Ensemble Musikfabrik - known at that time as Musikfabrik NRW - was created through the initiative of the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Culture and the encouragement of Gerhard Stäbler, Nicolaus A. Huber, Bernhard Wambach and Johannes Kalitzke. The former Prime Minister Johannes Rau took over the patronage of the new ensemble.
Photo: Ensemble Musikfabrik
© Gudrun Webel
The first public appearance of Ensemble Musikfabrik was as part of the Witten Days for New Chamber Music performing the piece „Salto. Trapez. Ikarus“ by Johannes Kalitzke. In restrospect, Kalitzke said, „I like to think back on the development of the piece, because it was carried by the euphoria that accompanied the founding of the ensemble - it was stimulating to write for a group of curious and motivated soloists. With all due respect to the experienced playing techniques of today's orchestras and ensembles in general, with the ensemble you could really enjoy the energy of a new beginning as an extraordinary situation - in spite of the unavoidable growing pains.“
Ensemble Musikfabrik presented its first musical theater production at the Witten Days for New Chamber Music: Franz Martin Olbrisch's „Der gebrochene Spiegel“ (The Broken Mirror).
In the same year, the ensemble gave its first concert at the Donaueschinger Festival and opened the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music. Concerts, where the musicians „developed their own ensemble aesthetic,“ „an unusually present, vitale, hyper-expressive, yes - analog to the aesthetics of the 'Junge Wilde' in the art world - 'wild' sound aesthetics unfolded“ (Reinhard Oehlschlägel).
Kagel's relationship with the Ensemble Musikfabrik began in 1996, a friendship he liked to refer to as heartfelt „chumminess.“ It was a relationship based on many performances together: whether in the musty living room of the old jazz singer John Blue, or on the stage for a concert farce of „Divertimento?“, the ensemble has literally traveled in all directions of the compass performing his „Stücke der Windrose,“ or "Pieces of the Compass Rose."
His legacy and final work, based on the verses of Heinrich Heine's „Aus der Matratzengruft“, was first performed by the ensemble posthumously and in his dedication.
„The sight of so many details was unforgettable, such as the transformation of music stands into music hangers (for when the musicians performed while lying on their backs), the dialogue between a musician and a glowing hole in the ground (in reality a piece of fallen and illuminated music paper) or the scene where a performer is beaten up, clothed in nothing but percussion instruments.“ (DIE ZEIT 10/05/96)
The premier of Friederich Schenker's stage work at the Witten Days of New Chamber Music was unforgettable for the musicians of Ensemble Musikfabrik as well, as under the direction of Reinhild Hoffman, it was the first time that they worked with a choreographer.
Karlheinz Stockhausen was and continues to be one of the most influential composers in the history of the ensemble as well. Intense and challenging rehearsals for the premiere of the Rotary Quintet or for the CD production of MOMENTE defined the close collaboration. As a result, part of the ensemble was in constant exchange over many years with the master from Kürten.
Karlheinz Stockhausen © Klaus Rudolph
Rehearsal for the Rotary Quintett © private
TakeOver Of the
In the beginning, the ensemble's artistic development lay with the executive committee members Nicolaus A. Huber, Johannes Kalitzke, Gerhard Stäbler and Bernhard Wambach. Originally like an orchestra on a small scale - with same hierarchical structures - there was a fundamental reset after the first years of discovery and development. In 1997 the musicians took their fate into their own hands - and as a result, Ensemble Musikfabrik really took off.
Through the production ASK LITTLE AUTO WHERE IT WANTS TO TAKE YOU with works by John Cage and staged by Reinhild Hoffmann, a new self-understanding of the contemporary soloist became apparent.
Whether as mimes, speakers, with toy instruments or as a stage technician - the soloists of Ensemble Musikfabrik rehearsed in an eight-week long work phase and through countless concerts their exit from automated production processes.
For the production of „Schichtwechsel“ by the composer of Manos Tsangaris - and on behalf of the Schauspiel Köln - Ensemble Musikfabrik confiscated the Halle Kalk theater. A dancer took on the roll of conductor, while the „music workers“ were allowed to experience one of the great music-theatrical evenings of the ensemble's first decade wearing the overalls of construction workers.
With the move from Düsseldorf to Cologne, initially in the industrial area of Maarweg in Cologne-Ehrenfeld, the ensemble finally found its home in the tradition-steeped city. The former pressing plant of EMI Electrola was Musikfabrik's first address - a provisional arrangement that lasted for several years.
2002 also saw the beginning of an extensive involvement with concert educational formats. Beginning with the first workshops linked to concert programs, the Academy Musikfabrik has since developed into a wide music education and hands-on program for different target and age groups.
