“The universe of sounds is limitless”

Christian Fluri / Gabrielle Weber: Interview Martin Bliggenstorfer – 10 years ensemble proton bern: Anniversary season 2020/21

This is where a brilliant birthday portrait regarding ensemble proton bern’s 10 years activity, with plenty of notes regarding the anniversary season was meant to be found.

Christian Fluri talked with Martin Bliggenstorfer, the Managing Director, shortly after the lockdown of the first pandemic wave. At that time, he expressed confidence and urge for action.

Now, shortly before the big anniversary celebration of November 16th was originally planned, we find ourselves in the midst of a second wave, hitting with unexpected violence.

I therefore discussed the effects of the new situation on the ensemble proton bern and its anniversary season with Bliggenstorfer in a second conversation, immediately after the Federal authorities announced the new guidelines of October 18th. Since then, measures and guidelines have been changing constantly and most performances have become virtually impossible.

The ensemble proton bern is thus representative of many ensembles, musicians and organisers who are suddenly facing cancellations, postponements and an uncertain future.

ensemble proton bern: Gruppenportrait © Oliver Oettli


Christian Fluri
ensemble proton bern has been researching with great passion since ten years now, looking for new sounds, new works and new composers. It is now one of the most in-demand ensembles in and outside Europe.

Since its foundation in 2010, the ensemble, which is based in the Dampfzentrale Bern, has performed some 273 works by 180 composers in 128 concerts, 175 of the works were world premieres. Among other highlights, its concerts at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Concert Hall in in front of large audiences and a West Coast tour of the USA.

During the first wave of Corona, the ensemble was quite lucky, as managing director, oboist and lupophone player Martin Bliggenstorfer states: “Right before the lockdown, we were able to play the protonwerk no. 9 concert in the Dampfzentrale. But we had to cancel the second performance at Basel’s Gare du Nord.”

protonwerk is a support programme for young composers* to whom the ensemble commissions works.


Adrian Nagel, Netzwerk, UA: protonwerk no.7 / ensemble proton bern 2017

“We were able to postpone our programme terrible ten, a concert with world premieres by Thomas Kessler (My lady soul) as well as Michael Pelzel and Stefan Wirth, which was planned for May, at short notice and managed to play in September. So not all of our planned programmes went completely lost,” says Bliggenstorfer happily.

Making music together is missed

The ensemble could hardly wait to get back playing concerts after the lockdown. So terrible ten became somewhat extraordinary as making music together again after such a long time and sharing music live with the audience was a great experience for everyone involved, says Bliggentorfer.


Thomas Kessler, My lady soul, UA ensemble proton bern 2019

Even though the ensemble’s musicians were able to make productive use of the lockdown period. “What we missed was making music together, being in direct contact with each other and rehearse with the concerts in mind. But at the same time it was also good to let our brains and bodies rest for a few weeks.”

Fortunately, the ensemble’s existence is currently not in danger. “We didn’t have to return any of the received subsidies or support for the cancelled concerts. That way we’ve been able to pay out our own fees as well as those of our guest performers”. Bliggenstorfer is very grateful for the generous attitude of Switzerland’s donors.

“The universe of sounds is limitless…”

The ensemble is therefore still in an excellent position and constantly striving to develop further. This, however, will happen without its long-time conductor Matthias Kuhn, with the ensemble since its founding. “He wishes to reorient himself artistically” which is something that Bliggenstorfer understands, however important Kuhn has been for the young ensemble’s development. In the future, the work will go on with a core of eight members and without a permanent conductor, in order to develop chamber music projects as well as concerts and performances with larger ensembles and guest conductors.

The passion for contemporary music in its various genres and orientations never changed as the ensemble has no blinders on and joyfully plays and shows how full of enthusiasm, lively and vital contemporary music can be. “The universe of sounds and their possible combinations is infinite”, and Bliggenstorfer knows that ” there are new discoveries to be made throughout an entire lifespan”.


