“Many of these musical jewels have fallen into obscurity, but I believe that they deserve our attention. Not only because they are exemplary for the great tradition of Jewish violin music, but also because they open doors to the inner world of artists who are continuously torn between creativity and insecurity – a topic which is more relevant than ever.”
For violinist Anne Battegay and conductor Marc-Olivier Oetterli, this album is something truly meaningful because the recorded works, most of them written by Jewish composers, reflect Anne Battegay’s own cultural background. Many of the pieces had to date only existed in versions for chamber music instrumentation. Anne Battegay initiated their arrangement for orchestra. For this recording with the Kurpfälzische Kammerorchester Mannheim, Marc-Olivier Oetterli carefully listened to the performance of the Swiss violinist with Jewish roots.
“I wanted to understand how she phrases and where she goes. How she searches for sound and makes her instrument sing,” describes Marc-Olivier Oetterli his personal approach to this “new” music. During the recording sessions in late March 2022 in the Epiphanias Church in Mannheim, the air was filled with enthusiasm. Many of the orchestra musicians had never before encountered this repertoire. For Battegay and Oetterli, too, studying works by Albena Petrovic, Lukas Medlam, and Alessandro Tardino, which had been newly arranged for orchestra, was an incredibly enriching experience. Possibilities for musical expression and the spectrum of sound variety were significantly expanded in this new orchestral setting, especially through the introduction of the harp.
From an early age, Anne Battegay has felt magically drawn to the musical traditions of her ancestors, particularly when it comes to the violin’s role as an
expressive “singing” medium. So she embarked on a search for traces, a discovery tour to Vienna. In the early 20th century, towards the tail end of the fin de siècle, Vienna was a veritable Melting Pot of cultural, philosophical, and musical trends that originated out of and were inspired by Judaism. They provide the underlying programmatic idea for this album.
Could a virtuosically played violin ever project more passion than in Josef Achron’s short, poignant pieces “Jewish Lullaby” and “Jewish Melody”? Anne Battegay turns her instrument into a spiritual singing voice. The melodies on which Josef Achron based these works come from the Hassidic tradition. In this religious-mystical current of Judiasm, music is understood as being of divine origin. Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei” is a liturgical composition which traces the Jewish prayer at the eve of Yom Kippur. Here, too, melodies originating from cantors singing in synagogues provide the musical basis. Sergey Prokofiev wrote an overture based on Hebrew themes. Likewise, Maurice Ravel engaged with a Jewish prayer, the Kaddish, and adapted the prayer’s speech rhythm for musical writing. The solo violin takes on the “speaking” part. What Anne Battegay finds particularly fascinating about this work is that this prayer of mourning also marks a vibrant hymn for life. Fritz Kreisler can’t be forgotten when we talk about the special Viennese atmosphere of the previous turn of the century. His “Marche miniature viennois” is among the great (re-)discoveries on this recording.
Born in Zurich in 1988 into a traditional Jewish family, Anne Battegay grew up in Zurich, Washington D.C., and Basel. She began playing violin at age six. After matriculation from Musik-Gymnasium Basil, she continued her studies at the Zurich Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK) with Nora Chastain, and later in Munich with Ingolf Turban. Afterwards, she joined the Swiss Belenus Quartet and won several national and international prizes with this ensemble. Chamber music partners like Valentin Erbin, Claudius Herrmann, and Anna Malikova regularly perform on stage with this ensemble. Since 2015, Anne Battegay has been teaching classes at the Kantonsschule Züricher Unterland and at the Gymnasium Liestal. She regularly performs with the orchestra of the Zurich Opera.
Marc-Olivier Oetterli was born in Geneva. He first began playing piano when he was eleven, and he joined the boy choir of St. Urses Cathedral in Solothurn. After vocal studies at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern with Jakob Stämpfli followed classes with Margreet Honig, Alexandrina Milcheva, Jan-Hendrik Rootering and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
Early on, Marc-Olivier Oetterli combined several of his passions into a job: He is equally excited about working as a singer, conductor – and flying instructor! As bass-baritone, he performs on international stages, among others at the Opéra National de Bordeaux, Lucerne Theater, Opéra de Nantes, at the Herrenchiemsee-Festspiele and in the Prinzregententheater in Munich. He held engagements as an ensemble member at Lucerne Theater and Staatstheater Kassel. Among the more than fifty roles which Oetterli has already performed, the challenging role of Prospero in “Un Re in Ascolto” by Luciana Berio stands out. As a conductor, he has by now performed countless works from orchestra, choirs, and opera concert repertoires. He finds the personal union of singer and conductor on stage especially enjoyable – for example in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” which Oetterli performed with the Kurpfälzische Kammerorchester Mannheim. His third big passion is aviation and instructing juniors in becoming pilots.
Since its founding in the year 1952, the Kurpfälzische Kammerorchester has become well-known beyond the region for its rediscovery of the famous Mannheim School. It is a direct descendant of the famous Mannheim Hofkapelle, which was active in the time of prince-elector Carl Theodor (1724-1799). The high artistic quality of this orchestra is proven by its countless concerts throughout Germany and beyond, in concert halls like the Gasteig in Munich, Glocke in Bremen, and Frauenskirche church in Dresden, as well as invitations to national and international festivals. Thanks to concert performances, broad-casting gigs and studio recordings and special editions, many works by Mannheim School composers have once again found their way into concert programs across the globe.
Anne Battegay Violine
Francois Robin Cello
Alessandro Tardino Piano
Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim
Marc-Olivier Oetterli Conductor