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MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund)

Alpentöne - Highlights from the festival ’05

One more Tequilla [4:21]
Pascal Schaer (trombone, alphorn, electronics), Baba Konate (percussion), Lars Lindwall (trombone), Cyril Moulas (piano)
Joseph BOVET

Là-haut sur la montagne [3:34]
Sweg: Myrta Amstad, Veronika Stadler, David Brühlmann, Michael Leherbauer (vocals), Peter Sigrist (leader)

Quecksilber Schottisch [3:15]
Lucerne Chamber Brass: Basil Hubatka, Martin Bieri (trumpets), Philipp Schulze (horn), Pirmin Ruhrer (trombone), Daniel Schädeli (tuba)

frEUde herrsCHt [5:44]
Zurich Jazz Orchestra: Jürg Morgenthaler, Reto Suhner, Christoph Grab, Roland von Flüe, Lukas Heuss (saxophones), Osvaldo Aden, Daniel Schenker, Bernhard Schoch, Wolfgang Häuptli (trumpets), Vincent Lachat, Bernhard Bamert, Andreas Tschopp, Don Randolph (trombones), Andy Harder (piano), Kalli Gerhards (double bass), Pius Baschnagel (drums)/Frank Sikora

Karump [1:55]
Mösch [2:47]
Hujässler: Daniel Häusler (clarinet), Markus Flückiger (schwyzerörgeli), Reto Kamer (piano), Sepp Huber (double bass)

Guggisberglied [5:00]
Orchester Bürger Kreitmeier: Conny Kreitmeier (vocals), Norbert Bürger (various)
Pierre FAVRE

La musique des Vilains (excerpt) [7:14]
Hélène Breschand (harp), Frank Kroll (saxophone), Michel Godard (tuba, serpent), Philipp Schaufelberger (guitar), Bänz Oester (double bass), Wolfgang Zwiauer (electric bass), Pierre Favre (percussion), ARTE Saxofon-Quartett (Beat Hofstetter, Sascha Armbruster, Andrea Formenti, Beat Kappeler)
Michelle DeFALQUE

Quatember [2:47]
Sait’n’Sang: Michelle DeFalque (vocals), Adelina Filli (double bass)

Ajde Jano [3:48]
Terrafolk: Bojan Cvetreznik (violin), Danijel Cerne (guitar), Marko Hatlak (accordion), Janez Dovc (double bass)
Alexander PAEFFGEN

Niessen [2:14]
Piraten [4:25]
Gilbert Paeffgen Plus: Hans Peter Pfammatter (piano), Urban Lienert (bass), Gilbert Paeffgen (hackbrett), Martin Hägler (percussion), Joe Mc Hugh (flutes, bagpipe)

Die stolze Müllerin [6:09]
Bergerausch: Bettina Klöti (vocals), Vera Kappeler (piano)

Guggisberglied [3:52]
Banda Mattotti: Marta Mattotti (vocals), Paolo Mattotti (guitar, vocals), Badi Scarpa (violin), Claudio Capelli (percussion), Gianluca Zanier (bass, vocals)

Meeting [6:36]
Adrabesa Quartet: Vasko Atanasovski (saxophone), Simone Zanchini (accordion), Roberto Bartoli (bass), Krunoslav Lavacic (percussion)

Le voci delle stagioni: Movement 4: Il tempo è rigoroso e dirann she vento e gel (excerpt) [10:03]
Pietro Bianchi (drehleier, violin, accordion, vocals), Ilario Garbani Marcantini (bagpipe, flute, accordion, vocals), Carlo Bava (bagpipe, saxophone, vocals), Stefano Fedele (mandolin, vocals), Cristina Bianchi (guitar, vocals), Domenico Ceresa (bass), Oliviero Giovannoni (percussion, vocals); Coro di Bavona; String Quartet Ars Moderna (Barbara Ciannamea, Fabio Arnaboldi, Gianpaolo Guatteri, Claude Hauri/Pietro Viviani

Guggisberglied [3:20]
Heimatflimmern: Josef Brustmann (bass), Jürg Kienberger (percussion), Klaus Trabitsch (piano)
rec. in August 2005 in Switzerland

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The mix is pretty much the same as with its two predecessor discs (also reviewed here). This is the latest in a series of discs offering highlights from the annual Pro Helvetia annual festival inaugurated in 1999. The music encompasses wide variety of styles and genres. Music with its roots in the Middle Ages, traditional songs and dances jostle with newly written compositions, some of them commissioned by the cultural foundation Pro Helvetia.

What all this music has in common is an approach marked out by open-mindedness, devotion and joy. Even without the visual experience one feels that these musicians love what they are doing and they manage to communicate this to their audiences. Whether or not you like what you hear is of less importance. Music should be alive and these 78 minutes are so full of life – and joy – that you feel almost exhausted after the listening session. This is not going to be a strict, unbiased assessment of what took place during three days last August; rather it will be a summation of personal reactions to what I hear and an attempt to describe what the potential buyer can expect.