Verschiedene Komponisten click & faun, ensemble proton bern 2019

Sound possibilities of new instruments are also far from being exhausted: i.e. the “clarinet d’amore” rediscovered by Richard Haynes, the double-reed instruments “lupophone” and “contraforte” played by Martin Bliggenstorfer and Elise Jacoberger or Maximilian Haft’s “straw violin” – not to mention the variety in the realmof electronic sound production. ensemble proton bern will continue to research.
Christian Fluri

2nd interview, October 21, 2020:
Gabrielle Weber
Despite growing uncertainties and the threat of new restrictions, Bliggenstorfer still appeared to be confident regarding future concert possibilities on October 21: “Cultural events should not be cancelled as long as they are not officially prohibited. Protection concepts must of course be implemented perfectly, which worked well so far”.

Fixed appearances as main act were planned as part of the “5 years Kultur-Kino Rex” anniversary programme, with two visual artists, during which composer Ennio Morricone was to be shown from an much less known side. “Morricone is well known as film music composer – but he was also active in so called ‘art music’, among others as trumpet player of the “Gruppo di improvisazzione Nuova Consonanza” in the 60s/70s.

However, the new Berne guidelines of October 23, closed cinemas and museums with immediately effect and  the concerts had to be cancelled shortly afterwards.

“fette fête” (big fat party) – the ensemble’s 10th anniversary concert

The “fette fête” was planned for 16 November in Bern: a huge birthday party with premieres and works by Louis Andriessen, Christian Henking and Annette Schmucki. The ensemble also commissioned a work by young Swiss composer Tobias Krebs. “We are extremely pleased about this – he is an outstanding young composer whom we know from protonwerk”.


Tobias Krebs, ambra, UA Duo Vers 2018

During the interview, Bliggenstorfer held on to the possibility of performing, for “as long as it is possible to propose art as a live experience, we do not want to give up the opportunity to perform. We want to deal with the situation responsibly by observing the protection rules and concepts”.

Unfortunately, the concert had to be cancelled (as of October 30 guidelines) and will be rescheduled to February 2021 (tbc.).

Further uncertainties arise regarding future projects with guests from abroad: “If they cannot enter or travel, we will have to look for replacements. Furthermore, engagements abroad are cancelled for the time being. For the anniversary season, the ensemble had invitations to New York and Salzburg, for example.”

The financial consequences of the current situation cannot be assessed yet: “At the moment we are still in a good position financially, but the medium to long-term impact of the crisis on the funding landscape is uncertain.”

The ensemble continues to show its full commitment. The urge of research and innovation, as well as the desire to play and discover, remain intact.

However, it is impossible to foresee long-term consequences regarding live concerts, in particular as far as the international situation is concerned.
Gabrielle Weber

ensemble proton bern Gruppenportrait © Oliver Oettli

Konzerte Jubiläumssaison 20/21 &aktuelle updates

30.Oktober: The dark side of Ennio Morricone, Kino Rex Bern: ABGESAGT

16. November: “fette fête” – 10Jahre proton, Dampfzentrale Bern: ABGESAGT: VERSCHIEBEDATUM 2. Februar 2021 (tbc)**
17. November, 20h, Konzert Gare du Nord Basel: protonwerk nr.9 (Wiederaufnahme)

Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 28.10.20: Redaktion Florian Hauser, Gespräch zu My lady soul, mit Thomas Kessler, Martin Bliggenstorfer, Bettina Berger, Vera Schnider
Neue Musik im Konzert
, 28.10.20: My lady soul mit terrible ten, Konzertaufzeichnung vom 15.9.20, Dampfzentrale Bern, Redaktion Florian Hauser.
Musikmagazin, 25.7.20: u.a. Richard Haynes, Redaktion Florian Hauser

**DATUM OFFEN: Neue Musik im Konzert: “fette fête”, Konzertaufzeichnung, Dampfzentrale Bern, Redaktion Florian Hauser.

ensemble proton bern, Martin Bliggenstorfer, Matthias Kuhn, Richard HaynesHanspeter Kyburz, Louis Andriessen

neo-profiles: ensemble proton bern, Thomas Kessler, Michael Pelzel, Stefan Wirth, Christian Henking, Annette SchmuckiTobias KrebsTobias Krebs

Sound hiking: yes!

