In this program we deliberately look for musical roots in Renaissance and early Baroque music and their transposition in today’s time. Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino is one of todays composers, whose sound language has a very unique color, which is clearly based and involved with early music. Two of his works in which this focus is evident are heard in this program. One refers to Carlo Gesualdo, the other to Alessandro Stradella.

Our guitarist Maurizio Grandinetti also dealt with early music for decades. His approach, however, is more a translation of old music into our time; musical gestures and psychological emotional states, which are immanent in the music, are brought into our time in a new guise and unusually orchestrated, without touching the musical meaning – on the contrary.

The program is complemented by a commission to Basel based composer Lukas Langlotz, who also constantly deals with ancient and oldest music in a well-founded way in his compositional style. His new work will feature an “Arciorgano”, an organ built in Basel according to plans by the 16th-century Italian composer Nicola Vicentino, which allows 31 different pitches per octave.

About the arrangements:

Nikolaus Harnoncourt wrote in 1982: “The music of the past has become a foreign language through the progression of history, through its distance from the present and through its detachment from the context of its time. Individual aspects of a piece of music may be universally valid and timeless, but the message as such is bound to a particular time and can only be rediscovered if it is translated, as it were, into our present idiom.”

Nowadays there is a unique musical genre in which masterpieces of the past are reinterpreted by translating old masterpieces into a more or less contemporary language. With my arrangements, my intention is to look at the original music with my full expressiveness and intuition, going deep into the textual part. To this end, the vocal and textual parts have been left almost intact, but overlaid with a new instrumental framework.

The material of the arts has changed over the centuries, but their artistic content is recognized in our conscious perception of the present. Every time we evaluate art or listen to music, our current environment sets the standards for our artistic perception. It is up to us to decide how “original” the object must be in order to recognize it. As far as Renaissance restorations are concerned, we know that restorers at that time combined statues with the spirit of their own time, translating them into a new language that conveyed the energy typical of their era. The great art historian Cesare Brandi interpreted the Renaissance not as a revival of antiquity, but as a transfiguration of universal concepts, as part of a completely new creative process.

Today we find the music of the Renaissance and pre-baroque attractive mainly because of what the authors did not record in scores: the part reserved for improvisation and arrangement. Since the beginning of the 18th century, the habit was adopted that each composition corresponded to only one interpretation: the original one. Nothing was left to personal freedom. What would happen to occidental classical music if one tried to use a little Asian and African sensibilities, if one took into account “immaterial”, symbolic, ritual or religious values, instead of dealing with its historical authenticity?

After all, the performance of any piece of ancient music is a celebration of the absence of the original and its author. We have to decide whether to hide this absence or to fully acknowledge it.

Maurizio Grandinetti

The influence of the literary work by Irish poet James Joyce (1842-1941) on 20th century composers is eminent. Samuel Barber, John Cage (“Roaratorio”), Luigi Dallapiccola, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez (“3rd Piano Sonata”), Bernd Alois Zimmermann (“Antiphons”) and many others have been inspired by this forward-looking poet. Luciano Berio set three texts from his early poetry collection “Chamber Music” to music. Probably the most frequently used text is the final monologue of Molly Bloom from “Ulysses”. This is also the base for the works “Skin” and “O, Yes & I” by English composer Rebecca Saunders. The world premiere will be a new work by the German composer Matthias Heep. His composition refers to Joyce’s last novel “Finnegans Wake”.

Sebastian Gottschick has stepped in at short notice for the conductor Jürg Henneberger, who has fallen ill.

As an ensemble for New and Contemporary Music, it is our concern to give space to important currents of what is, from today’s point of view, “historical” New Music and to “listen” to their modernity. Certain pioneers of New Music are indispensable and obviously significant for the further course of music-historical developments, while others are ending points, third phenomena of a self-contained world without direct reference to the before and after. A particularly idiosyncratic representative of the third genre is Giacinto Scelsi, Count of d’Ayala Valva, whose music does not fit stringently into the picture of the currents of modernism; his music will probably always sound unique and unmistakable.

