Sorry, this entry is only available in German.
Since neo.mx3’s launch, the four SRG stations are gradually making Swiss avant-garde archive recordings accessible. In the meantime, an enormous pool of rare recordings are already available.
This blog draws attention to individual musicians, ensembles and important works, starting with Basel composer Jacques Wildberger (1922-2006) and his relation to Paul Celan.
Corinne Holtz: Jacques Wildberger sets Paul Celan to music
Paul Celan (1920-1970) was born 100 years ago as Paul Antschel in Czernowitz in what was then known as Great Romania. He is one of the German poets whose works have been most frequently set to music and therefore contributed in shaping the history of music for some 50 years. Swiss composer Jacques Wildberger turned to Celan again in his latest work.
In April 1953 a written communication reached the Swiss Musicians Association’s members of the board, concerning the application for membership of Swiss composer Jacques Wildberger. Among the enclosed scores a Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon from 1952, written after his strict studies with Vladimir Vogel in Ticino. Wildberger’s first independent twelve-tone works were openly rejected. “No one will ever accept these works. We will never have to hear them and can therefore safely accept them.” This cynical statement comes from Paul Sacher, patron and contemporary music conductor.
Jacques Wildberger: Trio for Oboe, Klarinette and Fagott, 1952, Eigenproduktion SRG/SSR
Sacher had been president of the Swiss Association of Musicians since 1946. He can be considered central regarding music-political handlings and offices at the time and his influence on the Swiss musical landscape will be decisive for the five decades to come.
Jacques Wildberger stands for that 12-tone technique which Sacher describes as “constructed” and “aggressive”. He also represents political views that are considered suspect in the Swiss post-war context. Wildberger had been a member of the PdA (Labour Party) for three years and remained a self-confessed leftist after his departure in 1947 – in protest against Stalin’s regime.
The struggle for the possibility of hope
A central idea in Wildberger’s music is “the struggle for the possibility of hope”. The hope that things will get better and fairer one day. Although secular, Wildberger acknowledges the interpretation presented in Hebrews 11:1, that faith is a sort of confidence in what one hopes for.
This belief was first explored from a compositional angle in 1978, with An die Hoffnung for soprano solo, speaker and orchestra.
Jacques Wildberger, An die Hoffnung (1978/79), Sylvia Nopper, soprano, Georg Martin Bode, speaker, Sinfonieorchester Basel, conductor Heinz Holliger
Most recently in Tempus cadendi, tempus sperandi for mixed choir and six instrumentalists, written in 1998/99 for SWR Stuttgart. The cantata resembles a legacy of the 78-year-old composer. Once again Wildberger composes a memorial for the murdered Jews, with Paul Celan’s poems “Tenebrae” and “Es war Erde in ihnen” forming the centre of the four-part cantata.
Tenebrae seen in Celan’s and Wildberger’s perspective of is breaking taboos. The poet appears sacrilegious in his demand that God must pray, not man. The composer takes this transgression at its word and writes a series of protest songs, thereby returning to the protest songs of his youth, which he had written for the Basel workers’ cabaret ‘Scheinwerfer’ and the Neue Volksbühne Basel.
Jacques Wildberger: Wir wollen zusammen marschieren, Eigenproduktion SRG/SSR
Celan knew the expressive Tenebrae-scores of French baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier, who wrote 31 instrumental “motets concertants” on the lamentations of Jeremiah. Instead of staging anger over the destruction of the Jewish temples, Charpentier composed consoling music for the Holy Week, the darkest days of the liturgical year. Celan was also inspired by Friedrich Hölderlin’s Patmos hymn. From ‘Nah ist und schwer zu fassen der Gott’ (close and difficult to grasp) to ‘Nah sind wir, Herr, nah sind wir, Herr, nah und greifbar” (close and touchable). Then the poet turns to the gas chambers. ‘Gegriffen schon, Herr, ineinander verkrallt, als wär der Leib eines jeden von uns dein Leib, Herr.’ (Seized already, Lord, clawed into our selves as though, the body of each of us were your body, Lord)*. At the end there is an imperative: ‘Bete, Herr. Wir sind nah’ (Pray, Lord. We are near.)