Neue Musik Rümlingen’s 30th anniversary – birthday edition despite Corona: 20.-24.8.2020

Jaronas Scheurer
Due to the current situation all summer festivals have been cancelled. All of them? Almost! A small festival for contemporary music in the Basel region will be taking place: Neue Musik Rümlingen.

Festival Rümlingen 2016, Serge Vuille, Change © Schulthess-Foto

The event will take place from August 20 to 24 in the small village of Läufelfingen and the reason for this exception is the festival’s special. “The audience will be hiking outdoors, where compositions specifically written for the landscape can be enjoyed” says managing director Tumasch Clalüna. This, however, is not a special feature of this year’s edition, as the festival has been focusing on unusual formats since its foundation 30 years ago. The audience will walk in small groups of maximum 10 persons, in full respect of the current guidelines and reservation is therefore mandatory. Starting point will be Läufelfingen station and from there, the route leads up the old pass road towards Hauenstein and in a large loop, back to Läufelfingen, specifically to its SilO12 exhibition space. Along the way, the audience can linger and enjoy works by eleven young composers, created specifically for each particular location.


Tobias Krebs, rêves éveillés, 2019

The audience will walk towards the music and after a while carry on, without necessarily experiencing the entire composition. A challenge for the invited composers, as Tumasch Clalüna pointed out. Some works are rather to be defined sound situations instead of conventional compositions with a clear beginning and end, while others are more installation-like or let the performers spontaneously react to the passing audience. Instead of a conventional concert festival, Tumasch Clalüna therefore prefers the definition of “musical landscape walk”. “Park Opera 2” by Polish composer Wojtek Blecharz, for example, which will be premiered at the festival, fits this idea perfectly as Blecharz composed the opera specifically for the landscape above Läufelfingen, same goes for the performance “Waves” by Lara Stanic, also referring to the surroundings.

Lara Stanic: 4Laptops, 2019

But why does Neue Musik Rümlingen actually take place in Läufelfingen and not in Rümlingen? We’ve been invited by SiLO12 for a cooperation some time ago, explains Clalüna and this year was the right opportunity, as an anniversary exhibition had been planned in addition to the music.

A closer look at the programme reveals that the composers are remarkably young, e.g. new works by Tobias Krebs, Léo Collin or Anda Kryeziu will be heard and performed. This is surprising, because one could assume that a 30-year anniversary is the occasion to invite big names of the scene. Tumasch Clalüna answers that the festival prefers to stay focused on what is currently going on and to look ahead rather than back.


Léo Collin, Corals, 2020

The 30 years retrospective of the festival’s history won’t be completely missing though, as at the end of the walk, SiLO12 will host the «Aus dem Schuber – Archiv Rümlingen» exhibition, with the Basel ensemble “zone expérimentale” performing works related to the festival’s entire history.

Further information:
The sound hiking and “Aus dem Schuber” concerts will take place on Saturday 22. and Sunday 23. of August, while the exhibition will run from Friday 21. to Monday 24. of August, with an opening vernissage on Thursday evening (August 20).

Festival Rümglinen 2019: Jürg Kienberger InneHalten © Schulthess-Foto

Neue Musik Rümlingen, Wojtek Blecharz, Delirium Ensemble, ensemble zone expérimentale

Neo-Profiles: Neue Musik Rümlingen, Daniel Ott, Lara Stanic, Léo Collin, Tobias Krebs, Andreas Eduardo Frank