Gérard Grisey, in contrast to Scelsi, is the founder of one of the most important currents of new music; “spectralism” continues to influence generations of composers till today. Unlike the largely self-taught Scelsi, Grisey underwent a complete musical education at universities and was in direct contact with all the “grands” of the time such as Ligeti, Stockhausen and Xenakis. Grisey was intimately familiar with the music of Giacinto Scelsi, which he discovered for himself during his stay in Italy at the Villa Medici in 1972–74.

In this program we juxtapose these two composers with their duo works; Grisey’s complete duos for two solo instruments, Scelsi’s duos for two string instruments – intarsing each other in the program.

Our “Blanko” projects are already legendary. On the one hand, we have been performing in this self-invented format for well over ten years, and on the other hand, the unusually intensive nature of the collaboration and engagement with two artists per season unites us in a particularly intense bond. Consciously not coming from the usual curriculum of a composer’s training, we bring together lateral entrants, “sonic artists” in the broadest sense, visual artists with a clear musical affinity, etc., with our expert ensemble members for electronic or amplified music.

Marco Papiro – “Vamos a la playa” (WP 2021)

Marco Papiro is a Swiss-Italian graphic artist, multi-instrumentalist and electronic music producer. Active as a solo artist since the 90s, he was part in the band “Mir” in company of Daniel Buess, whose posthumous last LP has just been released. Papiro’s music is imbued with a personal language, picturesque, mystical and at times humorous. “Vamos a la playa” is his first composition for ensemble.


Dragos Tara – “Escape Room #2” (WP 2021)

The musical work of the French-Swiss composer and double bassist Dragos Tara moves fluidly between composition and improvisation. His work is strongly influenced by the exploration of “game theory”, the questioning of traditional social rituals, and the possibilities of instrumental and physical extensions. The series “Escape Room”, for ensemble and video, plays with multiple forms of narration, such as those found in “gaming culture”. It takes ensemble and audience on an imaginary journey into a shared virtual world.


The work of American composer Morton Feldman has been a matter of the heart during the last 22 years for us. His works are characterized by an extraordinary stylistic diversity, ranging from graphic scores to extremely complex, polyrhythmic compositions. An example of this is his trio “Bass Clarinet and Percussion”: the percussion duo and the bass clarinet follow two metrically independent and independent paths, which nevertheless cross again at the end of each score page. Feldman at home in the artistic circles of New York and had friendly contact with the most important painters and poets of his time. The septet “For Frank O’Hara” is a tribute to the poet who died in an accident in 1966. Samuel Beckett wrote the libretto for Morton Feldman’s only opera, “Neither”. The new setting of the Beckett radio play “Words and Music” and the compositional homage “For Samuel Beckett” were both written in 1987, the year of Feldman’s death.

Lithuanian composer Arturas Bumšteinas writes a loose sequence of 40 short compositions for EPhB based on the legendary “Vexations” by Erik Satie, which, according to a cryptically formulated playing instruction, which are to be repeated 840 times. The compositions take Satie’s material as their starting point and virtually “de-compose” the work. The source serves as a “quarry” or “source of inspiration” for miniatures in a wide variety of instrumental combinations.


Instead of sending another online stream out, we produce an LP with the new pieces of this program.

The Mexican composer Javier Torres Maldonado studied in Milan with Franco Donatoni and Ivan Fedele. His music is based on the overtone spectrum of a sound and is extremely complex due to the superimposition of various melodic and rhythmic layers. Maldonado compares his musical language with the pictorial language of Piranesi and M. C. Escher, which through its imagined perspective creates an illusory world that not only allows an individual point of view, but virtually challenges it. The ear is meant to focus on different spatial and temporal planes like a rotating lens.

At the center of the program is a double concerto for two guitars and ensemble, which Maldonado wrote for the guitarist Pablo Márquez, who teaches in Basel, and the guitarist of the “Ensemble Phoenix Basel” Maurizio Grandinetti. His work “Oltre” is a tribute to his teacher Donatoni.

The program is complemented by two new works by Basel-based composer Balz Trümpy.

In the 1960s, the Hungarian composer György Ligeti developed the technique of “micropolyphony,” which has left a distinctive mark on his work. In the 1980s he became acquainted with the music for pianola by Conlon Nancarrow as well as the “just intonation” developed by Harry Partch. At the same time, he discovered in the music of the African tribe of the Aka Pygmies a unique rhythm that fascinated and influenced him. The European music of the 16th century, with its complex polyphonic structure and mid-tone tuning, influenced his late work.

