Alpentöne – a festival documentation


The Alps are his topic: Christian Zehnder here sets out on a musical tour of one of Switzerland’s most exciting festivals.

Johannes Rühl - 2020-09-11
Alpentöne – a festival documentation - Christian Zehnder. Alpentöne - eine Festivaldokumentation. Printscreen
Christian Zehnder. Alpentöne - eine Festivaldokumentation. Printscreen

Film: Production SRF/Kultur, “Sternstunde Musik” (Switzerland, 52’, 2017) - In German only

The Swiss music festival Alpentöne is a meeting point for virtuosic and innovative music from all over the Alpine regions. The vocal acrobat Christian Zehnder is at home in this Alpine habitat, and here takes us on a tour around this festival in Altdorf. 
The Alpentöne festival sets the capital city of Canton Uri aquiver with homely yet innovative sounds. Here, voices and instrumentalists come together to offer new interpretations of folk music that are characterised by both an awareness of tradition and a striving for innovation. Christian Zehnder is an overtone singer and a “prospector” of things traditional who is himself a Helvetic legend. He here leads us through three days of Alpentöne: as a musician who performs there himself, as a close colleague of many other musicians on the programme, and as a researcher into the yodelling world of the “Juuz” who inspires his audiences to their own vocal acrobatics. 


Excerpts of the following concerts can be seen:

Erika Stucky, Andreas Scholl, FM Einheit (CH/D)
La Cetra Baroque Orchestra Basel

PAPITO – A mixed grill with Baroque musicians 
“Papito” is a homage to her father. It’s very dark – say the critics. But she doesn’t think so, not at all. Says Erika Stucky. It’s a Stucky Gesamtkunstwerk. She shows films, videos, collages, makes silhouettes, sings and moves through the billowing musical backdrop of the evening. She is supported by the Grammy-nominated Baroque orchestra LA CETRA from Basel and FM Einheit (of the Berlin band “Einstürzende Neubauten”). The result is a fascinating show that you can simply drift through.
Erika Stucky (voice, accordion, film), Andreas Scholl (countertenor), FM Einheit (percussion, sounds, electronics), Knut Jensen (conductor, electronics), La Cetra Baroque Orchestra Basel: Eva Saladin, Sarah Giger (violins), Francesca Benetti (theorbo), Bernadette Köbele (cello), Federico Abraham (double bass), Johannes Keller (harpsichord)

Herbert Pixner Project (A)
Finest handcrafted music from the Alps
Herbert Pixner was born in Merano in 1975, the son of a mountain farmer. He is a master on the Styrian diatonic harmonica and a multi-instrumentalist who also plays the clarinet, saxophone, flugelhorn and trumpet. Herbert Pixner and the double bass player Werner Unterlercher have been the mainstay of this “Project” since studying together at the Innsbruck Conservatory. Herbert Pixner’s sister Heidi adds rhythmic, Romantic cascades on the harp; there is no percussion. Manuel Randi on the guitar brings a touch of world music, and hits a nerve with the audience – jazz phrasings are here mixed up with French Manouche swing, flamenco and rock. 
Herbert Pixner (diatonic harmonica, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, flugelhorn), Manuel Randi (guitars), Heidi Pixner (Tyrolean folk harp), Werner Unterlercher (double bass) 

Outi Pulkkinen, Mariana Sadovska, Nadja Räss (FIN/CH/UKR)
Three voices, three traditions 
Three fascinating voices and three countries here merge into a single whole. This project was conceived at the music festival “Naturstimmen im Toggenburg”, which used to be directed by the singer Nadja Räss (herself a performer with fingers in many pies). The musical rapprochement that is achieved here doesn’t just burst open linguistic boundaries. The way these singers interpret the music by the Swiss musician Markus Flückiger is quite unique. Their musical basis lies in the traditions of their respective home countries, Switzerland, Ukraine and Finland: namely yodelling, “white voice”, and runic singing, around which Markus Flückiger has spun his melodies. These compositions bring three vocal traditions closer to each other and lead them to a subtle unity. The result is astonishing in its sound colours, which range from the traditional to the innovative and the contemporary. 
Outi Pulkkinen (voice, “Juohikko”), Nadja Räss (voice), Mariana Sadovska (voice, harmonium) 


