Trout, Phoenix, Shadowy Fish

Chamber Music Plus
28 July – 10 August 2024
Burning intensity and passionate joy

Bet that a First of August bonfire will be lit in Ernen, even if the weather conditions don't allow a bonfire to be lit outside. On the morning of the National Day, there will be a musical firework display "made in Switzerland" in St George's Church, which will spread at least as much euphoria and festivity as burning volcanoes, bonfires and other fireworks. Just follow the trumpet fanfare of Arthur Honegger's "Intrada" and you're there.

Being in Ernen for a fortnight is well worth it: Alasdair Beatson, the artistic director of "Chamber Music Plus", has spared no expense in bringing some of the most renowned chamber musicians to Ernen to perform seven chamber and two orchestral concerts in alternating formations. Programmes full of sparkling highlights.

Lots to discover
It will burn and crackle: "Heart's Flame", "Lebensstürme", "Young Apollo" or "Hell's Kitchen" are the titles of the concerts, in which you can hear favourites (Mozart's String Quintet in C major or Grieg's "Holberg Suite") but also discoveries: Do you know the Violin Sonata by Richard Strauss, the Greek Dances by Nikos Skalkottas, or the short piano concerto "Young Apollo" by Benjamin Britten? Fanny Hensel's "Capriccio" for cello and piano or Bohuslav Martinů's ballet music "La revue de cuisine"? Or have you ever heard Sergei Prokofiev's suite from "Romeo and Juliet" in the version for viola and piano?

This is also exciting to know: In some of the concerts, the pianists Joonas Ahonen, Alasdair Beatson and Paolo Giacometti will play their parts on a fortepiano, a replica of an instrument dating from 1815 - an extra boost of captivating interpretations is guaranteed!

A resonating network
The subtlety of the individual programmes can be seen in chamber concerts 5, 6 and 7. On Sunday evening, Franz Schubert's famous "Trout Quintet" is juxtaposed with "Shadowy Fish. Hommage à Schubert" by composer in residence Christian Mason. Not to be missed the evening before is the world premiere of "Figures in a landscape (awaiting eternity)", which Mason composed for the Musikdorf Ernen.

In Chamber Concerto 6 ("Beacons"), a line is drawn between four French personalities who all had a teacher-pupil relationship: The youngest member makes the start - Jean Françaix is represented with his playful String Trio, followed by his teacher Nadia Boulanger with the impressionistically floating Three Pieces for cello and piano, her teacher Gabriel Fauré with his Piano Trio and, as the crowning finale, the Septet for trumpet, piano and string quintet by Fauré's teacher Camille Saint-Saëns.

Music from the ashes
Many will be delighted to hear Clara Schumann's "Three Romances for Violin and Piano" op. 22, one of her most popular works, in Chamber Concert 7. She composed the pieces in 1853, the year in which the twenty-year-old Brahms entered the Schumanns' home for the first time and the tripartite relationship between Robert, Clara and Johannes began. Robert also worked on romances in 1853, five of them for violoncello and piano. Shortly afterwards, he was transferred to the Endenich mental clinic, where he died in 1856. Forty years after they were written, Clara burnt Robert's five cello romances, with Brahms' consent. But why?

It is believed that there were intimate messages in the scores that Clara wanted to withhold from posterity. The Swiss composer, conductor and oboist Heinz Holliger (born 1939) has created a tribute to the burnt music. His work "Romancendres" - a neologism made up of romance and ashes (cendre) - describes moments from Robert Schumann's life: "Aurora (Nachts)" is an image of youthful hope, overshadowed by nocturnal hauntings, "R(asche)S Flügelschlagen" is reminiscent of Schumann's body movements in madness (visualised by striking the piano strings). "Romancendres", together with Brahms' String Sextet in G major, forms the core of Chamber Concerto 7, entitled "Phoenix".

Chamber Music Plus | 28 July – 10 August 2024 | Burning intensity and passionate joy
7 chamber concerts and 2 orchestra concerts

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Written in December 2023, by Marianne Mühlemann (translated by Jonathan Inniger