In his “Phoenix” cycle, his student Detlev Müller-Siemens adopted his teacher’s melodic and harmonic complexity in his own way. Describing his music, he speaks of “proliferating, meandering lines floating freely in space between always the same opening and closing notes – like flocks of birds – all of which have a melodic-harmonic ‘ground color’ in common. Overall, each of the three pieces moves in its own way between the extremes of a stony-compact sonority on the one hand, and a line-like, meandering melodicism on the other.”

According to the Covid-19 ordinance of the canton BS of 20th of November 2020, only a maximum of 15 people were allowed at public events.

All three Swiss composers on this program are connected with Basel. Pianist Christoph Delz lived in Riehen until his early death. “Siegel” with its unmistakably brittle instrumentation (winds and percussion) is a piano concerto in disguise, which he premiered himself. Jacques Wildberger, also from Riehen has taught at the Basel Music Academy. His “Zeitebenen” led to controversial reactions at its premiere at the “Darmstädter Ferienkurse”. In this virtuoso piece, four instrumental duos dialogue with each other in various combinations. It has been played far too rarely since then and is worth rediscovering. Cellist Alfred Knüsel, born in Lucerne, lives in Basel. As a composer, he is more of an outsider and cannot be assigned to any established style. Each work forms its own “cosmos”. His new composition is a further development of his trio “Intarsie”, which he wrote in 2017 in memory of our friend and drummer Daniel Buess, who died prematurely in 2016.

Mario Davidovsky is one of the great figures of American New Music – but has hardly been played in Europe. As a pioneer of electronic music, he was already working at the “Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center” in 1960. His work includes by far not only electronic music. His most famous works, the “Synchronisms”, a series of over a dozen works written over a period of more than 40 years, have influenced generations of composers. In combining “classical” instruments with pre-produced electronic sounds, Davidovsky, unlike many other composers of this genre, is not interested in special “sound effects” in any way, but rather seeks a fusion of instrumental sound with electronics, resulting in both continuity and intrinsic musical expression. The earliest “Synchronisms” date from a time when today’s sound technology was still in its infancy, but they are nevertheless masterpieces without equal; the long time span in which the “Synchronisms” were created also documents the technical progress in this field over the time. In addition to a large number of awards for his work, Mario Davidovsky received the Pulitzer Prize in 1971 explicitly for his work “Synchronisms No. 6”.

Since the concerts had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, the EPhB decided to do a combined audio and video production. Bandcamp

The compositional work by Greek composer Iannis Xenakis is an important pillar for the music of the 20th/21st century and has its permanent place in our programs. The duo “Oophaa” Xenakis dedicated to harpsichordist Elisabeth Chojnacka and percussionist Sylvio Gualda, who premiered the work in 1989. Xenakis wrote a harpsichord part that is playable for two human hands only by octaving individual notes. The work receives its posthumous premiere in this concert in a version for two specially retuned harpsichords what makes the original form possible to play.

The second part of the program is dedicated to three Swiss composers who are connected to Basel in different ways. Born in Nigeria, Hanspeter Kyburz taught composition at the Hochschule Basel from 2000 to 2002 and was director of the Electronic Studio Basel. Since then he has been living and teaching in Berlin. He became known for his algorithmic composition process, which he also used in his quintet “Danse aveugle”. Xenakis’ title “Plektó” (“lichen”) could also apply to this work: a blindly tumbling dance that soars to dizzying heights until it crashes, as it were, and ends in exhaustion. The American composer Gerald Bennett, who lives in Basel, studied in Basel with Klaus Huber and taught at the Basel Music Academy from 1967-1976. His works, however, are virtually unknown in Basel. The concert closes with a world premiere by the composer Heidi Baader-Nobs, who lives in Allschwil. She was born in Delémont and studied composition in Basel with Robert Suter and Jacques Wildberger.

