The 13th edition of the GAIA Music Festival involved
22 musicians from
13 nations performing
37 works spanning
4 centuries composed by
11 composers and family dynasties in
6 concert halls
From Bach to Schönberg, Mozart to Smetana, Mendelssohn to Sukova, more than 15 hours of music were sounded to our audience. As always, that music was made in Thun, prepared during publicly accessible rehearsals that lasted morning until deep into the night.
We are hugely grateful to our generous sponsors, supporters, donors and the regional and national foundations and institutions that enable and elevate Gwendolyn Masin’s vision of a musical gathering. We thank our team, our committee, and our volunteers who, with grace and generosity of spirit, steer our festival to success.
Our festival is a place of joy, of laughter and, quite certainly, of an ocean of talent as shown again this year in the memorable performances of our musicians, the storytelling of our photographer-in-residence (Sára Erzsébet Timár), and the attention to detail – from the narrative of our programme, the description of our concerts, to the flower arrangements on our podiums.
Press reviews were favourable, citing the emotionality that this year’s programme brought forth, highlighting composers, men and women, who have stood in the shadows for decades or even centuries.
“Denn all den Schmerz, das Flehen, die Wut und die süssen Erinnerungen, die der Komponist in dieses Werk gelegt hatt, vermochten die Musizierenden in ihr Spiel zu legen.» - Christina Burghagen, Thuner Tagblatt.
Read our complete press reviews here.
We emerge energised, hopeful and emboldened following our festival, utterly convinced that music, arts, culture and an exchange between nations is part of a continuous journey in and towards global peace, emotional and intellectual prosperity and understanding.
Busily preparing for next year’s festival that takes place from 3-7 May 2023, we thank you for your attendance and your applause. We look forward to embracing you again next May when we investigate the influence of folk music from Europe on classical music.
With heartfelt thanks,
Gwendolyn, with Andreas, our team members, the GAIA committee, and our volunteers
News from the Festival
As I walk outside into glorious sunshine, early on Monday morning, the streets of Oberhofen village are devoid of traffic. I am holding my son’s hand. “Pip pip!” he calls, referring in his way to the song of a bird high above our heads in a tree. Flowers are blooming and my eyes fall on the Niesen, the local mountain that sits astride the lake of Thun, casting its reflection on the sparkling water. In front of us down the hill: Oberhofen Castle. To our right, the church of Hilterfingen.
Everything is as it usually is in the first week of May in Oberhofen. Until we hear a violinist tuning up in the chalet around the corner. We begin to walk towards Klösterli to attend the first open rehearsal of the GAIA Music Festival. Descending the hill, I hear a Mozart duo being rehearsed – the sound of the violin and viola dancing alongside one another express the composer’s sense of humour.
At the foot of the hill, we hear a cellist practicing scales. A few steps more and we enter Klösterli, where we are met by the sweet sounds of Bach’s Brandenburg concerto as seven musicians stand in a circle around a harpsichord, immersed in the music and in concentration.
It’s not just a day like any other in Thun after all. GAIA has arrived and will sound in venues alongside the lake of Thun, and in the cities of Thun and Berne until Sunday evening this week.
Join us as we, for the first time since 2019, take to the stage in “our” month of May, performing some of the most iconic and moving music in the classical repertoire, from Schönberg’s “Transfigured Night” to Mozart’s Lieder; from Dvořák’s String Quintet number 2 to Mendelssohn’s Piano Sextet. See our listings and visit our box office here.
My heart is bursting with joy and gratitude that we can finally be again. We very much hope to welcome you to the GAIA “Family” this week!
Sunday, 8 May, 6 p.m.
A concert celebrating a father, his daughter, and his son-in-law.
Josef Suk, the lesser-known composer of this programme, was a student of Dvořák. The latter had the greatest respect and a close relationship with his pupil, as evidenced by the marriage of his daughter Otilie to Suk. A work by Otilie will be performed in this concert. It is unclear whether she wrote any other works. While Dvořák is the most performed composer in the Czech Republic, Suk's development into a major composer was more restrained. The breakthrough to Suk's independent tonal language occurred only after the trauma of losing both his father-in-law, Dvořák, and his wife within one year. He then dedicated a monumental symphony to them, which he called “Asrael”. His piano quartet is an indulgent and enthusiastically musical work, typical of the Bohemian musical tradition.
