When sparks fly

14-25 July 2024
Affects, fire and furore

The fact that the public loves the Ernen Baroque Weeks is partly due to the programme, which excels every year with its variety, and partly due to the "Aernen Barock" ensemble! This ensemble of exquisite musicians from all over Europe, put together especially for Ernen, ensures highlights in the programme each summer. It always feels like a gathering of friends, says Ada Pesch, founder of the Baroque Weeks. In summer 2024, it will be exactly twenty years since she founded the ensemble. Since 2015, she has been assisted by violist Deirdre Dowling as artistic co-director, a musician who plays with the best period instrument ensembles worldwide and has a huge network at her disposal.

They had come up with something special for summer 2024. "We wanted to have a two singers sing together. We've never done this in Ernen before," says Dowling. Ada suggested Pergolesi's famous "Stabat Mater". "As a violist, I argued in favour of Bach's version. Bach took Pergolesi's famous music, put a German text underneath ("Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden") and added a wonderful viola part. For me, this will be the centrepiece of the programme." She is eager to perform with her colleagues in Ernen, says Dowling. "The Baroque Weeks are the highlight of my musical year."

Discover voices
If you skim the programme titles of the Baroque Weeks, your head and heart will heat up just reading them: "Feu d'artifice" (Fireworks), "Catching Fire", "London's Passions" and an "Italian Summer" are promised. And as if that wasn't hot enough, two vocal soloists arrive who have nothing else in mind but to make the baroque splendour of sound glow with their voices. Both - the Scottish-Maltese soprano Carine Tinney (born 1989) and the German countertenor Benno Schachtner (born 1984) - can be heard for the first time in Ernen.

"We usually invite musicians to Ernen with whom we have already played in other ensembles," says Deirdre Dowling. This year is different. She knows Carine Tinney from hearsay. Carine stepped in to replace the soprano in a project with the Netherlands Bach Society, a group to which Dowling also belongs. She didn't take part at the time, but everyone was so impressed and moved by Tinney's singing that they immediately hired her again. "I realised that I absolutely had to bring her to Ernen." Carine Tinney liked the idea of "Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden". She suggested Benno Schachtner as her singing partner. "A stroke of luck. Two vocal soloists who love singing together are joining the Ernen family."

Daring sensualityIn Baroque music, passion, fire and furore rise from the depths of the soul and begin to boil in the music. The 17th and 18th centuries were difficult times for many. The religious and social upheavals, social injustice, plague epidemics and wars that made people's lives a living hell are just as much a part of the context of this music as the triumphant splendour and costly style of representation of the absolutist kings and queens of the time. The awareness of the ephemeral nature of everything earthly and the knowledge of the volatility of human happiness were then - and are today - excellent reasons to enjoy life and the delight of the senses in this world!

How baroque music is fuelled by people's emotional tensions can be heard in John Dowland, for example, whose songs are heard in the "London's Passions" concert: Tears flow from the deepest pain of love. And a few ambiguities flicker between the lines: What a delight! For example in the "Five Knacks for Ladies": let yourself be seduced by Benno Schachtner's singing and don't be surprised if your cheeks suddenly redden slightly...

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