On the magic of collaboration

At Donaueschingen Music Festival 2023, ensemble Ascolta will premiere “Dunst – als käme alles zurück” by Elnaz Seyedi, commissioned by the ensemble in tandem with author Anja Kampmann.
Elnaz Seyedi’s portrait by Friederike Kenneweg.


Die Komponistin Elnaz Seyedi, lächelnd, schwarz gekleidet und vor grauem Hintergrund.
Portrait of the composer Elnaz Seyedi. © Roya Noorinezhad


Friederike Kenneweg
For Elnaz Seyedi, composing always means collaboration. Born in Tehran in 1982, she studied, among others, with Younghi Pagh-Paan in Germany and Caspar Johannes Walter at the Hochschule für Musik Basel and draws a lot of energy from the very different encounters and constellations that her work entails. Dunst – als käme alles zurück is Seyedi’s second collaboration with Ensemble Ascolta.
“That’s an advantage because the musicians know what they can expect from me and thus engage with my work in a different way.”


Happiness in search of sounds

This led to special moments of happiness during the preliminary rehearsals for Seyedi’s Donaueschingen debut, when she searched for the right sounds for the piece in individual rehearsals with the ensemble’s musicians. For example with percussionist Boris Müller.
“He kept pulling out more things like shells and stones and in the end the whole room looked as if it had been full of children playing for eight hours. I went home with material for three pieces. It’s just the most beautiful thing and gives me a lot of energy.”


Glasfluss is another of Elnaz Seyedi’s works that emerged from a close collaboration, in this case with percussionist Vanessa Porter in 2022.


Taking the risk of composing together

Elnaz Seyedi has a special kind of collaboration with composer Ehsan Khatibi, who also comes from Iran and with whom she has been friends for a long time. When they happened to be room-mates in a hotel during a visit to the Impuls Festival in Graz in 2019 and spent a lot of time together, they realised how similar their musical approach was and how fruitful their discussions about concerts and music turned out to be. Hence the idea of composing together, which led to their very first common project, a draft for a call for proposals by the Neuköllner Oper Berlin for a chamber opera, which had an astonishing impact: “At first we only had a small idea, but in three weeks we had a finished concept, including lighting and stage design.” Even though the draft was not accepted, a first step had been taken.


Honesty as precondition

With their draft for a realisation of Albert Camus’s The Stranger, in which philosopher Johannes Abel joined their planning team, they won second prize in another composition competition. While their joint composition ps: and the trees will ask the wind for double bass, Paetzold flute, violin, objects, audio and video – in which they artistically processed Iran’s socio-political events – was premiered at Bludenzer Tage für zeitgemäße Musik in 2021.

“We eventually found a way to be just as critical of each other as we are of ourselves. Our common work is based on honesty, which can sometimes lead to difficulties, but if we disagree, we keep going until we are both satisfied and in the end, we come up with a much better solution.”


In Die Zeiten – Versuch (über das Paradies) for baritone and piano, premiered at the Lucerne Festival in August 2023, Elnaz Seyedi wrote the music to a text by Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou.


Working in new places

Elnaz Seyedi also draws inspiration from the various location she gets to visit during her travels. That’s why she is particularly fond of residency scholarships. The composer believes that getting away from everyday life allows you to suddenly recognise the beauty of the familiar that would otherwise remain buried in the daily routine – a thought that she incorporated into Postkarte (Moorlandschaft mit Regenbogen) , which was composed for the Ensemble S201 from Essen in 2016. In 2020, a residency scholarship from the Bartels Fondation took her to Basel’s Kleiner Markgräflerhof, while in 2021 she spent a few months at the Künstlerhof Schreyahn in Lower Saxony, she was amazed at how productive she had been there.


Her orchestral piece A Mark of your breath was inspired by her stay at Künstlerhaus Schreyahn – above all by the vastness of the sky and the landscape in Wendland.


‘Dunst’ – world premiere  in Donaueschingen 2023

This autumn, Elnaz Seyedi is once again working at a different location thanks to a residency at Künstlerhaus Otte in Eckernförde, where she can bring her work to the local audience through concerts as well as film evenings. She also just completed “Dunst – als käme alles zurück”. For the concert programme Echoräume by ensemble Ascolta at this year’s Donaueschingen Music Festival, two artistic tandems consisting of a composer and a writer have formed and – with complete freedom in their approach – each one of them developed a joint work. The piece by Elnaz Seyedi and author Anja Kampmann for two voices and ensemble is about the aesthetics of the fragment and the transition between language and music…
…and who knows what compositional ideas Elnaz Seyedi’s stay in the town on the Baltic Sea will generate.
Friederike Kenneweg


Premiere Donaueschinger Musiktage: Saturday, October 21,2023 at 11:00, Mozart-Saal DonaueschingenEchoräume with Ensemble Ascolta: Elnaz Seyedi and Anja Kampmann Dunst – als käme alles zurück; Iris ter Schiphorst and Felicitas Hoppe: Was wird hier eigentlich gespielt?