Mortazavi Lechner
Anja Lechner & Alireza Mortazavi (D/IRAN) 
The spectrum of Anja Lechner’s music ranges from regular solo performances in international orchestras to overarching projects at the interface of different cultures, genres and styles. Her more than 20 recordings for the ECM label speak for themselves. She became well known to a broader public as a founding member of the Rosamunde Quartet.
Alireza Mortazavi comes from the city of Isfahan in Iran, of which a saying goes that it is “half the world”. This city of culture from the “Thousand and one nights” remains today an ideal environment for studying classical Persian music. Later, Alireza Mortazavi went to Italy in order to learn Western music theory and composition. 
Anja Lechner (cello), Alireza Mortazavi (santur)


Pago Libre and the Alpentöne wind orchestra (CH/RUS/F/D/IRL)
got hard
For this fifth production of the festival orchestra, the Irish-Swiss composer and pianist John Wolf Brennan was asked to write an hour-long composition and to rehearse it with the orchestra and soloists. For this, he was able to get big names on board who have often engaged with the Alps in their own musical oeuvres. 
Arkady Shilkloper is regarded as simply one of the best alphorn players around; the Alps have for years been a challenge and a source of inspiration to Christian Zehnder. The guitarist Christy Doran comes from Ireland, like John Wolf Brennan, but he is an old hand on the Swiss jazz scene who has been involved in many Alpine programmes at the Alpentöne festival.
Pago Libre: Arkady Shilkloper (alphorn, horn), Florian Mayer (violin), John Wolf Brennan (piano, melodica), Tom Götze (double bass), guest soloists: Christian Zehnder (voice), Christy Doran (guitar), Patrice Héral (percussion), students of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, the Alpentöne wind orchestra
Directed by: Philip Gisler, Michel Truniger


Ambäck (CH)
mues wie’s isch
Malicious gossip has it that the Muotha valley in Canton Schwyz is a geographical and cultural dead-end, inhabited by obstinate, eccentric natives. But in fact, this valley belongs to one of the most interesting musical regions in Switzerland.
Few people know that a unique type of music had its heyday 100 years ago, up there in that isolated mountain valley: unwieldy, earthy dance music with violin, schwyzerörgeli and double bass. It is this instrumental combination that makes up the masterly trio of Markus Flückiger, Andreas Gabriel and Pirmin Huber. Although the basis of their music is old, these musicians make it sound perfectly fresh and contemporary. This densely packed music bubbles joyfully in cascades over rugged mountainsides, down into the valley. Meanwhile, the Trio Ambäck has developed into one of the best ensembles on the new Swiss folk music scene.
Andreas Gabriel (violin), Markus Flückiger (schwyzerörgeli), Pirmin Huber (double bass)


Heinz Holliger: Alb-Chehr (CH) 
Helena Winkelman: Ronde des Lutins (CH)
From the mid-1970s onwards, the Oberwalliser Spillit caused a real stir with their clarinet and dulcimer and their newly developed instruments such as the “Tenundi Titschini” (a tuned wooden drum). Their playing was full of good humour and displayed a captivating enthusiasm. While these “Spillit” – “minstrels” – devoted themselves to the old tunes and dances of Switzerland, they were far removed from any musty, conservative Swissness. And they proved that folk music and the avant-garde can be reconciled, by getting contemporary composers to write new works just for them. Such as Heinz Holliger. In Alb-Chehr, he set a legend from Canton Valais to music about two shepherds and a cranky dairy farmer who come upon music-making spirits; the tale ends with the death of the dairy farmer. Shortly after the Oberwalliser Spillit split up in the year 2001, the clarinettist Elmar Schmid founded the ensemble “sCHpillit”, which here comes together once more to play Holliger’s “classic” work and also to present a brand-new work by the composer and violinist Helena Winkelman.
sCHpillit: Rahel Cunz (violin), Käthy Steuri (double bass), Matthias Würsch (dulcimer), Christoph Pfändler (dulcimer), Sabine Gertschen (clarinet), Domenic Janett (clarinet), Ernst Rohrer (accordion), Hermann Lehner (accordion)
Chorus of spirits: Peter Siegwart (director, 1st bass), Reto Hofstetter (1st tenor), Daniel Bentz (2nd tenor), Thomas Leu (3rd tenor), Daniel Leo Meier (4th tenor), Chasper Mani (2nd bass), Jan Siegwart (3rd bass), Tiago Mota (4th bass), speaker: Dani Mangisch 
In collaboration with the LUCERNE FESTIVAL