Das Festival Musikdorf Ernen, ein Musikfestival, das alljährlich im Walliser Bergdorf Ernen, inmitten idyllischer Natur, besonders aber in seinem geschichtsträchtigen Dorfbild,
The second concert of the Musikdorf Ernen’s celebrated “Piano” week featured the dynamo American pianist Claire Huangci, winner of the prestigious Géza-Anda Foundation competition (2018). Claire kindly took time out of her pre-concert schedule to talk with me for this blog post.
Earlier this year, the Festival Musikdorf Ernen appointed Andreas Zurbriggen its Composer in Residence 2019. The première of his “Zweisamkeiten”—a work for 4-handed piano commissioned by the festival—is slated for performance on August 3 as part of the chamber concert (Kammerkonzert) series.
Curated this year by Josiane Imhasly for the third time, Ernen’s annual “Zur frohen Aussicht” summer exhibition takes prizes for originality and imagination. As a series of installations around the village, the featured artworks are defined by, or clearly consider, their relationship to their inhabited space, neighboring buildings and/or landscape. Some explore new tactile materials; others examine questions of modern perception. The duration of its summer run from 7 July to 29 September means that visitors to Ernen can discover eight artistic positions, each one backed by a clearly defined purpose and rationale.
Dynamische Interpretationen und filigranes Zusammenspiel: Das Trio Gaon gab im Rahmen von «Kammermusik kompakt» sein Debüt in Ernen und beeindruckte durch die Leichtigkeit, mit welcher es den Konzertmarathon zu einem Kaleidoskop an Klangwelten verwandelte.
«Seitensprünge für Kulturliebhaber*Innen» ist ein wahrer Ideenstrauss für Besuchmöglichkeiten im faszinierenden Kanton Wallis.
The motto of the 2018 Musikdorf Ernen’s festival, «On the move», is one that refers both to the individual concert program offer, and to the profile of the festival itself. Artistic Director Francesco Walter has said that the organizers strive to steadily «keep moving» so that guests will be able to enjoy something novel in the festival every year. That said, the music village will—for the first time this coming fall—welcome the winners of the Orpheus Swiss Chamber Music Competition in concerts with varied repertoires. The prestigious «Orpheus» was founded in 1974 to support young, talented chamber music ensembles at the beginning of their professional careers. To date, close to 300 prize-winners have benefited from its support, and many have gone on to international acclaim.
One day last week, the Head of the Ernen Tourist Office, Irene Clausen, kindly took me on a special tour of the handsome Jost-Sigristen House Museum, a house that proudly stands smack in the middle of Ernen.
What better way to see and connect with the work of one fine photographer than to visit it with another? Here in Ernen, select images by the Mongolian photographer Tamir Bayarsaikhan (born 1985) are being shown through September in his first solo exhibition, «Shadow on Us.» I shared a viewing of it with Bernard Brand, the affable South African who is this year’s official photographer for Musikdorf Ernen.
Contemporary as well as classical compositions belong to the repertoire of the fine SOLAND choir. Its members confidently venture into the modern genre as readily as they tackle the classical vocal repertoire. And inasmuch as the choir is interested in the art of developing sound, it engages professionals and newcomers alike in joint performances.
Lucky for us, it’s all in the family. Back in 1944, Oskar Chanton launched a wine enterprise in the community of nearby Visp that would specialize in wines indigenous to that hardy mountain region. When the elder Chanton retired, his son Josef-Marie—known as «Chosy»— took over the helm. And in 2008, he, too, passed over responsibilities for the enterprise to his son, Mario. Now in the third generation, Mario continues the Chanton tradition of growing rare grapes with pioneer drive and commitment.
The Zendenrathaus in Ernen is an imposing, solitary three-story building on the east side of the so called “Hengert,” which roughly translates to “village square.” There’s an uncanny resemblance between the Swiss-German word—for a place to catch up on the news out of doors—to the English “hang out”, meaning to meet up and speak with friends in a casual way. Miracles in language never cease!
One has to marvel at the lush garden plots that seem to dot much of the landscape between here in Ernen and the neighboring village of Mühlebach. In them, the visitor will see vegetables and grains, fruits and salad greens, but also a remarkable proliferation of flowers: cornflower blue next to the yellowy chamomile, parsley and hyssop next to lavender and sage. These are the plots of the Bergland production, whose produce is grown according to the stringent criteria of biodynamic cultivation.