In the production of "Insideout" by Sasha Waltz and Rebecca Saunders, the soloists of the Ensemble Musikfabrik were in direct contact with the audience, acting as living sculptures and a defining part of the staging. The co-production with the steirischer herbst and the Berlin Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz was a hit, and has been performed over 100 times since its premiere in Graz.
2003 began a new chapter for Ensemble Musikfabrik with the start of its own world premiere concert series, „Musikfabrik im WDR“ Then for the first time, the ensemble had found a fixed place to present its work: the large broadcasting hall of the WDR.
Here the ensemble presents new ideas and projects four times a year. This is made possible not only thanks to the partners WDR and KölnMusik, but especially by the generous support of the „Kunststiftung NRW“, through which over 60 premieres have been created up to this time.
FOunding Of the
BOard Of Trustees
The board of trustees has been advising the ensemble since 2005, providing essential support in politics and culture. Founding members were Dr. Norbert Lammert, president of the German parliament, Louwrens Langevoort, director of the Cologne Philharmonie, Edith Müller, vice-president of the NRW parliament, ret., Marc Jan Eumann, then deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group NRW und Chris Schmidt-Hofmann, representative of the state chancellery.
The board of trustees currently addresses the concerns of the ensemble under the chairmanship of Oliver Keymis, vice-president of the NRW Parliment.
Ensemble Musikfabrik performed in New York for the first time in 2005 with „Shelter“, written by Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe (Libretto: Deborah Artman, Film: Bill Morrison). At the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the ensemble offered with American Minimalism refuge, sanctuary, protection - everything that defines „Shelter“. An export of the series „Musikfabrik in WDR“, where the scenic oratorio had its premiere in the same year.
The mOve intO
In 2008, Ensemble Musikfabrik found its permanent home in Cologne Mediapark, moving from the industrial area into the heart of the city. Even though the ensemble began to settle down, its touring activities intensified. In Stockhausen's „MICHAELS REISE UM DIE ERDE“, the ensemble flew with the angel-prince Michael from Stockhausen's opera-cycle „LICHT“ through seven stations around the world. This celebrated initial collaboration with the theater group La Fura Del Baus became an important tour for the ensemble - „Stockhausen on his way into Pop Culture“ headlined the FAZ.
Founded in 2006 from the State Music Council NRW, Studio Musikfabrik has been under the direction of Ensemble Musikfabrik since 2009 - and is therefore the only youth ensemble that has the infrastructure of a professional working ensemble with the corresponding team associated with it. The professional musicians are available to the young musicians as teachers, giving them expert advice and assistance. Studio Musikfabrik has been building its international network for over 10 years, traveling to Southeast Asia and the U.S.A., and in 2012 was the first youth ensemble to ever perform at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music.
Video: Hans Werner Henze - GISELA!
Since 2010, Ensemble Musikfabrik has been releasing the highlights of the many world premieres from the concert series "Musikfabrik in WDR" through „Edition Musikfabrik“ from WERGO. While at first only 7 CDs were planned, we are to thank the continued support of the Arts Foundation NRW and the success of the series - the first CD was awarded the ECHO-Classic prize in 2011- for its continuation. And not only that: starting with the 8th release, Gerhard Richter's paintings have been gracing the CD booklets.
KLANG (SOUND) -
THE 24 HOURS OF THE DAY
As part of the „MusikTriennale“, known today as the „ACHT BRÜCKEN Festival“, Ensemble Musikfabrik presented for the first time Karlheinz Stockhausen's final work series, KLANG THE 24 HOURS OF THE DAY, which was unfinished due to his death. With 175 performances over 2 days, the busy visitors had the unique chance to hear all 21 composed „hours of the day“ in nine different venues throughout Cologne.
„THANK YOU once again for a fantastic concert! I'm so excited every time, and go home after the concerts in high spirits and very inspired!“
In October 2011, Ensemble Musikfabrik sent out the first invitations for „Monday Concerts in the Musikfabrik.“ The Montagskonzerte programs are curated by individual musicians of the ensemble, where as artistic personalities they can show their aesthetic and intellectual preferences. The concerts are free of charge as a token of thanks to the friends of Ensemble Musikfabrik.
For most people, SUNDAY is a day of rest. Also for Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose SONNTAG (SUNDAY) from his opera series LICHT (LIGHT) is completely devoted to the adoration and celebration of the creation. The theatrical world premier in the Kölner Staatenahus - the first collaboration between Ensemble Musikfabrik and the Cologne Opera - in the production of Carlos Padrissa of the theater collective La Fura dels Baus, became an event discussed worldwide.
