“making new voices heard…”

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.

Swiss Chamber Concerts live © Miguel Bueno

Gabrielle Weber
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

 

Daniel Haefliger © Nicolas Schöpfer

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

Konzert 24.9.20: Yehudi Menuhin Forum Bern:
Heinz Holliger, Thomas Zehetmair, Ruth Killius, Daniel Haefliger

Sendung SRG/RSI: RSI-Neo, 25.8.2020:
Incontro con Daniel Haefliger, Redaktion Valentina Bensi

Neo-Profiles: Swiss Chamber Soloists, Jürg Dähler, Heinz Holliger, Nadir Vassena, David Philip Hefti, Xavier DayerRudolf Kelterborn, Bettina Skrzypczak, Swiss Music Prize

“creating something that moves people”

The submission deadline for Impuls neue Musik’s funding 2020 is the first of May.

The competition is looking for music projects contributing to the exchange between German- and French-speaking regions, as well as cultural areas throughout Germany, France and Switzerland.

Brigitta Muntendorf, Room © Brigitta Muntendorf

Impuls neue Musik is a transnational funding programme for contemporary music. Since years the project fund commits to creating links between the music scenes of Germany, France and Switzerland, i.e. through ‘idea workshops’ giving a concrete expression to cultural exchange on international level. In 2020, two new jury members joined the board: German composer Brigitta Muntendorf and French journalist Anne Montaron.

Gabrielle Weber interviewed Brigitta Muntendorf regarding Impuls neue Musik, the current situation, digital networking and long-term potential of international cooperation.

Brigitta Muntendorf, you usually travel a lot and constantly work with different teams and partners in different places: tell us about the current situation?

I’m currently working from home – like any other musician or composer – as all planned events have been cancelled for the time being. Trying to change that, wanting to travel or mourning cancelled events wouldn’t make any sense. What makes sense is to trust the artists, their creativity and capability to come up with ideas.

“Music can be many different things and have different meanings” 

How would you personally like to contribute to Impuls neue Musik?

I am curious about themes and questions other artists or ensembles deal with, as well as the connections they seek and their motivation to do so. That’s the approach I would like to keep, when looking at projects. Artistically, I believe that contemporary music can be very broad and I would like to encourage that.

What is special about the Impuls financing…?

The focus being on international cooperation and internationality always carries the challenge of thinking on a larger scale.


Joint adventure, Ensemble C Barré und Neue Vokalsolisten, Eclat 2020

…and the combination of the three countries – Germany, France and Switzerland?

The three countries are geographically close of course, but each of them has its distinctive characteristics: Contemporary Music in France, for example, is based on a compositional background that is completely different from the one of Germany and Switzerland. At the same time, all three countries pursue similar formats, festivals and structures in their current practice. They come from different cultural origins but find themselves in a common performance ground.

“the potential to exit one’s own comfort zone”

What are the challenges of international cooperation? 

Already existing contacts are essential. Many things can only be achieved by joining forces – with partners in one’s own country, but also abroad. As for Impuls Neue Musik, the main questions are: how high is the potential to exit one’s own comfort zone and what are the specific reasons that make a project meaningful and working in the mentioned countries. But curiosity can also be a factor and produce something that no one had foreseen.

… you don’t often get to meet across borders in order to brainstorm.

With regard to climate and climate change, I think it is important to carefully think about why people should meet and when other communicational means might be insufficient. The quality of a meeting primarily depends on how much thought both sides have given it in advance, not on how often one travels from A to B.

What about sustainability – does it make sense to work together just once?

Sustainability plays an important role in cooperation. In not planning single projects, but focusing on long-term cooperation for instance. The longer the planning, the more artistic benefit the partners involved will enjoy.

What do co-production projects achieve better than others?

In co-production projects, the nature of contact has a different quality. Creation is supported as such and in the early stages of a project, the specific peculiarities and characteristics of the participants are strongly taken into account.

We find ourselves in a special situation, with national borders exceptionally closed – do you consider this a threat to the basic idea of Impuls?

I believe that ‘wanting to connect’ across borders is something that is firmly rooted in our minds since the digital revolution at the very latest, especially among younger generations. The current situation calls for a new way of approaching basic questions like: how to make art, how to show art, what is the meaning of art? But also: what new ways and forces could be found in order to connect and cooperate? We have to dwell into digital approaches and interactions – keeping in mind that the digital world also has its limits.

IScreen, YouScream!, Brigitta Muntendorf, Ensemble Garage, Eclat Festival

Which direction could Impuls take in the long run? What is your vision?

Borders between art forms are becoming increasingly blurred – like between music and performance, or music and transmedia. The concept of composer and musical material are also changing. I believe this is where Impuls neue Musik should position itself more strongly and there is an even more sustainable funding project I have in mind, built upon long-term relationships with artists.

Interview, Gabrielle Weber

New jury members 2020:
After studying in Bremen, Cologne, Paris and Kyoto, Brigitta Muntendorf has been awarded numerous prizes, including the “young talents” GEMA Music Authors’ Prize in 2017. She holds a professorship at the Cologne University of Music.

Anne Montaron, Germanist and musicologist, has been working as an author at Radio France (France Musique) for more than 25 years.  Her most famous format is her weekly programme on improvisation: A l’Improviste.

Impuls neue Musik was founded in 2009 on the initiative of the French Embassy in Germany, the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, SACEM and Bureau Export de la musique française.  In the meantime, various partners from France and Germany joined the fund’s committee and its financing. Since 2020, the Institut français (Paris) acts as responsible institution, while the fund is managed in Berlin (Director: Sophie Aumüller).

Switzerland joined in 2018 with Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia as partner. Jury members for Switzerland are Xavier Dayer, composer, Thomas Meyer, freelance music journalist and Bernhard Günther, artistic director of the WienModern and ZeitRäume Basel festivals.


Shaker Kami, Nik Bärtsch und Percussions de Strasbourg, Jazzdor 2020

Funded projects are regularly shown and enthusiastically received at the most important international festivals. To name a few examples, the French-Swiss co-production between Eklekto, Geneva Percussion Center and the vocal ensemble NESEVEN for the opening of the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik 2019, the Joint Venture project with Marseille’s Ensemble C Barré and the Neue Vocalsolisten at the Eclat Festival Stuttgart 2020 or the world premiere Shaker Kami project, with Nik Bärtsch and the Percussions de Strasbourg at Jazzdor Festival in Strasbourg.

Deadline for applications regarding this year’s funding is May 1, 2020 and only transnational projects with a performance date not earlier than August 1, 2020 will be considered.

Brigitta Muntendorf
Impuls neue Musik / gesamte Jury / neues online-Antragsverfahren,

Neo-Profiles:
Impuls neue Musik, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, Nik Bärtsch, Stefan Keller, Xavier Dayer, Trio Saeitenwind