Exceptional Turkish musician Aydin Esen can hardly be categorized. His main influences are jazz and 20th century classical music, the boundaries of which he crosses seemingly effortlessly as a virtuoso pianist and composer. Aydin Esen was born in Istanbul, where he began playing the piano at an early age. In Boston, he completed a degree at Berklee College of Music, which normally takes four years, in one year. After one of Aydin’s sessions with Pat Metheny in Boston, the latter simply asked, “How did you get so good?” Since his studies, he has won numerous prizes for his compositions as well as as a pianist (including First Prize at the Paris International Piano Competition in 1989). At “Big Basel Festival” EPhB will premiere a new work by Aydin Esen, which was composed for this formation on behalf of the “Big Basel” festival.
“Aydin Esen has been running his own laboratory for decades, pushing his music forward, away from all trends. As a listener, he gives us something like finds from this other world, which he is able to travel with his highly developed musical consciousness.” (Wolfgang Muthspiel)

In the season 2018/19 EPhB organized for the third time a biennial international composition workshop. In three preparatory modules (supported by the Swiss Arts Council “Pro Helvetia”) young composers get the opportunity to experiment with us as a professional ensemble of specialists over a period of 18 months at the beginning of their career. For the final fourth module – as an integral part of the concert series of EPhB – two selected graduates of the preparatory phase are commissioned to compose a new composition as a musical “commentary” on a central work of the 20th or 21st century. The new composition are to “orbit” this work as “satellites”, i.e. refer to or contrast with it. In 2020, the three satellites will revolve around Chain 1 by the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski, one of the key works of the 20th century that is far too little known in Central Europe.

In this third “Phoenix Satellite” competition, 1st prize goes to Hovik Sardaryan, 2nd prize ex aequo to Tobias Krebs and Victor Alexandru Coltea.

The compositional work of Heinz Holliger, who celebrated his 80th birthday on May 21, 2019, has been influenced since 1975 by the late work of Friedrich Hölderlin, who liked to refer to himself as “Scardanelli” during his last three decades, which he spent in Tübingen in a tower room of the household of the carpenter Ernst Zimmer. Since his early youth, the composer Holliger has been interested in poet personalities who tried to escape the social norm – be it through suicide (Alexander Xaver Gwerder, Paul Celan) or escape into so-called “mental derangement” (Friedrich Hölderlin, Nikolaus Lenau, Robert Schumann, Robert Walser, Louis Soutter) or depression (Clemens Brentano). Holliger’s “Eisblumen” is a paraphrase of the Bach chorale “Komm o Tod, Du Schlafes Bruder.” “Ad marginem” takes us to the (acoustic) limits to the point of complete inaudibility. “Puneigä” is a homage to the endangered Pumatter dialect, in which the poet Anna Maria Bacher writes her poems. Jacques Wildberge, composer from Riehen also used poems by Friedrich Hölderlin or Paul Celan in his works. In his late work “Elegie” is based on Hölderlin’s poem “Sunset”. In addition “Concertotilinkó” for flute and strings, a work by Sándor Veress’s, Holliger’s composition teacher,  will be performed.

The central work of this Polish-Swiss program in co-production with “Culturescapes 2019 – Poland” is the concerto “Con Clavi III” by Ryszard Gabryś for harpsichord, double bass and ensemble, created for this occasion. This world premiere will be framed by two works by Polish composers Bolesław Szabelski and Paweł Szymański. We create a Swiss reference with a quintet for piano with winds and strings by the Polish-Swiss composer Constantin Regamey, whose unjustly almost forgotten music opens the program. The musical realization of a graphic composition by the Polish-Israeli composer, musicologist, graphic artist and painter Roman Haubenstock-Ramati closes the evening.

How does my drawing sound? Did I draw loudly or softly? Why does my print sound different in blue than in red?

The children of the “Druckstelle Basel” explored these and other questions together with the musicians of the Ensemble Phoenix Basel during an autumn holiday week. The children took on the role of composers and realized their sonic ideas in the form of graphic scores. Graphic notation plays an important role in contemporary music, because many sonic ideas cannot be conveyed through traditional notation. Using experimental printing techniques, the children investigated the relationship between notation and sound in a reciprocal process with the musicians of the EPhB.

The result of this exploration are several compositions, which will be interpreted by the EPhB.

Experimental tape music in the classroom: Pupils of two primary school classes in Allschwil were together with musicians of EPhB on the hunt for sounds  and recorded their findings on tape. Framed by several solo pieces, interpreted by musicians of the EPhB, the eight small sound etudes, which the students composed in groups, were performed in the concert.