Elnaz SeyediDonaueschinger Musiktage 2023, Ensemble Ascolta, Younghi Pagh-Paan, Caspar Johannes Walter, Hochschule für Musik BaselAnja Kampmann, Ehsan Khatebi, Vanessa Porter, Ensemble S201, Neuköllner Oper, Künstlerhaus Otte Eckernförde, Künstlerhof Schreyahn, Bludenzer Tage für zeitgemäße Musik, Lucerne Festival, Impulsfestival Graz, Bartels Fondation


Sendung SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 2.6.2021: Nach neuen Meeren – die Komponistin Elnaz Seyedi, Redaktion Cécile Olshausen

Elnaz SeyediDonaueschinger MusiktageLucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra




Enno Poppe @ Lucerne Festival 2023

Enno Poppe @Lucerne Festival 2023 – A portrait by Annelis Berger

Enno Poppe is considered one of the most original composers of our time. The 55-year-old composer’s music is highly complex and yet extremely attractive to the ears and often as exciting as a thriller. Enno Poppe is this year’s composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival. He’ll present his work Fett, among others, as well as the orchestral piece Prozession.

Annelis Berger
He is a city person through and through: “Life in the countryside would be too complicated for me. I really like living in the city, where I can buy a litre of milk at any time without having to think much. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like to climb a mountain or jump into a lake sometimes.” Unfortunately, he won’t have time for that in Lucerne: “No way, I know that from the last time I worked with the Academy. I look after some 100 young people, all greedy and hungry for knowledge; they want to work from morning to night and experience things, so no time for climbing mountains”.


Portrait Enno Poppe © Ricordi: Harald-Hoffmann


Poppe studied composition and conducting in Berlin, still lives in the German capital and works throughout Europe with the most important contemporary music ensembles. I met him in Zurich, where he has just rehearsed with the Collegium Novum ensemble. A midsummer late afternoon, Poppe could just have a beer before the interview. We first talk about what distinguishes his music.

“I like intense and expressive music, I like to take the listeners with me. But I have to look for a new form of expressivity, expressivity cannot only be claimed, nor can it be imposed or sentimental. I cannot borrow the expressivity of a Bruckner symphony, I have to find one that has something to do with today and with the means available today. It is not simply a search for new sounds, but a search for a new expressivity. That’s something that constantly occupies me.”

The piece Procession is an example of this. “The work is actually a single process of growth,” says Poppe. “It begins with single notes, from which melodies emerge, then chords, which accumulate into chorale-like passages and the piece continues to build up, becoming more and more intense. Formally, there are nine big waves of increase, the sixth being the biggest and then it slowly decreases again. Every single musician in the ensemble has a solo part here and then leads one part at a time until the next part comes with the next solo.”


Enno Poppe, Procession, 2015/20, Ensemble Musikfabrik Köln, conductor Enno Poppe, Ensemblefestival for Contemporary Music 2020, Leipzig Kölner Philharmonie Nov. 22nd, 2020

An important source of inspiration for this work was the Catholic procession “Semana Santa” in Seville, which takes place every year during Easter. “They run through the city for seven days, 24 hours at a stretch with brass bands and drums, the Basel Fasnacht is a doddle compared to that. This Spanish processional music has a deep connection with the piece, without me quoting it directly.”

Prozession is a work that develops a pull during the listening process, as it really becomes denser and denser and one can hardly escape it. The work also conveys the feeling of tenacity: there’s no way of evading this music, its expressivity is very direct.

Enno Popp finds a compositional means for expressivity in glissandos and vibratos, which is beautifully demonstrated in Wald from 2010 for four string quartets. For many years, Enno Poppe has been working with the “moving” tone, inspired, among other things, by the Asian tradition of tones that are always in motion, i.e. one never hears the same tone twice, the musician intones it differently each time. Enno Poppe has often worked with this. “In Wald, every note is constantly sliding, moving up and down, back and forth. At the most varied speeds. That, in turn, is immensely expressive, because every single tone becomes animated.”


Enno Poppe also deals with the “moving” sound in the ensemble work Scherben, in the recording with the Collegium Novum Zürich, conductor: Enno Poppe, 2008, in-house production SRG/SSR.


Enno Poppe talks easily about his music. It is rare to find composers who do this in such an uninhibited and relaxed way. That makes a meeting with him very pleasant.

Of course I would also like to talk with him about the work Fett, one of the highlights at Lucerne Festival, conducted by Susanna Mälkki in the great KKL hall: “The piece IS indeed fat! Otherwise it shouldn’t be called that,” he says with a smile. In this composition, Poppe completely dispenses with melodies and themes and everything else that classically characterises symphonies. He worked with Chord clusters – at first only four-note chords that get bigger and bigger. “Towards the end we have 40-50-note chords! And not just octaves, but microtonal agglomerations.”


