puts it, for she is also concerned with the ever-new transfer of forces between the almost interlocked orchestra musicians. An arrangement that leads us to expect music of great tension.
East and West linked in the present
Zeitlos, the orchestral piece by the Armenian Argenaz Martirosyan not only revolves around time, but also seeks to explore the concept in its various semantic meanings. The clockwork mechanism also appears in this work, as do moments of eruption. Martirosyan writes of ‘liberated time’. Her music develops in a dialectic of standstill and movement, due to the different dimensions of time and the composer hopes that time will ‘fly by’ for the public.
An inner tension and profound sound exploration that form a stimulating musical speech, as well as a close relation to improvisation, can be heard in Music for Alto Saxophone and Percussions (2020).
Aregnaz Martirosyan, Musik for Saxophone and Percussions, UA Lucerne Percussions New Music Days 2020
In this piece, Martirosyan – who is currently studying with Swiss composer Dieter Ammann, at the Lucerne School of Music after a schooling in Armenia – combines in the realms of Eastern composing with its expansive sound structures, always moving in different harmonic areas, with the Western musical present, in order create her own powerful and stirringly rhythmic tonal language.
She skilfully develops her language in the large unit that is the orchestra. This is evident in Dreilinden for solo trumpet and orchestra from 2019, a gripping work of art that ensured her two renowned prizes.
Aregnaz Martirosyan, Dreilinden, Konzert for Solo Trumpet and Orchestra, UA 2019
Sound and movement
Le temps bouge mais n’avance pas, written for the Musikforum Biel/Bienne by Catalan composer Gemma Ragués Pujol is also dealing with the phenomenon of time. The composer states that time is always moving but never progressing and she speaks of ‘temporality in the circular and defined movement of a roundabout’. Ragués Pujol is referring to the relationships between movement or physical gestures and sound, as well as their intersections. A system of correlations that the composer has been exploring for some time, including in the rigorous choreography of her silence fantasy #1, a performance in which three newspaper-reading actors move on chairs and yet appear to be static.
Gemma Ragués, silence fantasy #1, UA 2020
She also explores the possible links between electronic and acoustic sounds, arriving to almost contradictory results: In nit de sal for voice, ensemble and electronics from 2019, she poignantly sets poems by Joana Raspall and Maria Mercè Marçal into music, sometimes using excessive sound formations.
Gemma Ragués, nit de sal, UA 2019
The Biel Solothurn Symphony Orchestra concert will see the three world premieres completed by Ulrich Hofer’s Minute Pendulum, a jazzy improvisation system that he adapted for orchestra, thus – building on the ‘creation tools of jazz’ , as he writes himself and shaping it into a composition.
The three concerts can be listened to on the streaming platform neo.mx3 on the composers’ profiles.
The concert in full length will be broadcasted in: Neue Musik im Konzert on SRF 2 Kultur on wednesday, 26.5. at 9pm.
Concert-details: Musikforum Biel/Bienne, 9. Sinfoniekonzert
Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn, Michal Rebekka Muggli, Gemma Ragués, Aregnaz Martirosyan, Dieter Ammann, Beat Furrer, Christian Henking, Xavier Dayer, Simon Steen-Andersen, Ensemble Proton Bern, Ulrich Hofer