Sebastian Meyer – artistic and pedagogical direction
anne Jakobsson, Aleksander Gabrys, Francisco Olmedo, Lukas Rickli, Daniel Stalder – workshops support
Arev Imer, Christof Stürchler – audio design

Pupils of class 5h of the elementary school Allschwil with the teachers Géraldine Meier, Susanne Bitterli
Pupils of class 5f of the elementary school Allschwil with the teachers Brita Fuhrmann, Simone Salathé

Coproduction with ZeitRäume Basel

Concert with works by students of the composition classes of the Music Academy Basel. In this edition from the classes of Erik Oña, Caspar Johannes Walter and Michel Roth.

In our blanko project this year we give the “word” to two artists who have taken different paths in terms of their musical careers, but who seem to us extremely suitable as partners for this renewed adventure in the mixed zone of different genres because of their common interest in interdisciplinarity.

In this concert, we explore the question what role melody still plays in contemporary music. György Ligeti already posed this provocative question in 1971 with his title of the orchestral work Melodies.

Christophe Schiess, composer from Biel, was a composition student of Georg Friedrich Haas. We have maintained an intensive artistic exchange with him since 2008. The work “empreintes de temps” was premiered by EPhB at the “Schlusskonzerte Komposition” of Music Academy Basel in 2010.

Georg Friedrich Haas taught at the Music Academy Basel from 2005 to 2013. He has set musically important accents not only there, but for the whole music city of Basel (worth mentioning here In Vain 2003 at the Theater Basel, … damit … die Geister der Menschen erhellt und ihr Verstand erleuchtet werden … 2010 on the occasion of the “Dies Academicus” in the Basel Cathedral, both with the EPhB).

A primal delight in experimenting with voices unites the three composers of this program.

Milton Babbitt first studied mathematics and later on changed to music. He was the first to define “serial music” in the 1940s, contributed decisively to the development of “music theory” as an academic discipline, and is now considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century in the United States. Babbitt’s work “Arie da capo” ambiguously alludes to its patrons, the “Da Capo Chamber Players” of New York. In this composition, each of the five instruments gets its aria.

Paul Dolden is a joyful border crosser between musical categories. His virtuosic and intelligent handling of electronically multiplying layers lead to a connecting listening experience between the different musical genres.

Although as a comprehensive musician he can hardly be pinned down to one genre, John Zorn has always seen himself first and foremost as a composer. In 2003 he created “Chimeras” compositionally in the style of Schönberg’s “Pierrot lunaire”, a sensational work between classical ductus and chaotic outbursts.

This concert is a tribute  Rudolf Kelterborn. He was director of the Basel Music Academy from 1983 to 1994. His composition class included the two younger Basel composers in this program. We have enjoyed a creative collaboration with all three composers for many years. In the new composition “Encore” Kelterborn sets texts by Georg Rudolf Weckerlin, Georg Trakl, Erika Burkart and Johann Wolfgang Goethe as well as Japanese haikus to music. The cycle is dedicated to “Jürg Henneberger – in gratitude”.

Our strong interest in electronic music as an extension of the conventional instrumentarium brought us to the attention of the English composer Jonty Harrison. Since 1992 he has composed only a few works for ensemble with electronics in addition to his many acousmatic works – including “Force Fields”. Probably also due to the limitation to a few compositions, these are among the best that this genre has to offer.

Harrison’s work is flanked by two commissions to the composers Keitaro Takahashi and Andreas Eduardo Frank, who are currently still working in Basel and who have already made a name for themselves internationally during their studies, especially in the field of composed music with electronics – a “showcase” for electronics!

Norbert Möslang, composer and improviser from St. Gallen, created a new work for the inauguration of the “Binary Clock” commissioned by the St. Gallen Building Department, which was premiered in April 2018 at the “Bahnhofshalle St. Gallen” by musicians of the EPhB. “patterns” is here repeated at the Kunstmuseum St Gallen as part of the “Nachtschicht#18”.


The compositional work of the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis is an important pillar for the music of the 20th century and has its fixed place in our programs. It is also a source of inspiration for the Swiss composer and cellist Martin Jaggi. His  composition “Har” is the first part of a cycle of five works about the oldest advanced civilizations of this earth.

Concert with works by students of the composition classes of the Music Academy Basel from the class of Caspar Johannes Walter and the class for music theory of Gerhard Luchterhandt and Michel Roth (Amador Buda Fuentes Manzor).