The opening number brings us straight into the heart of the Alps with the help of Pascal Schaer’s Alphorn. This magnificent instrument is several metres long and its sound can carry across many kilometres. Originally it was used when distant shepherds needed to communicate. The sound can feel exotic but the Swiss are not alone in using similar instruments; in northern Scandinavia, for instance, birch-bark horns were used for the same purpose; they were smaller but still possessing a penetrating tone that could be heard at long distances. The Swiss instrument has a more cavernous sound and can trigger the imagination to believe that this might be the sound of the dinosaur. After this long introduction the rest of the group joins in with a jazzy end. What the tequila has to do in the Alps is beyond my knowledge – I would have believed Jägerte a more suitable drink. In Là-haut sur la montagne we remain in the higher regions. This is a lovely song, gently rocking with excellent part singing, then they change gear to more up-tempo swing. There’s some improvised solo singing à la Ella Fitzgerald and a Jew’s harp drones in the background.

The five members of the Lucerne Chamber Brass have a field day in their charmingly noisy Quecksilber Schottisch. Towards the end they accelerate until the mercury literally runs over, causing a commotion in the audience in this live recording. Music can be great fun!

The Zurich Jazz Orchestra is a punchy big band in the traditional mould but the composition is something more than traditional. I can’t help quoting the booklet text:

"In 2005, the whole of Europe has committed itself to being a single union of peoples, to new departures, to renewal, to the future. But a little spot at the heart of the continent, peopled by unbending mountain dwellers, offers bitter resistance to everything foreign. Together with them, the Swiss National Anthem sets itself stubbornly against every outside influence. But what began in the year 1291 finds a conciliatory ending 265 bars later. The spirit of Helvetia rears up, overcomes fears of contamination, and allies itself with Beethoven’s Ninth, pointing the way forward to a new kind of sound, and leading the league of many nations into a highly promising future."

Let me just add that after the solemn brass sounds that open the composition, with quotations from La Marseillaise and other tunes, we are given a swinging jazz gig with influences from Count Basie, Andrea Gabrieli and Gil Evans. They even manage to sneak in a quote from Gaudeamus igitur.

Hujässler play genuine Swiss folk music with clarinet and accordion. Joyful! Conny Kreitmeier sings sexily in the first version of the Guggisberglied, which is to return in a couple of other disguises. She is closely miked, one can hear her breathing, and according to the booklet the sight of her "with her slit dress, her tight bodices and her legs in nylon" must have been even more breathtaking.

Percussionist Pierre Favre dominates his own composition La musique des Vilains – a many faceted composition with echoes of both Michael Nyman and John Coltrane. Michelle DeFalque, backed up by a sole double bass, indulges in something that could be at least distantly related to yodelling, while Terrafolk, from Slovenia, offers possibly the most beautiful music on the whole disc, the violin played with biting intensity in the lowest register. Gilbert Paeffgen is a true virtuoso on the old Hungarian instrument cimbalom (Hackbrett in German) and this group shows that it is possible to swing the music on instruments rarely associated with jazz.

Die stolze Müllerin first appears in 1430 in a Strasbourg manuscript. Here it is performed as a jazz ballad and there are fascinating contrasts between the sophisticated piano (à la George Shearing) and Bettina Klöti’s singing, now raw, now almost whispering.

Banda Mattotti from Friuli in northern Italy mix traditional and modern and it is again fascinating - I feel I am over-using the word - to hear the folk-music violin juxtaposed with the electric guitar.

In Track 15 we get another dose of Slovenian music with Vasko Atanasovski’s saxophone backed up by Simone Zanchini’s jazzy accordion – two real virtuosos!

Wintry winds are blowing in the excerpt from Pietro Viviani’s large composition "The voices of the Seasons". There is a timeless quality here with chorus a cappella performing music based on old songs and dances. Contrasting with this, but also bridging the centuries, is a section with plaintive bagpipes accompanying a solo saxophone. Ancient string instruments lend further Medieval character to this truly fascinating - there again! - piece.

A third version of the Guggisberglied rounds off this sampler of what was going on during the festival. One is never in any doubt that this is music created today with a tonal language easily recognisable to modern people but with fully visible roots in all directions. This is unpredictable music – sometimes sublime, sometimes violent, sometimes beautiful, sometimes even slightly repulsive – but never for a moment dull. Something for unprejudiced listeners. A month ago this year’s festival was held. I’m already waiting for the CD. In the meantime the present one will certainly get into my player more than once.

Göran Forsling

Highlights of 2003 Festival


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