Enno Poppe, Fett (2018/19): Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Susanne Mälkki, World premiere 10.5.2019, Helsinki Music Center


Finally, the conversation turns to the composer’s working method.  He always enjoys both composing and conducting. Otherwise he wouldn’t do it at all. Sometimes, when opening a door to a new tonal world for a composition – like the microtonal agglomerations in Fett’s case – it is very easy for him because he quickly finds himself at ease in the new world. “Fett went incredibly fast. I was really into it. It was untouched terrain, which always invigorates me, I can then sometimes work very quickly. For Fett it took me about ten weeks, it’s actually a mystery to me why it went so quickly, because there are an incredible number of notes in this work.” There is a sense of lightness – and that is precisely what distinguishes Enno Poppe’s music: it is complex and multi-layered, but never bulky. This takes the listener on a journey through a world that never stands still.
Annelis Berger


LUCERNE FESTIVAL, Summer Festival 2023: Ensemble Intercontemporain interprets works by composer in residence, Enno Poppe; with Enno Poppe as conductor. Lucerne, 13.08.2023 © LUCERNE FESTIVAL / Priska Ketterer


Enno Poppe at Lucerne Festival 2023

Susanna Mälkki, Ensemble Musikfabrik

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Künste im Gespräch, 3.8.2023, Enno Poppe, Composer in Residence am Lucerne Festival, editor/author Annelis Berger.

Musik unserer Zeit, 13.9.2023, Enno Poppe im Portrait, editor/author Annelis Berger.

Enno PoppeLucerne Festival Contemporary, Collegium Novum Zürich

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.

Urban Mäder, Nora Vetter, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Lucerne 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

Liza Lim, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO)

Dieter Ammann turns 60: a portrait

Dieter Ammann, composer of major orchestral works and self-confessed slow writer, celebrates his 60th birthday with concerts by the Basel Sinfonietta and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Music editor Florian Hauser met him for a personal portrait interview:

Dieter Ammann Portrait © Dieter Ammann


 One soul

…of a man. Who, if he takes his time, will ask, tell, laugh and live, during an interview for example, over coffee and Easter eggs and tobacco, and very slowly, imperceptibly, gets to the point, through various layers of concentration. Or – that can also be the case – the associations jump and the topics chase each other. A meeting with Dieter Ammann is a direct expression of what is going on in his mind. Where they live: the …


Two souls

… in his chest. From which he sucks energy: There’s the improvising, forward-rushing one, and the composing, reflecting one. They fuel each other and one appears like the reverse image of the other. When they meet, forces that pull in different directions and stretch the music to breaking point are being created. When improvising, the performance, the fellow musicians, the groove forces you to stay in the flow and keep going. When he has an idea, he plays it. If, on the other hand, he has an idea as a composer, then he dissects it, puts it to test. That’s when this unconscious is stopped. Time is stopped. He then tries, experiments, tests the ideas to see if they are any good and how good they are. In this way, the music Ammann composes is like a frozen improvisation. “When I’m finished with a piece,” says Ammann, who is a slow writer, “it’s like a piece of jewellery for me, a gem that I’ve polished. I then put it away, look in the next box – which is completely empty and I start all over again.”


From 2014 to 2016, slow writer Dieter Ammann composed his orchestral work “glut”, here in the recording with the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, Dir. George Benjamin, September 1, 2019, KKL Lucerne Festival, SRG/SSR production


Many souls

Dieter Ammann has jammed with old rocker Udo Lindenberg as well as jazz legend Eddie Harris, he played trumpet, saxophone and bass with the Donkey Kongs and in Steven’s Nude Club, and performed at the Cologne, Willisau, Antwerp and Lugano jazz festivals.

He studied composition and theory with Roland Moser, Detlev Müller-Siemens, Witold Lutoslawski and Wolfgang Rihm. Then, at the beginning of the 1990s, the Ensemble für Neue Musik Zürich presented him during a concert with composing jazz musicians. That was an initial spark with many consequences: first a CD, then awards and he became more and more known, as composer-in-residence in Davos for example and subsequently at the renowned Lucerne Festival. One prize after the other: Swiss Music Prize, main prize of the IBLA Foundation New York, sponsorship prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation (one day he might receive the Siemens main prize, ‘Nobel Prize’ of music…).

What is so special about Amman’s fast, vital music? That it knows no idle time. It bears constant movement as well as the unexpected and it can constantly implode or explode.

With the result that the energy of his music immediately comes through, it is not the kind of music where you feel you have to bite through a thick shell before you can get to the core. No, the connection is quickly established, one is not only invited, but virtually pulled and carried along.