I am pleased to welcome my long-standing piano partner Vera Kooper, the siblings Kirill Troussov and Alexandra Troussova, cellist Flurin Cuonz and violist Anna Brugger.
If you wish to read a recent article about this May’s edition of GAIA, please follow the link to Thuner Tagblatt/Berner Zeitung here.
For those attending our concert on Friday 6 May 2022 in Scherzligen Church at 19:30, please note that the concert will be recorded live by Radio SRF 2 Kultur.
See you very soon!
Sunday, 8 May, 11 a.m.
Is there a more famous love story amongst classical music composers than that of Clara Wieck and Johannes Brahms?
The story of Brahms, twenty years younger than Robert Schumann, is one that is rife with admiration, expectation, inspiration, loss, and longing. Schumann saw Brahms as the foremost talent of his generation. Together with Schumann’s pupil Albert Dietrich, Brahms co-wrote the four-movement “F-A-E” sonata. The dedicatee was violinist Joseph Joachim whose personal motto was “Frei aber einsam” (free but lonely).
Schumann’s wife, Clara Wieck, was a celebrated and influential pianist whose career spanned more than sixty years. She was a woman of remarkable strength and integrity, who not only raised eight children but was the main breadwinner in the Schumann household. She pioneered Schumann’s works and continued to include his works in her concert programmes after his death. To this day it is not known whether the love between Brahms and Clara Schumann was a platonic one.
Interjecting the famous trio is a famous Hungarian duo – Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. The two men bear many similarities, both being considered leading figures in the history of music.
My father, Ronald Masin, was a student of André Gertler at the Brussels Conservatory, where Wieniawski and Ysaÿe had previously taught. Gertler in turn was a close musical confidant of Bartók, performing and recording all the works written for violin, under the watchful eye of the master.
My father performs with some of his students in this concert: the violinist Gina McGuinness and violist Martin Moriarty who studied with my parents for nearly twenty years, and I.
We would also like to take this opportunity to inform you that a fascinating introduction to Thursday’s concert in Scherzligen Church will be given, free of charge, by Markus Fleck. It tells the amazing story of Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn and promises to be as exciting as it is appropriate for the theme of the evening. The introduction begins at 18:45 in the Scherzligen Church and lasts 30 minutes.
See you soon at GAIA.
Saturday, 7 May
This evening’s mosaic-like programme orbits around composers who were, during their lifetimes, heralded as great renaissance men: Enescu, Ysaÿe and Wieniawski. The three were all celebrated violinists, pedagogues, and composers, many of them writing bravura pieces that were famously difficult to play.
Wieniawski’s brother Józef was as versatile as his brother and celebrated as a piano virtuoso. Except for Liszt, he was the first to publicly play all of Chopin’s etudes. Unlike his brother Henryk, Józef’s star has dulled, and his works are rarely performed, unjustly so.
Perhaps burdened by the shadow of fame of her father Henryk, who died six weeks before her birth, Irina Regina Wieniawski turned to pseudonyms when publishing her works. The most recurring one is that of “Poldowski”, the suffix of which is the masculine form of the name. Her works, unlike those of her father and uncle bear something experimental and exploratory in the bends and turns of the phrases.
Enescu, a student of Ysaÿe, was a phenomenon. He is regarded by many as one of the last century’s most meaningful talents. Although hugely prolific as a composer and some say, as strong a violinist as he was a pianist, amongst his body of works are only four for voice. One of these is Sept Chansons de Clément Marot.
The connecting tissue of this concert, besides family, is the lineage of student-teacher relationships. Wieniawski was the teacher of Ysaÿe, who in turn was a teacher of Enescu. Their influences upon one another are interesting to observe from a violinist’s point of view but perhaps even more vivid when their pieces are placed within close proximity: some of the best known by Henryk, and the least known by his pupils. In the case of the work by Ysaÿe, a piece that was never printed and exists only as an autograph, we perform its Swiss premiere.
We are delighted to welcome, for the first time to GAIA, the long-standing musical partners Rachel Harnisch and Jan-Philip Schultze, as well as violinist Jiska Lambrecht.
Hand in Hand
Friday, 6 May
Families pass things down through generations. Leopold Mozart promoted the music education of his children and sacrificed his own career as a composer for it. He is remembered today above all as a great pedagogue, having written an important treatise on violin playing. Collecting exercises for his daughter, whose nickname was “Nannerl”, Leopold penned exercises for her in a notebook, later copying down what four-year-old Wolfgang was composing. Our third concert at GAIA features excerpts from that notebook, which stem from Leopold’s imagination and that of his son, as the latter paid homage to his father.