Paul Celan reads Tenebrae
Wildberger picks up this tone and produces the highest intensity with the most economical means in his 2-minute 30-second short movement. Whip strokes from drums and four-handed keyboard open the music and interfere again and again as a signal. Tenebrae’s tempo indication is “agitato” and the speed is set at 108 BPM. God needs the whip to listen. Only then the choir begins: eight voices strong, homophonically led and with rhythmic shifts like an assembly of very different voices. The music is a wake-up call behind the text: ‘Nah sind wir Herr, nah und greifbar’.
In bar 10 the Lord is shouted at fortissimo. Wildberger reinforces the accented note with the performance indication “gridato” (shouted). Five bars long, the fortissimo is “crawled into itself”.
Then a quiet part starts with ‘Bete, bete zu uns’ (Pray, pray to us). The screaming is followed by pleading: sung, spoken and ending in the voiceless ‘nn-ah’ (close). Here, a general pause marks, already at bar 20, the midpoint of the 41 bars piece.
Wildberger starts anew and lets the protest grow step by step from Celan’s line ‘windschief gingen wir hin’ (leaning we went). The music ends like the text as choral imperative: ‘Bete, Herr. Wir sind nah’ (Pray, Lord. We are near).
Wildberger’s height becomes clear once again in his solitary approach to Celan. Instead of transcending the poet and his life drama as usual, Wildberger calls for resistance and action. “I do not have the right to prescribe hope” – but to compose hope he does, with musical means at the height of times.
Other works by Jacques Wildberger can found on his Neo-Profile and Playlist.
Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 18.11.20: Lieder jenseits der Menschen – Paul Celan und die Musik, Redaktion Corinne Holtz
listen there: Jacques Wildberger, Tenebrae, from Min 53.36
Interview with Daniel Haefliger @ Swiss Musikprize_3
Episode 3 of neoblog’s Swiss Music Prize 2020 portraits:
Swiss Chamber Concerts is the first and only concert series covering the whole of Switzerland and presenting plenty of contemporary music. Since its launch in 1999, it has continuously featured world premieres from all over the country – for a total of some 200 by now.
The Swiss Chamber Concerts (SCC) series were born from the close musical friendship of the three founding members.
Geneva cellist Daniel Haefliger, flutist Felix Renggli from Basel and Zurich based violinist and violist Jürg Dähler had this vision of combining their chamber music series, already established in the three cities. The first national concert series took place in autumn 1999, with the participation of Heinz Holliger, who’s supporting the project to this day.
I interviewed Geneva based Daniel Haefliger via Zoom and we talked about the uniqueness and challenges of SCC. The original conversation was held in French. Haefliger is constantly on the move and not only as cellist; as we spoke he was on the train, which he describes as his second home and a place of work, after a short tour of Switzerland: first Bern, to coordinate the season of the SCC, then Sion, to determine the string quartet lessons at the Haute Ecole de Musique, and then back to Geneva, in order to work on the SCC homepage.
Congratulations on the prize first of all! Were you surprised? What does it mean to you?
Yes, we were very surprised, as we usually receive little recognition for our work from the institutions, although our audience is numerous and enthusiastic. With our series we create a link between the different language regions throughout the year and regularly make new voices heard. This is a complex challenge where we get to face quite a lot of challenges. After all, the Swiss music scene is divided into many local units that hardly ever work together. Our ideal is to connect the whole of Switzerland in a common musical project.
What inspires you?
Two things: on one hand, as a cellist, the musical dialogue with exceptional soloists – on stage as well as on the personal level; on the other hand, as chamber music teacher of the Lausanne Conservatory, the interaction with young musicians. In both areas I try to communicate, mediate and network beyond age, language and culture.
« La jeunesse m’inspire et me passionne… »
Did the pandemic impact SCC?
Same as everyone else, we had to cancel all concerts towards the end of the season. But as soon as things got a bit better, we played a free concert, on June 30th in Geneva, with Heinz Holliger and Thomas Zehetmair . It was a huge success and motivation for the season to come.
SCC builds bridges between the different parts of the country: how does the cooperation between cities come about?
We build on the basis of our personal relationships. This is the only way to avoid rigid cantonal, urban or institutional regulations that would hardly encourage cooperation across regions.
Bettina Skrzypcak, ..e subito parlando, Swiss Chamber Soloists UA 2012
“We constantly question our own standpoint.”
Do you programme together – you are three artistic directors after all?
What is played, in which cities and to whom compositions are commissioned is usually something we decide collectively. In doing so, the particular regions’ and music scenes’ proximity to those of the nearby countries are also taken into account: e.g. Geneva with France, Basel with Germany or Lugano with Italy.
