Time bridges across different ages  

Friederike Kenneweg: 20 Years of Mondrian Ensemble: Anniversary Concerts  

20 years already: the Basel based piano quartet Mondrian is celebrating its anniversary and the good thing is that some of the concerts planned for the occasion can now actually happen. 

Ensemble Mondrian ©zVg Ensemble Mondrian

 

Friederike Kenneweg
This year’s concert season was somewhat uneven and not only for the Mondrian Ensemble: too many events have been cancelled, postponed or had to be live-streamed online. But for Tamriko Kordzaia (piano), Ivana Pristašová (violin), Petra Ackermann (viola) and Karolina Öhmann (violoncello) it was even worse as they were planning to celebrate their ensemble’s 20th anniversary. The anniversary concert in autumn 2020 could take place with reduced audience. The Walcheturm event in Zurich however had to be streamed. The only advantage being that it is now accessible to everyone online.  

Connecting lines between the ages 

Bringing together common practice period and contemporary music has been Mondrian Ensemble’s characteristic for 20 years and their anniversary programme was no exception. A string trio by Schubert and four fantasy pieces by Schumann were combined with works by Martin Jaggi (*1978), Jannik Giger (*1985) and Madli Marje Gildemann (*1994). This allows a better perception of the different connections between musical periods, but also highlights contrasts and further developments all the more clearly. As the four musicians do not limit themselves to one period, but consider the entire history of music up to the present day for their concert programmes, they repeatedly uncover astonishing things – for example, parallels between the melancholy beauty of English Renaissance music and the slow pulsation of a piece by the Austrian Klaus Lang, or enable the audience to experience a very special kind of time travel, performing a piano trio by Schubert and a piano quartet by Morton Feldman in immediate succession.  

Another important aspect is that the ensemble keeps contemporary compositions in its repertoire and plays them on various occasions over the years, allowing them to develop and unfold like interpretations of classical works. This is hardly possible in the new music business, focusing mainly on world premieres.  

Great importance is also attached to working closely with the composers – sometimes over long periods of time, for example, Dieter Ammann, as the work on the world premiere of his string trio “Gehörte Form” (“Heard Form”) from 1998 led the founding members Daniela Müller on violin, Christian Zgraggen on viola and Martin Jaggi to form an ensemble in 2000. 

 


Dieter Ammann, Gehörte Form – Hommages for string trio 1998, in house-production SRG/SSR

The joining of Walter Zoller on piano, opened new possibilities and allowed them to perform string and piano trios as well as piano quartets from all periods. The ensemble still makes full use of the flexibility that this instrumentation brings in its programming. Thus, solos or duets can also be found in the various possible combinations. 

Different combination possibilities 

Another composer who has accompanied the ensemble for a long time is Jannik Giger from Basel. Their collaboration was for the piece “Intime Skizzen, as the musicians rehearsed compositional sketches by Leoš Janáček, Jannik Giger was present with his camera. The finished work offers insights into the musicians’ rehearsal rooms via a video screen, showing the piece’s appropriation process. In addition, the ensemble plays the Janáček fragments as well as the additions that Giger composed on stage. In the meantime, Giger’s piano trio “Caprice” from 2013 and string trio “Vertige have also become part of the ensemble’s regular repertoire. 

 

Jannik Giger, Vertige for string trio 2020

The ensemble not only recorded a portrait CD with Austrian composer Thomas Wally (Jusqu’à l’aurore, col legno 2020), but will also perform with him on stage in May, as Wally is also violinist. In the upcoming concerts, Ivana Pristašová, Petra Ackermann and Karolina Öhmann will also join the string quartet. For the BLACK ANGELS programme, they will perform the 1970 piece of the same name by George Crumb, which refers to the Vietnam War, with electronically amplified string instruments. Tape recordings are added to the string quartet in Steve Reich’s Different trains (1988), which also refers to war – reflecting on the importance of trains during the Second World War.   