Franz Xaver, Wolfgang’s son, in turn tried his hand at music, leaving behind approximately thirty works that are worth shining a light on.
The Czech composer Bedřich Smetana occupies a prominent place in the history of his country, as his musical style is closely connected with the efforts of cultural and political renewal, as well as the independence of the Czech Republic. His best-known orchestral work is "Má vlast" (From My Homeland), but his grand musical style was not only evident in his works for large ensembles. His works for solo instruments and chamber ensembles are equally evocative. His beloved wife Kateřina Kolářová was a pianist – one of her very few works is included in this programme.
Smetana’s young daughter Bedřiška, who showed signs of musical precocity, died of scarlet fever as a child. Smetana was deeply affected by this and dedicated his trio as an homage to her.
We are delighted to welcome back cellist Benedict Klöckner, this year joined by his fiancée Clemence De Forceville. This concert also features baritone Wolf Matthias Friedrich.
Fanny and Felix
Thursday, 5 May
Siblings raised as equals was a rarity in the 19th century, but Fanny and her younger brother Felix Mendelssohn both enjoyed a rich education from their parents. Fanny, like Felix, was praised and recognised for her musical talents. The values of the time, however, meant that the family was reluctant to support Fanny's desire to publish her works. The fact that Fanny could not "compete" with her brother on the compositional playing field was in good part the result of social prejudices and patriarchal customs of her time. Fortunately, times have changed, and scholars are interested not only in Fanny's phenomenally gifted brother, but in her as well. Our second concert at GAIA introduces both siblings at eye level.
Returning to GAIA for the third time are brothers Martin and Patrick Moriarty as well as double bassist Lars Schaper.
Wednesday, 4 May
Johann Sebastian Bach was a hard worker. He worked hard at being a good composer, but also at being a good father. Of the twenty children he sired, four became composers, two of whom will be featured alongside the grand master in our opening concert.
The stories in this year’s programme are as varied as the music itself. Not infrequently, the connection between teacher and student is as strong as the blood bond. Teachers who regard their students in some way as their extended family are revered by their students as mentors and carry this bond forward.
Adorno said of Hanns Eisler, he is "the real representative of the young generation of Schönberg's pupils and, moreover, one of the most talented of all young composers." …
The family connection in Arnold Schönberg’s “Verklärte Nacht” is inspired by the poem by Richard Dehmel on which the work is based. The poem tells of a woman who walks into the forest unsure of her familial future, and who walks out as a mother and wife.
Our opening concert features twin brothers Markus and Andreas Fleck, flutist Jacques Zoon, cembalo player Sebastian Wienand and CHAARTS Chamber Artists.
Welcome to this year’s GAIA, where we celebrate family, our connectedness to one another, and to music.
fam·i·ly, ˈfam-lē, ˈfa-mə-
Family: a group of persons united by the ties of marriage, blood, or adoption, constituting a single household and interacting with each other in their respective social positions, usually those of spouses, parents, children, and siblings.
No matter what our feelings towards the term “family” and our experiences of it are, we all have one thing in common at the very root our existence: we are born by our (biological) mother. With a festival named after the primeval Greek goddess who represents the Earth, it seems fitting that I go in search of outstanding female composers in classical music, as well as their male counterparts.
It is no secret that the number of female composers is thin on the ground in classical music, but in this year’s programme, I have come across some notable exceptions:
Fanny Mendelssohn, the sister of Felix; Clara Wieck, the wife of Schumann and muse of Brahms; Kateřina Kolářová, the wife of Smetana; and Irina Regina Wieniawska, who published under a male pen name, as the burden of her famous father’s legacy weighed on her shoulders. The women that are woven into this year’s rich tapestry of music at GAIA are composers and musicians themselves, not just muses to a man’s inspiration. Their stories were full of promise, brilliance and ordinariness, hard graft and the desire for recognition, success and failure, patriotism, and independence. Certainly, they are stories that orbit around love.
I look forward to welcoming you soon, dear family and friends, to GAIA!
A very GAIA Christmas
We received our Christmas present early this year. Thanks to your continued encouragement, we held our festival in August after three postponements of it.
Your belief in our purpose has given us immense hope during the past two years. Thank you for welcoming the music and for sharing the joy of celebration and togetherness with us.