In our deliberately open blank program, we hope once again to make the boundaries of the genres perceptible and tangible, to transcend them and to interweave different genres of contemporary artistic creation more closely.

With Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje we have invited an immensely versatile artist: The composer and vocal artist with an unmistakably unique voice moves in a wide variety of fields between composition and improvisation, from music theater to installation works. In collaboration with us, she will appear as both composer and performer.

The Basel based composer Lukas Huber has been familiar with new media for years and is well versed in various contemporary styles. With this commission, he ventures into an area beyond conventional “academic” composing. In order to succeed, Huber has decided not to approach the ensemble as an individual – because adding a composer would already serve a setting typical of New Music – but to work with his band UFO: Through the confrontation of a “free improv” band and an ensemble for contemporary music, automatisms should be made visible and broken up more quickly.

As part of the exhibition “Everything we do is music,” Kunsthaus Pasquart is hosting two concerts with EPhB that will highlight the influence of Indian classical music on Central European and American contemporary music.

Along with Maurice Delage, Albert Roussel was one of the first Western composers to undertake a study trip to India. In 1909, he and his wife made a long trip to India and Southeast Asia. The impressions of Indian music are reflected above all in the metre of the third movement “Krishna” from the cycle “Jouers de flûte”, which deals playfully with irregular beats.

Olivier Messiaen’s main sources of inspiration, besides bird songs, were Indian rhythms, which play a leading role in “Cantéyodjayâ,” one of his first piano works, as well as in the “Turangalîla Symphony,” written almost simultaneously.

The three piano pieces “Elis” by the Swiss composer Heinz Holliger are inspired by lines of poetry by the Austrian poet Georg Trakl. Holliger illustrates the longing for death that speaks from the poems with Indian rhythms, some of which Olivier Messiaen also uses in his music.

Giacinto Scelsi’s work has been influenced since early years by Eastern philosophies, especially from India. In his “Quattro Illustrazioni” he describes four “avatars” of the Indian god Vishnu. The duo for flute and clarinet from 1966 entitled “Ko-Lho” is based on Scelsi’s “philosophy” of the single tone as the foundation of musically invoked transcendence. Scelsi’s preoccupation with non-European music led him away from “occidental” polyphony toward monophonic music enriched with microintervals and multiphonics.

The American composer John Cage was inspired by the Indian aesthetic “Rasa” in his “Sonatas and Interludes” (1946-48), the “String Quartet” (1950) and the “Six Melodies” (1950). The term “Rasa” refers to the mental state of joy and fulfillment, which cannot be put into words, that arises in the viewer when enjoying a successful work of art.

The North Indian Sarangi inspired the Swiss composer Martin Jaggi to write “Kôrd III”. Traditionally, the pitches on this instrument are produced with the nail bed of a finger of the left hand; the finger is thus placed between the string and the fingerboard and pressed against the string from below. For Jaggi, the sound of the Sarangi’s resonating strings comes from the piano: he has e-bows placed on the strings, which produce a quite extraordinary, rather technically cool, or in Jaggi’s words, a “magical sound.”

The driving rhythms of the fast parts are speech rhythms, derived from scientific lexicon entries about the Sarangi.

Jürg Henneberger

“Clash” – a word entirely in the sense of our friend and drummer Daniel Buess, who died in 2016, to whom we dedicate this program. Clashing clashes of different materials, the collision of different worlds require alert listening and watching.

In the eponymous work by Jannik Giger – both composer and video artist — live and pre-recorded music that confronts jazzy sounds with chords from Morton Feldman’s second string quartet collide in an extremely virtuosic and playful manner with a video work that is not only reproduced but also actively influences the performers.

In commissioning André Meier to compose, we are countering Giger’s “Clash” with a work by another young Swiss composer whom we have followed closely for many years.

In a special way, the two composers Alfred Knüsel and Thomas Lauck have “fallen in with our friend Daniel”. However, there can be no question of contradictory clashing; the “clash” here is rather to be understood in the sense of the most intensive confrontation and a very special search for sound. Independently of each other, both composers wrote a work in his memory.