50 years of women’s suffrage in Switzerland – a playable oven  

The programme planned for autumn 2021 revolves around the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Switzerland. A first glimpse will be given on June 4, with the premiere of Garzeit” by artist duo LAUTESkollektiv

 

LAUTESkollektiv 2x Haensler ©zVg Stefanie Haensler

LAUTESkollektiv is composer Stephanie Haensler (*1986) together with designer Laura Haensler andGarzeit” is a multi-part piano quartet in which the usual instruments of the Mondrian Ensemble will be complemented by a playable oven.
This conveys part of the aesthetics and everyday life of women around 1971.
During the composition, switches, levers and knobs are operated by the musicians and influence the sound
scape 

 


Stephanie Haensler: Ein Schnitt for string quintet 2019, in house-production SRG/SSR

The full programme also features several pieces by female composers of different periods and generations – from Clara Schumann (1819-1896), via Elfrida Andrée (1841-1929) and the almost forgotten St. Gallen composer and poet Olga Diener (1890-1963) to Rebecca Saunders (*1967) and Katharina Rosenberger (*1971). 

Mondrian Ensemble’s programme, in which the piece “the ocarina chapter” by Christoph Gallio was to be premiered was eventually postponed to 2022. The piece has been commissioned by the ensemble to the Swiss composer and the concert was planned to be meeting of the ensemble with voice artist Theo Bleckmann from New York – an artistic encounter that the situation unfortunately does not permit at the moment.
Friederike Kenneweg 

 

Ensemble Mondrian ©zVg Ensemble Mondrian

 

BLACK ANGELS with Thomas Wally will be performed again on May 7 and 8 (Gare du Nord Basel, Walcheturm Zurich).  

Garzeit’s world premiere will take place on June 4, at Historisches Museum, Baden and its world premiere tour (Zurich, St. Gallen, Chur, Basel) will run until November 1, 2021.

The tour with world premiere by Christoph Gallio has been postponed to 2022. 

 

Thomas WallyIvana PristašováGeorge Crumb, Steve Reich, Madli Marje Gildemann, Klaus Lang, Morton Feldman, Daniela MüllerWalter Zoller, Leoš Janáček, col legno, Laura HaenslerOlga Diener, Clara Schumann, Rebecca Saunders, Elfrida Andrée, Theo Bleckmann

Sendung SRF 2 Kultur:
Blick in die Feuilletons, 8.12.20, 20 Jahre mutige Kammermusik – das Mondrian Ensemble hat etwas zu feiern (ab Min 24): a portrait by Gabrielle Weber

 

Neo-Profiles:
Mondrian Ensemble, Tamriko Kordzaia, Karolina Öhman, Petra Ackermann, George Crumb, Klaus LangMartin Jaggi, Jannik Giger, Dieter Ammann, Stephanie Haensler, Katharina Rosenberger, Christoph Gallio, Gare du Nord, Kunstraum Walcheturm

“Art is a social activity”

Interview with Antoine Chessex @ Swiss Music Prize 2020_1

The mystery is revealed: this year’s Swiss Grand Prix Musique goes to Erika Stucky, singer, musician and performer of the new folk genre.

There are 14 other prizewinners, several of which in the broad genre of contemporary and experimental music.

Neo-Blog will portray them in loose succession, starting with Antoine Chessex, saxophonist, composer, sound artist and sound theorist.

Portrait Antoine Chessex ©Pierre Chinellato

Antoine Chessex was born in Vevey in 1980. After residencies in New York, London and Berlin, he now lives in Zurich and is considered one of the most innovative young musicians in Switzerland. Chessex is not afraid of genre boundaries and moves fluently between composed and improvised music, noise and sound art. In addition, he is an internationally active author, lecturer and curator and raises awareness regarding socio-political issues such as inequality or precariousness in the artistic creation realm.

In this interview he talks with Gabrielle Weber about sound and hearing.

Congratulations on being awarded first of all! Were you surprised?

