Switzerland – in artistic terms it’s a country of mavericks and tinkerers, where much takes place in seemingly narrow, closed-off realms after the manner of Robert Walser. This has its own particular charm, though it makes it less easy to bring its culture to broader attention on the other side of the border. I have sketched out this cultural background before in several articles, and it is with this in mind that I have to confess to being so surprised and delighted by this new “Grammont Sélection”. The works to be heard here, which were all given their world premières between July 2015 and March 2017, offer hardly any common denominator, and they thoroughly contradict the picture of the Swiss scene that I have described above.
Peter Conradin Zumthor - Solo Drums
The Swiss successors to the Cage/Feldman line are not represented here, nor are the older creators of concept music, nor the New Conceptualists after the manner of Johannes Kreidler, nor the practitioners of installation or performance art, religious music, music theatre, nor those influenced by Lachenmann. The big international names of the Swiss scene are also almost completely absent here – those “old masters” whom we naturally continue to revere … To be sure, one could have made a selection in which several of them were represented, but the Grammont Consortium decided differently – and the results are highly stimulating.
Daniel Zea - Pocket Enemy
So is this selection unrepresentative in that it does not encompass the broader spectrum, or has something here changed? The first statement is true, of course – but so is the second, thank goodness. These works of music come together to form a new, different, overall impression of the Swiss scene. There is a tangible strength here – not always demonstrative of the joys of hope, but indubitably obsessive, with a freshness and assertiveness in setting out on new paths, abandoning the hitherto caution that at times has been excessive. [...]
The Grammont Series
The Grammont stands at 2172 metres above sea level in the Savoy Alps on the eastern tip of Lake Geneva, just inside Swiss territory. It was painted by Ferdinand Hodler, and you can see it from Lausanne on a clear day – in fact, you can see it from the Avenue du Grammont (which isn’t really a proper avenue at all), where SUISA, the Swiss music rights organisation, has its French-Swiss headquarters. In the same house, No. 11bis, are the premises of the venerable Swiss Musicians’ Association that in late 2017 joined together with two other professional associations (the Swiss Music Syndicate SMS – which represents jazz and improvisation – and Musikschaffende Schweiz MSS, which is for pop and rock musicians). The joint organisation is now called “Sonart”.
The view from the windows was obviously inspiring back in 1978 when a name had to be found for a new series of record portraits of Swiss composers. By the year 2016, this “Grammont Series” had reached over a hundred CDs. Whoever had composed a respectable, recognised body of work was given the chance of getting a CD of his works, at least once in his or her life. This composer series was later complemented by a series of performers’ portraits – and from 2008 onwards, the Grammont “Sélection” began to be released, comprising a number of the most interesting Swiss world premières from a single calendar year. The “Consortium for the Promotion of Swiss Music”, however, has been in existence for somewhat longer. […]
In late 2016, the Migros Cooperative announced that it was going to cease all production of its label Musiques Suisses on account of sinking sales figures. The back catalogue is still available. But this does not mean that the Consortium is giving up its work. Pro Helvetia, the FONDATION SUISA, Swiss Radio and TV (SRG) and “Sonart” are continuing to work together. [...] – Thomas Meyer
An initial result of this continued collaboration is the Grammont Sélection 9, which you can now find at swissmusic.ch under LISTEN. The playlist and the double CD Grammont Sélection 9 contain excerpts from works by Dieter Ammann, Oscar Bianchi, Carlo Ciceri, Antoine Fachard, Walter Feldmann, Edu Haubensak, Stefan Keller, Thomas Kessler, Ezko Kikoutchi, Kimmig–Studer–Zimmerlin, Michael Pelzel, Katharina Rosenberger and Daniel Zea.
The complete text by Thomas Meyer, with background information on the works featured on the Grammont Sélection 9, on their composers and on the history of the Grammont Series, was published (in German) in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 2018/1 and in Dissonance / Dissonanz – Schweizer Musikzeitschrift für Forschung und Kreation 2018/1. Both journals are issued with the double CD as a free supplement. An online version of the original article in German is available here.
The Grammont Sélection 9 can also be ordered as a double CD set, free of charge, from www.prohelvetia.ch. – Editor's notes