On the other hand, we constantly question our own standpoint and try to adapt, at least to a certain extent to the performance venues as well as cultural areas.
Nadir Vassena, archeologie future
How do you structure your programmes?
Our aim is to propose a high percentage of world premieres by composers from all parts of the country. We always present these new works in conjunction with major works of the repertoire, in order to underline continuity in music. Our series appeals to an open-minded, broad audience, before whom the new works can and must prove themselves.
How is this combination of contemporary classics and premieres received by the public? Has the perception changed over the years?
In addition of combining the new works with the existing repertoire in terms of content, we also exchange ideas with the composers about the entire programme. Each concert is a coherent unit with its own dramaturgy. This underlines the uniqueness of each piece and creates an intensity of the overall programme. In this way we respond to the audience’s increased need to hear a story.
Are there differences in audience reactions between the different parts of the country?
Cities in the different parts of the country have a quite different “cultural pace”. Switzerland richness resides precisely in its heterogeneous cultural identities. We want to value this diversity by having new works from all over Switzerland circulating throughout the country, which is also one of the challenges.
Tell us about the next season’s world premieres you’re particularly looking forward to?
The next season will feature 12 world premieres, among others by Nadir Vassena from Ticino, Heinz Holliger from Basel, David Philip Hefti from Zurich, Xavier Dayer from Geneva. A variety of instrumentations can be heard, including wind sextet, cello solo, string trio, string quartet, voice and small ensemble. I always look forward to imagining how these various pieces will sound.
The season will start in Bern, at the Yehudi Menuhin Forum, on September 24th with a concert by Heinz Holliger and Thomas Zehetmair – a replica of the June concert in Geneva.
Heinz Holliger, Aleh stavi for Cello solo: Solist Daniel Haefliger
Do you have a vision that you haven’t been able to realise yet? Does the prize perhaps have a special meaning right now – given the pandemic?
We have already realised many of our visions, such as the international Swiss Chamber Academy or the Swiss Chamber Camerata, both connecting young professional musicians from Switzerland and abroad. But realising visions and ideals costs money. Perhaps (or hopefully) this prize will help us to obtain higher financial contributions in order to strengthen long-term links between the regions. At the moment, we are dealing with it “at arm’s length”, so to speak, as since SCC’s foundation, our work has only been possible through enormous personal efforts as well as plenty of volunteering: We often think of the god Shiva with his many arms …
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
The Swiss Chamber Concerts were founded in 1999 by Daniel Haefliger, Felix Renggli and Jürg Dähler, followed by the founding of the Swiss Chamber Soloists, a permanent pool of internationally acclaimed soloists who perform during the series, and later the Swiss Chamber Academy of Geneva, national-international string quartet academy and the Swiss Chamber Camerata, also in Geneva. All SCC concerts can be heard in Lugano, Geneva, Basel, Zurich and from this season on also in Bern.
List of SCC world & national premieres 1999-2020
Konzert 18.9.20: Festival Label Suisse, 18.9.20.: 21.15h, Werke von: Rudolf Kelterborn, Xavier Dayer, Mozart, Villa-Lobos
Sendung SRG/RSI: RSI-Neo, 25.8.2020:
Incontro con Daniel Haefliger, Redaktion Valentina Bensi
Basel Sinfonietta’s next concert will be dedicated to Heinz Holliger’s 80th birthday and on the same occasion, neo.mx3.ch – the new SRG platform – will be launched in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.
The third seasonal concert presented by the Basel Sinfonietta, directed by Peter Rundel is entitled “Tausendsassa” (Jack-of-all-trades), referring to Swiss composer, oboist, conductor, pianist, etc. Heinz Holliger, whose role and contribution to Swiss music has been decisive over the last six decades. Here is not the place to present our readers the list of the many achievements and qualities gained by this musical personality, from his excellent interpretations to the instrumental inventiveness (the oboe sounds different after Holliger) and compositions, not to mention his enthusiasm for his colleagues and for literature. There wouldn’t be enough room anyway.
I would rather like to emphasize – as a personal reminiscence – the unconditional, fervent passion with which this full-blooded musician engages himself. I first met him when I heard his “Siebengesang” many decades ago. From the first note of the oboe, one remains pervaded by this composition, which has considerably changed over the decades, but without losing its intensity.