As a thank you, we have collected some recent musical moments that took place at GAIA and hope you enjoy listening and watching.
Franz Schubert’s octet in F major D 803
recorded in Hilterfingen Church in September 2020 with Ilya Gringolts and Gwendolyn Masin (violins); Tomoko Akasaka (viola), Benedict Kloeckner (cello), Lars Schaper (Double Bass); Reto Bieri (clarinet); Rui Lopes (bassoon), Tomas Gallart (French Horn)
Opening concert “Beethoven’s Universe”
Impressions of GAIA Music Festival Oberhofen 2021
GAIA Music Festival 2022
We are in the throes of preparing the next GAIA Music Festival that takes place between 4 and 8 May 2022. The theme that permeates every corner of the programme is “Family”. And so the composers are all connected to one another in familial ways – from the Bachs to the Mozarts, the Mendelssohns to the Schumanns. The musicians are related too, whether they are identical twins, spouses or father and daughter. We very much look forward to sharing our most meaningful festival yet!
We wish our GAIA family a happy holiday and festive season.
Sending you our warmest wishes,
Gwendolyn, Andreas and everyone who brings you GAIA
GAIA 2021 on SRF2 Kultur
Two months after our opening concert in Thun’s City Church, you can listen back to “Beethoven’s Universe” this coming Sunday, 24 October, at 16:00 on Radio SRF 2 Kultur
Ludwig van Beethoven
Sieben Variationen über «Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen»
für Violoncello und Klavier WoO 46
Benedict Klöckner, Violoncello; José Gallardo, Klavier
Marcia funebre sulla morte di Luigi van Beethoven op. 146
José Gallardo, Klavier
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Klavierquintett es-Moll op. 87
Wouter Vossen, Violine; Tomoko Akasaka, Viola; Chiara Enderle Samatanga, Violoncello; Lars Schaper, Kontrabass; Diana Ketler, Klavier
Ludwig van Beethoven
Septett Es-Dur op. 20
Gwendolyn Masin, Violine; Rumen Cvetkov, Viola; Benedict Klöckner, Violoncello; Lars Schaper, Kontrabass; Moritz Roelcke, Klarinette; Hervé Joulain, Horn; Igor Ahss, Fagott
For the second consecutive year, Sára Timár joined us to document the festival.
We hope you enjoy a walk through “Götterfunken”, our 12th edition.
Sending you our warmest wishes,
Gwendolyn, Andreas, and everyone at GAIA
Usually, as the founder of the GAIA Festival, my role is simply defined.
If everything goes well, it’s thanks to everyone else. If it goes badly, it’s my fault.
This year is definitely a “thanks to everyone else” kind of year!
What a pleasure it has been to spend such an intensive time with you; to play with you, to play for you, to share stories with you, to be able once again to look you in the eyes instead of on a screen.
Of COURSE music is alive by its very nature and of course we can find a certain sense of satisfaction by listening to concerts online. But there is no thrill, no experience, no emotional journey quite similar to the ecstasy of a live concert. Nothing can replace it.
And that is a good thing.
Beethoven was dragged through more than one pandemic, more than one social unrest and, to add insult to injury, at GAIA, we dragged him through his 250th birthday in order to finally pay homage to one of the greatest minds the world has ever had.
We celebrated his 251st birthday surrounded by some of the most wonderful and generous musicians I have had the pleasure to meet; and with an audience who all overcame a sense of trepidation they may have had in the face of the pandemic to join us at our concerts and share in the joy of Beethoven.
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, to me, is a mystery of sorts. Were aliens to land on earth and wonder about mankind, I think we would do well to show his Symphony as a monument to our abilities. Beethoven per se, and certainly by way of the idiom he uses so skillfully and the emotions he weaves into his musical cathedrals, has the ability to survive through time. Why? Because he underlines mankind’s ability to overcome hardship, humanity’s triumph over adversity.
No better man to drag our festival through 27 months of planning, replanning, reorganising and hoping, hoping, hoping, to finally play again.
It has been worth every moment. Thank you to you, our audience, our supporters, donors, sponsors and collaborators, our committee members, helpers and tradesmen and women, for everything.
We cannot wait to see you again, in May, in the time it takes to make a baby, at GAIA 2022 where we will shine a light on that edition’s theme: Family.
With our most joyous wishes,
Gwendolyn, Andreas, and everyone who brings you GAIA
…and so it begins
A long-anticipated homecoming, a reunion, a sigh of relief... that is what it feels like to return to the heart of GAIA.