I am very happy thanks and I was a bit surprised I admit. Especially since my work is rather on the edge of the commercial music scene and cannot be assigned to any genre.

What does this award mean to you?

The prize is a sign of recognition that my professional practice, which has now been going on for twenty years, is being acknowledged. I was not trained in an institution, but in real life and through practice. Receiving the prize as an individual artist, however, is kind of ambivalent though, as my music mainly develops in a collective practice and there are often several people involved.


Antoine Chessex / Eklekto: écho/cide, Ausschnitt

Does the price have a special meaning in these peculiar times of corona pandemic? The topic of precariousness in music creation is central to many and you draw attention to it in your magazine “Multiple”…

The current situation shows how fragile and precarious the whole system is for many freelance artists in Switzerland. Many musicians are professionally forced to live in a state of improvisation. They only make ends meet by combining different (cultural) works. If one element is missing or gets lost, the whole situation quickly collapses. The complexity of the matter is also due to the fact that artists need a lot of time to experiment and research and to always be “productive” therefore becomes problematic. In my opinion, art is not a service, but rather a social activity, so the real question today is under what circumstances art and music creation as a profession can still exist.

 “It’s like sonic fiction, letting imagination unfold”

You question the romanticised sound image of nature in music. Some of your works have been compared to ” primal elemental forces “, like earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions.

My music perhaps represents nature more metaphorically, as I whish to deconstruct clichés portraying nature as just beautiful, calm and harmonious. Nature is also chaotic, violent and loud. In works like “The experience of limit” the piano sounds like a storm at sea. It’s like sonic fiction, letting imagination unfold. I’m tonally interested in phenomena like seismic activities, tornadoes, snow avalanches or heavy rainfall for instance.


Antoine Chessex / Tamriko Kordzaia, The experience of limit

You associate sound and hearing with power and plead for critical listening: What is it all about?

Music is culturally constructed and embedded in various historical traditions. Basically, however, I am mostly concerned with the relationship between sound and hearing. Hearing is never neutral, but always situated. There are complex mechanisms at play and it is about power relations: The tradition of the European avant-garde, for example, excluded many voices. It takes debate to uncover the boundaries of the audible and the term “critical listening” invites us to listen and question power relations as well as social dimensions.

Music scenes and institutions often operate homogeneously, while reality is highly heterogeneous.

Your works live between improvised and written music, noise and sound art – without any fear of contact between musical genres: how does this work in the practice of the institutions?

When it comes to sound and hearing, music genres become obsolete, although cultural institutions are usually organized according to them. In the independent scene, music functions differently than in the institutional contemporary framework and sound art requires different spaces. Music scenes and institutions often operate homogeneously, while reality is highly heterogeneous. The more artists move between the different scenes, the more structural changes can take place.

You are not “only” a composer and musician, but also active as curator, e.g. for the “Textures” festival at legendary Café OTO in London. Do your composing and curating activities influence each other?

Curating is mainly about other artists and bringing people together. Composing, curating, but also improvising and artistic research are connected in many ways and represent different aspects of my practice.

Portrait Antoine Chessex @Londres © A.Lukoszevieze

A new composition by Antoine Chessex will be premiered at Festival Label Suisse in September, interpreted by Simone Keller on church organ and Dominik Blum on Hammond organ.
Interview: Gabrielle Weber

Antoine Chessex / Schweizer Kulturpreise BAK / Festival Label Suisse / Café OTO London

Broadcasts SRG: RSI/NEO, Redaktion Valentina Bensi, 28.7.20, 20h: incontro con Antoine Chessex

neo-profiles: Antoine Chessex, Swiss Music Prize, Simone Keller, Dominik Blum, Tamriko Kordzaia, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center

“We consider space and sound as one”

On July 4 and 5, the closed-down chemical factory of Uetikon am See will host Al(t)chemiefestival, a small, carefully curated music festival presenting a wide musical spectrum ranging from classical to contemporary music, performance and sound art. The disused factory site is of particular importance in the festival context.