Heinz Holliger, (S)irato, Monodie für grosses Orchester (1992), Basel Sinfonietta Musicaltheater Basel 2020
After his 80th birthday in May, Heinz Holliger has been honoured in many ways and places and never lost the occasion to support music by accepting the awards and tributes. The Basel Music Academy is currently focusing on Holliger, although he never permanently studied or taught there and numerous events are scheduled until March 9, while the Vera Oeri Library also houses a highly informative exhibition about the musician.
The composing interpreter
His music is now appearing in several facets at the Basel Sinfonietta as well. On one hand, the composer with his orchestral piece (S)irató from 1992, on the other hand the composing interpreter with two Liszt transcriptions, in which Holliger did not simply orchestrate late piano pieces, but so to speak, continued composing them into the orchestra. In his own words: “an attempt to “push” (transcribe) these two enigmas of the late Liszt – who stand like erratic blocks, but also signposts into the unknown of the late 19th century musical landscape – into my own way of communicating, thinking and so to speak retrieve them from my subconscious”.
All his life, Holliger committed to the music of his colleagues, commissioned and/or conducted new pieces. Thus, the orchestral work “Tenebrae” by Klaus Huber, who died in 2017, will also be presented.
Klaus Huber, Tenebrae für grosses Orchester (1966/67), Basel Sinfonietta, Musicaltheater Basel 2020
In addition, a very recent piece by German composer, pianist and singer Steffen Wick: “Autobiography” will be performed for the first time in Switzerland, commissioned by the Basel Sinfonietta. The composition aims to describe that moment in which a whole life, condensed, passes by.
Steffen Wick, Autobiography, UA 2020 Basel Sinfonietta
Launch of neo.mx3 in the German-speaking part Switzerland
An excellent opportunity to present neo.mx3.ch – the new Swiss platform for contemporary Swiss music – which SRG has launched as pilot project in 2019.
Neo.mx3.ch offers an overview of the current composed and improvised musical landscape of the entire country, but also covers international events with a connection to Switzerland, such as the recent premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s opera “Orlando” in Vienna with the participation of Swiss percussion soloist Lucas Niggli. A place for previews, portraits and debates, but also for discussions via the neo-blog, moderated by editor Gabrielle Weber. In addition, musicians, ensembles and cultural institutions can present themselves in sound, video, image as well as text.
At last, because neo.mx3.ch finally closes a gap that had been lingering in Swiss music since quite a long time. Save the date in your agenda and get ready for a big surprise, for we will not yet reveal what is planned on February 2, for the official Swiss-German launch.
We are very much looking forward to your comments on the neoblog regarding text, concert, neo.mx3 launch as well as the Holliger series on SRF 2 Kultur!
2.2.2020, 19h, 3. Abo-Konzert Basel Sinfonietta, direction: Peter Rundel, Musicaltheater Basel
18:15h introduction: Florian Hauser talks with Heinz Holliger
Heinz Holliger, Zwei Liszt-Transkriptionen (1986)
Klaus Huber, Tenebrae (1966/67)
Stephen Wick, Autobiography (2017, CH-Erstaufführung)
Heinz Holliger, (S)Irató (1992)
Lancierung neo.mx3: Surprise-Talk:
Florian Hauser talks with:
Barbara Gysi, head radios & Musik SRF Kultur
Gabrielle Weber, curator neo.mx3
Katharina Rosenberger, composer
Basel Sinfonietta, Heinz Holliger, sonic space Basel / FHNW, Mondrian Ensemble, Klaus Huber, Steffen Wick
SRF 2 Kultur:
Kultur-Aktualität, 21.6.2019: Neue Schweizer Plattform für zeitgenössische Musik
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Mittwoch, 15.1.2020, 20h: Heinz Holliger und die Literatur
Neue Musik im Konzert, Mittwoch, 15.1.2020, 21h: Portraitkonzert Heinz Holliger
Musikmagazin mit Moritz Weber, Aktuell, 1./2.2.2020
neo-profiles: Heinz Holliger, Basel Sinfonietta, Klaus Huber, Mondrian Ensemble, Katharina Rosenberger
As part of the Focus Contemporary festival, Musikpodium Zurich is celebrating Urs Peter Schneider’s 80th birthday.
Tribute to a ‘one-of-a-kind’ by Thomas Meyer:
The 60s were a very exciting time for music, as forms dissolved and concepts, happenings, performances, aleatoric concepts and improvisation took the place of written works. While many soon returned to more traditional procedures, one group in Switzerland stubbornly devoted itself to this new openness: “Ensemble Neue Horizonte Bern”, founded in 1968 and still active to this day. “We will” – as one member of the ensemble once stated – “play until we drop”. Without this Ensemble there would probably be no Cage tradition as well as less conceptual music in Switzerland.