Pre-concert: Education project “AlltagSerialismus”:
All of our everyday life is characterized by a series of recurring elements. The mediation project “AlltagSerialismus” initiated by EPhB together with a school class of the secondary school Leonhard under the direction of Francesca De Felice and Sebastian Meyer tries to critically reflect this “everyday routine”. In the course of the project, four short tape pieces were created in small groups, which will now be presented in a pre-concert by EPhB. In these pieces, sounds/noises that the young people have recorded in their everyday lives are processed in a variety of ways, re-contextualized, analyzed and commented on. In this way, the young people are both sensitized to their everyday sound environment and encouraged to reflect more on their everyday life.

Jean Barraqué is one of the “great unknowns” of the French avant-garde, whohad a difficult time throughout his life alongside Pierre Boulez. This program places one of his most important late works next to two early works by Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who at the beginning of their compositional work were among the main representatives of “serialism,” a compositional technique that can be described as a consistent further development of the twelve-tone technique.
It is an exciting listening experience to hear a dodecaphonic work by Anton Webern, a representative of the “New Viennese School,” alongside strictly serial works in the same program.

Who associates the USA of our time with exuberant creativity, real artistic freedom, unlimited space for experimentation?

We dedicate this program with the three greats Elliott Sharp, Eric Chasalow and John Zorn to exactly this America!

All three composers belong to the middle generation of New York’s experimental avant-garde scene. Improviser and bandleader John Zorn wrote several “game pieces” in the eighties, a kind of musical card games that are a kind of “guided” improvisations. The most famous of these is probably Cobra, which is not fixed in terms of both instrumentation and duration.

Guitarist and composer Elliott Sharp is difficult to classify stylistically, as his music moves between the genres of rock, jazz and new music, making it stand for itself and be distinctive.

Eric Chasalow – also a joyful border crosser between the genres – studied composition with Mario Davidovsky and teaches at Brandeis University in Boston. He is artistic director of the festival for electroacoustic music BEAMS.


Gerald Bennett, co-founder of the Swiss Center for Computer Music (SZCM) and the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology (ICST), celebrates his 75th birthday this year. To mark this occasion, the SZCM, in collaboration with the ICST, is organizing a portrait concert featuring a selection of his instrumental and electroacoustic works.

Concept and organization
Lucas Bennett, Sabine Egli, Peter Färber, Johannes Schütt und Judith Winterhager

In 2016/17 EPhB conducted for the second time a biennial international composition workshop. In three preparatory modules – these supported by the Swiss Arts Council “Pro Helvetia” – young composers at the beginning of their career get the opportunity to experiment with us as a professional specialist ensemble over the period of 18 months.

For the final fourth module – then as an integral part of our series – two selected graduates of the preparatory phase are commissioned to compose a new work as a musical “commentary” on a central work of the 20th or 21st century. The new works are to “orbit” this composition as “satellites”, i.e. they are to refer to it or contrast with it. In 2017, the two satellites will revolve around the “Chamber Concerto,” one of the major works of Hungarian composer György Ligeti.

Originally from Iran, Elnaz Seyedi studied composition in Bremen with Younghi Pagh-Paan, in Basel with Caspar Johannes Walter, and at the Folkwang University of the Arts Essen with Günter Steinke. With her work “Detaillierter Blick”, she illuminates and reflects on various mood states of Ligeti’s masterpiece without quoting it directly.

The composer and saxophonist Kevin Juillerat, who comes from French-speaking Switzerland, studied saxophone in Lausanne with Pierre-Stéphane Meugé and in Basel with Marcus Weiss. At the same time he studied in Geneva with Michael Jarrell and Luis Naon and in Basel with Georg Friedrich Haas composition. His new work TOMBEAU makes concrete use of individual “building blocks” from Ligeti’s chamber concerto, placing them in a new context and developing them further until, shortly before the end, they culminate in a short literal quotation that breaks off abruptly and leads to an open ending.

EPhB had a central role in the mediation project “Waterways” as part of the biennial festival “ZeitRäume Basel” 2017. The initial idea came from the architect Raul Mera, who had long been interested in the hidden water veins that run underneath Basel’s city center. He was especially interested in hidden canals, such as the one that carries the waters of Birsig river from the zoo to Basels “Mittlere Brücke”. Raul’s concern was to make these water veins tangible, palpable and audible for the population. The project was based on a now 35-year-old project by Herzog & de Meuron, which was never implemented: fountains and open channels on the market square. The renowned German composer Carola Bauckholt and her composition class at the Anton Bruckner Private University Linz were enlisted for the musical elaboration. She realized this idea together with the EPhB and with students of Basel high school classes.