Even more souls

This is something that his students sense and benefit from as well. For over 30 years, Ammann has taught classical composition, jazz composition and arrangement as well as classical theory at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. He encourages and challenges his young colleagues, because he is by no means the kind of teacher that whishes to breed successors. “I don’t want to force students into predefined aesthetic directions, but rather encourage them to go their own way and develop the musical language that is already present in each and every one of them.”


Two orchestral works by Dieter Ammann’s students will also be premiered at the Basel Sinfonietta’s birthday concert, including one by young composer Aregnaz Martirosyan (*1993), orchestral piece Dreilinden: first creation Armenien national Philharmonic Orchestra, Mai 14th 2021

Where else will his own language lead him? In which direction will it develop? No idea and that is just fine. “Perhaps it is precisely this uncertainty and this permanent search that really attracts me to composing. The exciting thing about composing is this “it’s-so-not-there-yet” and I have to work it out somehow.”

Ammann is the kind of guy who can watch the work do itself and observe from a bird’s eye view, so to speak. “I’m not the bird, I’m more the frog. When I see two crossed blades of grass in front of me, I have to decide whether to go around to the right or left, slip through the middle or jump over. But I can’t look at the blades of grass from above. An example: vertically, i.e. harmonically, every tone has to be set is in a meaningful relationship to every other tone. It is obvious that this leads to an extremely lengthy decision-making processes, especially in an orchestral texture. As an intuitive composer, I cannot shift any responsibility to the predisposition of the musical material, since these actually don’t exist. Apart from the pitch, the same applies to all other musical aspects, including the unplannable development of the overall form: in all matters, I am the only, always uncertain (and insecure) judge.”

Ad multos annos, dear frog!
Florian Hauser

Udo Lindenberg, Eddie Harris, Detlev Müller-Siemens, Witold Lutoslawski, IBLA-Foundation – New York, Ernst von Siemens MusikstiftungJazzfestival WillisauEstival Jazz Lugano
Basel Sinfonetta «Musik am Puls der Zeit», 23.5.22: Dieter Ammann – Sechzig Jahre im Groove, talk with Robin Keller and Baldur Brönnimann


birthday concerts:
Basel Sinfonietta:
Donnerstag, 26. Mai, 19h, Stadtcasino Basel : 5. Abo-Konzert «60 Jahre im Groove», Dieter Ammann: «Unbalanced instability» für Violine und Kammerorchester (2013), «Core» (2002), «Turn» (2010), «Boost» (2000/01) für Orchester, Dirigent Principal Conductor Baldur Brönnimann, Solistin Simone Zgraggen (Violine)
18h Pre-Concerttalk Dieter Amman & Uli Fussenegger (Leiter Zeitgenössische Musik Hochschule für Musik FHNW) / Vorkonzert Studierende FHNW

Sonntag, 22. Mai,19h, Club auf dem Jazzcampus Basel: Dieter Ammann live in concert im intimen Rahmen als Improvisator auf Keyboards, an der Trompete und am Bass, mit Jean-Paul Brodbeck (Piano), Christy Doran (Guitar) und Lucas Niggli (Drums, Percussion)

Luzerner Sinfonieorchester:
Dieter Ammann zum 60. Geburtstag: “Glut”, 31. 5. 2022, KKL, 19:30h, Dir. Michael Sanderling

Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Mittwoch, 18.5.2022, 20h / Samstag, 21.5.2022, 21h: Durchwachte Nacht. Mit und zu Dieter Ammann, Redaktion Florian Hauser.

Musik unserer Zeit, Neue Musik auf dem Sofa, Mittwoch, 23.2.2022: u.a. über glut von Dieter Ammann, mit Doris Lanz und Marcus Weiss, Redaktion Benjamin Herzog

neoblog, 21.8.2020: Ich bin einer der langsamsten Komponisten Europas, Dieter Ammann im Gespräch zum Film Gran Toccata, Autorin Gabrielle Weber

Dieter Ammann, Basel Sinfonietta, Wolfgang Rihm, Roland Moser, ensemble für neue musik zürich, Aregnaz Martirosyan, Davos Festival young artists in concert, Lucerne Festival ContemporarySwiss Music Prices, Luzerner Sinfonieorchester

Orchestra of excellence for new music

Benjamin Herzog

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


Portrait Felix Heri ©Gregor Brändli / zVg Lucerne Festival


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


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


Founder Boulez


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


Magic attraction


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

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


Logical further development


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

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


Excellence meets from excellence


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

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


With or without director? – Participation of the orchestra


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


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


A showcase for new music

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


Collective mastermind 

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

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


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


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


Lucerne Festival Contemorary Orchestra’s concerts at Lucerne Festival 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucerne Festival Contemporary OrchestraWolfgang RihmLucerne Festival AcademyLucerne Festival ContemporaryBasel Sinfonietta