Searching for deep understanding

6–8 September 2024
Curious, playful and prudent at the same time

Many musicians would prefer to erase the coronavirus pandemic from their memories - a time when concert halls remained empty and more than a few saw their very existence jeopardised. Three young musicians in Basel saw the restrictions as an opportunity to immerse themselves in Robert Schumann's piano trios with empty agendas: Tim Crawford, Martin Egidi and Martin Jollet. The pandemic thus became the birth of Ensemble Zeitgeist.

Starting out as a piano trio, they also travelled to the Musikdorf Ernen in 2023 as prizewinners of the Orpheus Competition. They were soon joined by violist Alinka Rowe and now perform as an ensemble in various formations. Even if the classical music business often allows little flexibility - organisers invite either a duo, a piano trio or a piano quartet - the Zeitgeist Ensemble enjoys the diverse combination of the four instruments. The Musikdorf Ernen takes this into account and presents Ensemble Zeitgeist once as a trio and once as a quartet.

Multifaceted careers
Today, the agendas of the four 'Zeitgeists' - as they ironically like to call themselves - are full again. Planning together is like a tricky game of Tetris and often requires late-night train journeys or early-morning flights. That's because they all enjoy diverse chamber music careers throughout Europe.

Violinist Tim Crawford, for example, was invited to "Chamber Music Plus" in Ernen at the age of 19. Today he has a string quartet between England and Amsterdam, plays regularly in Denmark's only state-funded chamber ensemble and can be heard throughout Europe with great musicians such as Vilde Frang, Alina Ibragimova, Timothy Ridout and Antje Weithaas. Violist Alinka Rowe is currently part of the "Chamber Music Plus family" in the Musikdorf Ernen, Martin Jollet works as a concert pianist and festival organiser and Martin Egidi commutes between contemporary and early music with the modern and baroque cello.

The work at the centre
At the Orpheus Competition in November 2023, two piano trios were particularly convincing: the Trio Zarathoustra and the Trio Basilea. In the past, young ensembles were said to have an iconoclustic attitude. Everything was to be done differently than before, which often led to superficial interpretations. But this does not correspond to the current zeitgeist, because what unites the "Newcomers" ensembles is the search for a deep understanding of the works.

The French Trio Zarathoustra, for example, drew inspiration from the figure in Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy and wrote: "Zarathustra speaks; but he does so in a poetic way that seems to us similar to music, in which ideas flow in a meaningful way. We liked the idea that Zarathustra is just a messenger who transmits ideas. So we like to see ourselves in the same role in relation to the audience: we stand on stage to present the ideas and the music of the composers, we are the mediators."

It is a matter of course for the young ensembles today to include contemporary music or works by female composers. For example, the Trio Zarathoustra presents music by Lili Boulanger, the Trio Basilea performs a "Caprice" by Jannik Giger (born 1986), and the ensemble Zeitgeist plays "Chants de siris", composed especially for the ensemble by Jean-Sélim Abdelmoula (born 1991).

A noteworthy debut
New in 2024: For the first time, the "Newcomers" weekend includes a piano recital. Giorgi Iuldashevi will present Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and will certainly not miss the depth. But that's not all about poetic music: Maurice Ravel's enchanting "Pavane pour une infante défunte" and the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's marvellous ballet "The Nutcracker" are also on Iuldashevi's programme. The Swiss-based Georgian, who speaks five languages fluently, was encouraged by the legendary pianist Maria João Pires and he wrote his own detailed and thoroughly researched booklet for his debut CD (Gramola Records, 2023).

A visit to the "Newcomers" series is definitely worthwhile – also because it heralds the beginning of the colourful Autumn in the Goms Valley!

Newcomers | 6–8 September 2024 | Curious, playful and prudent at the same time
4 chamber concerts and a piano recital

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Written in Dezember 2023, by Jonathan Inniger