Swiss Cage Tradition
Urs Peter Schneider has occupied the special position of “Spiritus rector” in this composers and interpreters collective since the beginning. Born in Bern, currently living and happily crafting his compositions, texts, structures and concepts in Biel, he celebrates his eightieth birthday this year.
For this special occasion, Musikpodium Zürich is organising a concert as part of the Focus Contemporary festival: Dominik Blum will perform piano pieces by Schneider, his Neue Horizonte colleague Peter Streiff and Hermann Meier, whose almost forgotten work Schneider has consistently stood up for. In addition to his 1977 “Chorbuch”, the choir “vokativ zürich” will perform the new work “Engelszungenreden” (angel tongues speeches), whose title indicates that Schneider’s music also likes to point up, towards more spiritual directions.
Hermann Meier, Klavierstück für Urs Peter Schneider, HMV 99, 1987
Composer/pianist/interpreter/performer/educator in one, Schneider is one of those ‘one-of-a-kind figures’, that are not uncommon in Switzerland. It is not easy to describe his music as it can be extremely varied and he often changes his procedures. Schneider likes to work with strategies, essentially following the serial techniques in which his music has its roots, often tinkering for a long time and thoroughly with permutation of tones, instruments, volumes etc. until they finally come together. For this purpose, he develops his own radical gestures of persistence.
Urs Peter Schneider, ‘Getrost, ein leiser Abschied’ für zwei Traversflöten und Bassblockflöte, 2015
Radical persistence gestures
But it goes even further, as Schneider applies such strategies not only to tones, but also to words, graphics and theatrical actions, actually to almost everything that surrounds his work, including dates, or credits. The concert programmes are also composed – another important quality of Neue Horizonte. “The components of a performance relate, complement and comment each other in a sophisticated way”. Likewise, when books or CDs are published, his pieces are never loosely assembled, Schneider rather creates a new constellation for the entire oeuvre, being a strategist obsessed with order.
Every element is twisted and turned, in an ongoing discovery and invention of new processes. He can actually be defined as a process composer and thus very close to conceptual music, a genre he dedicated 2016 his book “Konzeptuelle Musik – Eine kommentierte Anthologie” to, which can be considered an exemplary and indispensable compendium.
The spontaneity of these open forms probably also acts as a corrective to strictness. Sometimes the liveliness and flexibility could get lost in these procedures and order might turn out to bury these aspects. But that is precisely when surprising things often occur. For Schneider’s work contains wit, even cheerfulness, in sometimes unusual places, other times with soothing self-irony.
The “Focus Contemporary Zürich” festival will take place from November 27, to December 1: Tonhalle Zürich, Collegium Novum Zürich, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste and Musikpodium Zürich will jointly present a selection between of experimental creations and works by renowned masters in five concerts at venues such as “Tonhalle Maag”, “ZKO-Haus” or “Musikclub Mehrspur” of the “Zürcher Hochschule der Künste”.
Focus Contemporary Zürich, 27. 11.- 1. 12, concerts:
27.11., 20h ZHdK, Musikklub Mehrspur: Y-Band: Werke von Matthieu Shlomowitz, Alexander Schubert
28.11., 19:30h Musikpodium Zürich, ZKO-Haus: Urs Peter Schneider zum Achtzigsten: Werke von Urs Peter Schneider, Hermann Meier, Peter Streiff
29.11., 19:30h Tonhalle Orchester, Tonhalle Maag: Heinz Holliger zum Achtzigsten: Werke von Heinz Holliger und Bernd Alois Zimmermann
30.11., 20h Collegium Novum Zürich, Tonhalle Maag: Werke von Sergej Newski (UA), Heinz Holliger, Isabel Mundry und Mark Andre
1. 12., 11h ZHdK, Studierende der ZHdK: Werke von Heinz Holliger, Mauro Hertig, Karin Wetzel, Micha Seidenberg, Stephanie Haensler
Neo-profiles: Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Collegium Novum Zürich, Urs Peter Schneider, Hermann Meier, Heinz Holliger, Peter Streiff, Stephanie Haensler, Karin Wetzel, Gilles Grimaitre, Dominik Blum