«Pray to St. Anthony!» Not being Catholic myself, it was thanks to dear Mrs. Simonato, the Italian woman who helped us with the children when I went back to work, that I knew the appeal. If a homework assignment was missing, if a book had been misplaced, she called on St. Anthony’s graces to find it. And imagine; here, in nearby Niederernen, was a little pilgrimage chapel that carried his name and made a wholly inviting impression. I just had to visit it.
Anyone who returns to Ernen year after year invariably notices that in the town’s infrastructure is forever being improved, that the area’s cultural and historical highlights are increasingly being given their due. Efforts to enrich the visitor’s experience are many, in no small part because of the support of the Landschaftspark Binntal, the umbrella organization whose commitment to sustainable tourism has been cited as exemplary by visitors and experts alike.
As much a joint venture as it was pioneer project, a dance film and jazz concert recently celebrated its world première for the large audience in the Ernen town hall. It tapped the creative energies of two artists who shared neither age group nor genre, nationality nor history, but whose talents merged to make a memorable performance.
Aujourd’hui, la programmation musicale des orchestres et des festivals est surtout dictée par les conventions et par les impératifs financiers. À l’affiche, on trouve, à côté du nom des sponsors, les noms d’une vingtaine de compositeurs, nés grosso modo entre 1770 et 1870. Le résultat ? Une vision extrêmement étriquée de la musique, un appauvrissement de la vie culturelle, une démotivation croissante des interprètes.
One of Musikdorf Ernen’s artists this season is the highly sought-after and equally personable British composer and violist, Sally Beamish.
The Sepp Blatter Foundation recently awarded a sum of CHF 25,000 to the Musikfdorf Ernen in acknowledgement of its efforts, achievements, and the enormously positive resonance of its annual festival has spurred. “As if pennies from Heaven!” confessed Francesco Walter, Artistic Director of the Musikdorf Ernen Festival, describing his initial reaction to news of the generous prize.
Er kommt aus Schottland, meinem Lieblingsland. Sein leicht gekräuseltes hellbraunes Haar ist ganz leicht nach vorne ins Gesicht gekämmt – so schien es mir – wie bei Komponisten oder feinen Herren aus dem 19. Jahrhundert, die sich oft auf Stichen festhalten liessen – mit steifen Stehkrägen, die ein Nicken verunmöglicht hatten. Von Ohr zu Ohr ein halbkurzer Bart gleicher Farbe wie das Haar, auf dem Hinterkopf der Ansatz einer Glatze, wie bei Mönchen aus dem Mittelalter. Seine schwarze Jacke und die Hose umhüllen leger seinen Körper, die Füsse stecken in dezent blauen Socken, die in dunklen Schuhen – eine Mischung aus Turn- und Strassenschuhen – halb verborgen bleiben.
Klaus Leuenberger, formerly chef at the Restaurant St Georg on the Dorfplatz, has taken over the helm at the ErnerGarten in the village’s all-new Generationshaus. I asked him to share his story.
Wood, if you stop to think of it, has been man’s best friend in the world. It held him in his cradle, went to war as the gunstock in his hand, was the frame of the bed he came to rejoicing, the log upon his hearth when he was cold, and will make him his last long home. It was the murmuring bough above his childhood play, and the roof over the first house he called his own, … the forest where he seeks sanctuary from a stony world.”
â Donald Culross Peattie
Along with its stellar reputation as Musikdorf − world-class musical events staged in the summer season, − the village of Ernen is best known for its unusually rich legacy of 15th to 18th century wooden houses. As one of the few Walliser towns that was spared widespread destruction by war or fire, and because the houses’ facades are typically marked with their dates of construction, Ernen’s is an insightful story about the growth and development of a cohesive alpine community.
Wrapped in white tarps and heavily scaffolded, Ernen’s lovely parish church St. Georg might easily be mistaken today for a Christo intervention, and entitled something like “Wrapped Church.” But no, not quite. For while the 16th century sanctuary was reconfigured into a neo-Gothic style church in 1860, and underwent total renovation in the mid-1960s, that “face-lift” has been its only major intervention since. Now, its roof and façade are being repaired and re-plastered, thus: the wrapped “Christo look.”
It wasn’t easy to find the doorbell. Fact is, there wasn’t a doorbell. I had called to ask if a visit was in order at all: I’d been encouraged to go, but I knew Jules and his wife Yolanda were elderly, that a call might be an intrusion. On the contrary, the couple were glad, I found, to share a little of their story.