Die Chemische @Uetikon am See

“Die Chemische” as it’s lovingly called, is a 200-year-old chemical factory and a monument of industrial culture situated in a prime location on the lake of Zurich.

A new complex will be built there by 2028, hosting a school, offices, apartments and commercial premises. Currently artists and musicians have established studios and workshops there, as the large area will be used for cultural purposes until the conversion is completed.

Marcel Babazadeh, sound engineer, and Sophie Krayer, stage designer, have been running the Klang und Raum studio in the “Chemische” for some time now, offering sound consulting for public spaces and creating artistic projects that combine music with space. During the lockdown, the Atelier caused a sensation with live streaming of digital concerts, during which an enthusiastic social media community of well over 1000 people came together each Monday.

This is how the idea of Al(t)chemiefestival came to life.

Pianist Tamriko Kordzaia has been working with the duo for a long time and contributed to the Digital Concerts with a contemporary solo recital. She is the third member of the curators-directors team.


Tamriko Kordzaia, Karolina Öhman, Iannis Xenakis (Artarea 2020)

According to Kordzaia, the idea of promoting the musical side of the area through a festival had been around for some time now. Corona had initially inhibited the plan, but as the restrictions loosened up it became an inspiration to spontaneously take up the idea again. And – especially due to numerous requests for participation from ” starving ” artists – the project took off and expanded into a two-day festival.

Portrait Tamriko Kordzaia

Furthermore, the area is perfect regarding the current corona guidelines. According to Kordzaia: “One can play in different rooms and change places, play music indoors and outdoors, but also take a walk by the lake in between or simply linger”. For example, one concert takes place in a vintage furniture hall, while others take place outdoors.

“we would like to take advantage of the artistic synergies of the entire area” (Kordzaia)

The place is not just a backdrop for the festival, according to Babazadeh “We are in dialogue with the space, with the place and also with history”.

With the Al(t)chemiefestival, the trio of directors wants to set an example. Kordzaia  says: “Through Corona and the paralysis of all artistic activities, it is important to us to involve as many musicians from the area as possible and to give them the opportunity to play”.

The musical leitmotif of the festival is very personal, as musicians perform pieces of their own choice that they have been working on intensively during the lockdown, freshly created compositions or projects that were postponed during the break. Trombonist Nils Wolgram, for example, presents new pieces of a CD that will be released in autumn.


Nils Wogram: Sneak Preview, Soloprogramm 2020

The line-up includes both new and traditional works: composer Stefan Wirth for instance plays his own but also Beethoven’s piano works and Dominique Girod performs outside on the double bass.

There is also electroacoustics, for example by Nicolas Buzzi, as well as a sound installation, a “sonic sphere”, by Krayer and Babazadeh.


Nicolas Buzzi: ssssscccccaaaaallllleeeee, 2019

“Al(t)chemie” or “alchemy” – the (t) is in brackets and this ambiguity refers to musical variety but also to the magic of the place. “It’s a killer area – and when it mixes with sound and live performance, it becomes unique,” says Babazadeh.
Gabrielle Weber

Die Chemische

The Al(t)chemie festival will take place on July, 4 and 5 in the closed down chemical factory of Uetikon am See.

On both days there three concert blocks will start at 15h00 and given the current corona situation, the audience is kindly asked to register.

Due to the great demand, the Digital Concerts will continue until the end of August.

Al(t)chemiefestival, Digital ConcertsStefan Wirth, Dominique Girod, Nils Wogram, Kappeler-Zumthor, Karolina Öhman, Isa Wiss, Sophie Krayer, Tobias Gerber/Ensemble Werktag, Philipp Schaufelberger

Neo-Profiles: Al(t)chemiefestival, Tamriko Kordzaia, Stefan WirthNicolas Buzzi, Karolina Öhman, Peter Conradin Zumthor