The project travelled as a co-production to Wien Modern and took place around and in (!) the lake at Prater.

For many years, EPhB has been a regular guest at various festivals in Poland. Thus, the ensemble performed several times at the festival “Warsaw Autumn” (2006 and 2013), at the “Laboratorium Festival” (2005) and in Katowice (2004) and in summer 2016 as Ensemble in Residence in Sokolowsko, a small but very significant festival with great international appeal.

The invitation for two concerts to Gdansk for the New Music Days are further proof that Ensemble Phoenix Basel has an important mediating role in a country in the area of tension between great musical tradition and a serious hunger for the new in politically complex times.

The limited means of the festival let us refrain from a large-scale project. Nevertheless, the two programs spring from artistic ideas that make EPhB special.

On the one hand, an existing work entitled “Portfolio – land – material – people” will be performed again. In a long lasting composition process the flutist Christoph Bösch and the live-electronics player Thomas Peter have dealt with composition cells and so-called vignettes of the Swiss composer Katharina Rosenberger and expanded their material together with her. Based on images by three Swiss photographers (Robert Frank, Christian Lichtenberg and Sarah Girard), the basic idea for this project was the interdisciplinary confrontation between image and sound, or rather the preoccupation with the relationship between the predominant sense of sight and the sense of hearing, which (too) often “suffers” under this in interdisciplinary projects.

On the other hand, three new compositions by Christoph Bösch, Aleksander Gabryś and Thomas Peter will be heard, which were created especially for the festival in Gdansk.

The dual function of the three musicians, who have been working together for many years, as composers and interpreters of their own works promises a special charm.

The first concert of the EPhB series in 2017 took place in co-production with the Museum Tinguely Basel in the context of the exhibition “Music Machines / Machine Music”. Since the 1940s, the American composer Conlon Nancarrow has written almost exclusively compositions for pianola or player piano, as the instrument is called in America. This instrument was invented at the turn of the century and has inspired composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, George Antheil and others to write works for it. Nancarrow has written over 50 “studies” that are not feasible for human hands and fingers. East German composer Wolfgang Heisig met Nancarrow in Paris in the 1990s and has since specialized in reconstructing Nancarrow’s rolls – as a composer, he writes solo works as well as ensemble works with phonola (a machine that is placed in front of a “normal” piano and moves the keys instead of a live pianist). With his strong affinity for unusual sound production, Basel composer Alex Buess contributes a new work for phonola, ensemble and live electronics.

We all know it: suddenly a warm wind comes up and dries all the clouds from the sky. The mountains move closer together, everything seems closer, clearer, more beautiful, brighter and the sun shines in its massiveness: postcard magic!
The “Föhn” wind has its origin on the northern slopes of our mountains. It is loved and feared, longed for and cursed. It can be felt as far as the border runs in the north of our country, and the Swiss themselves even complain that it afflicts them, tormenting them with headaches, bone aches and pains of the soul. The Föhn belongs to the alpine world and to the alpine countries like the mountains themselves. It is deeply rooted in everyday life and a piece of distinctive identity, bringing sweet magic and devastating devastation. The “Föhn” is an archaic, cyclical weather and drama of the Swiss cultural landscape that has always helped shape its uniqueness. Surprisingly, one hardly finds this theme in the world of music and theater. Musician and director Christian Zehnder wants to remedy this situation: his interdisciplinary music theater project “Föhn” explores, laments and celebrates this phenomenon that is so quintessentially Swiss. Swiss author Urs Widmer has written especially for this project, the myth of the “Föhn” in the Swiss Alps, which is still unwritten in the alpine cultural landscape.

Carina Braunschmidt, Martin Hug, Hans Rudolf Twerenbold – actors
man’s choir (dir: Fritz Näf)

text: Urs Widmer
concept, direction, room concept: Christian Zehnder
co-composition: Christian Zehnder
choreographie: Theresa Rotemberg
costumes: Karen Feelizitas Petermann
sound: Amadis Brugnoni
lighting: Makus Küry