Video: Sunday of Light - Trailer
In 2012, Ensemble Musikfabrik established the young-talent program Composer Collider. In the program, composition students and graduates work together with ensemble musicians on their own pieces. The collaboration with a professional ensemble and conductor enables the young composers to develop and professionalize their compositional first drafts, focusing their work on the extended playing techniques of the individual instruments.
Video: Multiphonics for Flute with Helen Bledsoe
Harry Partch created a highly complex tonal system which divides the octave into 43 pitches, making the realization of his music impossible using classical instruments. The only complete set of original instruments developed by Harry Partch is found in Seattle at the School of Music at the University of Washington, a fact which has made one of the forefathers of microtonal music almost unknown in Europe. For the occasion of the premiere of Partch's masterpiece „Delusion of the Fury“ at the Ruhrtriennale in 2013, the entire microtonal instruments - more than 50 string, bell and keyboard instruments - as well as smaller hand instruments - were recreated for Ensemble Musikfabrik under the direction of Thomas Meixner: „a job somewhere between self-abnegation, applied physics and an acoustical Himalaya expedition“ (DIE ZEIT). This mammoth project was supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the „Kunstsstiftung NRW“.
Video: Harry Partch Project
„Partch loved the physical presence of his contraptions, and he expected the musicians to act, hum and sing as well, a request that Ensemble Musikfabrik, as an wildly animated gang of fabulous individuals, magnificently fulfills.“ Süddeutsche Zeitung, 26.8.2013
In 2013, Heiner Goebbels staged the groundbreaking prelude to further performances of Harry Partch's Delusion of the Fury – A Ritual of Dream and Delusion (1965-66) with the European premiere at the opening of the Ruhrtriennale. In „Delusion of the Fury“, the key work and musical quintessence of Harry Partch‘s oeuvre, Ensemble Musikfabrik becomes the collective protagonist of a musical theater scenery where most prominently the unusual instruments, but also the actions of the instrumentalists on the stage, present the unique cosmos of Harry Partch.
Video: The Staging of Delusion of the Fury
Label Musikfabrik was founded in 2014. At the online music label, current productions from the Ensemble Musikfabrik recording studio are made accessible to the listener through a mouse click. With now 31 published recordings, including works by Helmut Lachenmann, Rebecca Saunders, John Cage and Mauricio Kagel, Label Musikfabrik offers a musical range that is as multifaceted as our repertoire.
Since January 2015, Campus Musikfabrik - the creative educational and research program of Ensemble Musikfabrik - has been inviting composers, musicians, artists and concert organizers to several work phases throughout the year to collaborate in open constellations. Made possible by the Arts Foundation NRW, Campus Musikfabrik is an open platform, where in laboratory-like rehearsal situations interdisciplinary ways of working together can be found without the pressure of performance.
Its a great luxury as well as a great necessity for a contemporary music ensemble to be able to explore new concepts and creative encounters without the constraints of the market. With its concerts, lectures and discussions, Campus Musikfabrik is also open to the public.
tuning the cOsmOs
For the first time in Europe through the reconstruction of the Partch instruments, Ensemble Musikfabrik made it possible to discover the fascinating and exotic oeuvre of Harry Partch. The ensemble takes it a step further with pitch 43_tuning the cosmos : composers get the chance to study and compose new works for the unique instruments. The project is a showcase and laboratory at the same time: the presentation of an almost unknown and extremely colorful musical facet of 20th century contemporary music, and a highly topical look at the way young composers of the 21st century engage with the musical heritage of Harry Partch.
TreE Of COdES
„How do the inheritances of our genes, our stories and the unconscious beliefs passed down through generations, shape who we are, our desires, our curses?“ This is the question asked in the music-theater piece Tree of Codes by Liza Lim, that celebrated its premiere at the Cologne Opera in 2016. A production that, after the years-long collaboration between the composer, the director Massimo Furlan and his team, and the ensemble with all its special talents and instruments, was practically tailor-made for the ensemble. The result was „an exciting discovery for music theater, cleverly conceived and with an eminent sensuality of sound.“ (Deutschlandradio Kultur)
Video: Liza Lim - Tree of Codes
Ensemble Musikfabrik celebrates its 25th birthday in particular with a series of concerts in its hometown. One highlight is the world premiere of RICHTERS PATTERNS in the Cologne Philharmonie. Cooperations such as these, with the artist Gerhard Richter or with Alexandra Waierstall for a new choreography for John Cage's 16 Dances, provides impetus for interdisciplinary and collaborative creative processes.