The musicians arrived Friday 20th August to begin rehearsing the enormous programme that make up the bones of this year’s edition. For some of us, it was the first time to be back in a room playing with people in a very, very long time. More than one tear of happiness flowed.
The last notes of GAIA sounded 27 months ago. One continuing pandemic, three postponed festivals, and months of reorganisation, fundraising and rethinking later, we are finally back in the welcoming arms of Oberhofen. The view of the Niesen, of Lake Thun, and of the people that make GAIA happen – volunteers from Oberhofen and far beyond, our committee members, the musicians and, of course, our audience – give us hope and belief in a future, together.
At this year’s GAIA, Beethoven inspires a celebration of humanity. Few other composers can knit people together through music like he can. With tickets selling faster than usual, please consider purchasing yours soon in order not to be disappointed. And for those who have been asking: my personal tip is Saturday’s programme – a veritable storm of emotions, and some of the best, if lesser-known, music I could cook up.
Welcome home to GAIA – we have been waiting for you.
See you soon!
Götterfunken – Closing Concert
Sunday, 29 August, 18 P.m. | Church Hilterfingen
Surrounded by his contemporary Moscheles and greatest rival Rossini, Beethoven is heard in two of his most famous works.
The nickname "Ghost Trio" was given to the work by Beethoven's pupil Czerny, who found the Largo to have sprung straight off the pages of the ghost scene at the beginning of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In turn, "Freude schöner Götterfunken" from the 9th Symphony lends this year’s edition of the GAIA Music Festival its fiery title.
In the spirit of togetherness and with a focus on humanity and society, we have assembled our own GAIA Music Festival Choir for this concert. Assembled with members from amateur and professional choirs from the Canton of Bern, Michael Schär – choir director and long-standing GAIA Festival organising committee member – will lead the Götterfunken Finale. You are welcome to sing along!
To the 15-member orchestra of GAIA musicians who will play in the closing concert, we welcome flutist Maximilian Randlinger, who joins us for the first time.
With GAIA just around the corner, it remains for me to express that we are very looking forward to finally seeing you again next week at the GAIA Music Festival!
Sunday, 29 August, 11 a.m. | Oberhofen Castle
The idol: after Beethoven's Septet, the world had to wait until Schubert's Octet to experience another piece with such substantial instrumentation.
Both works have survived the test of time. Schubert struggled for years to achieve what he saw as the epitome of brilliance for strings and winds - and may well have surpassed Beethoven in his Octet. The Octet is Schubert's longest chamber music work. This can be explained by the form of the Viennese divertimento, which he revived here under symphonic auspices. In doing so, he followed the model of Beethoven's Septet.
Returning to GAIA this year is the German-born cellist Benedict Klöckner, probably one of the most passionate musicians of our time. We are also delighted to welcome Moritz Roelcke and Igor Ahss to GAIA for the first time.
SATURDAY, 28 August, 20:00 | CHURCH HILTERFINGEN
There are no greater storms than those of quick-tempered people.
The epithet of the last movement of Beethoven's String Quintet in C major describes not only the piece, but also the man behind the composition. A contemporary reviewer summed it up when he wrote that this work "has its origin not in a higher idea evoking construction like a divine command, but in the general artistic desire to create: in the resolution to make music." With its explosive pianissimo tremolos and fragmentary main theme reinforced by "flashes" of cello, the finale truly deserves this epithet. Staging changes of mood through virtuoso juggling of keys, tempi and themes is typical of Beethoven's eminent skill and one of the reasons why his compositions so impressed and influenced many of his contemporaries. Spohr and Dussek are further outstanding examples of this.
We are especially pleased to welcome Swiss cellist Chiara Enderle back to GAIA, as it has been five years since her last visit. Lars Schaper, on the other hand, played at GAIA’s only concert in 2020. Diana Ketler is at GAIA for the first time. Born in Riga in 1971, the pianist is as much in demand as a guest soloist with large orchestras as she is as a chamber musician and song accompanist. She has also been a professor in London since 2001 and in Geneva since 2018.
FRIDAY, 27 August, 19:30 | GAIA 2021
Brotherhood – a tie that goes beyond family and a concert that foreshadows GAIA’s theme in 2022: family.
This concert’s programme sets out to shine a light on Arvo Pärt, one of the world’s best-known living composers, and also includes works that underline the father-figure-like presence of giants such as Bach and Haydn, as well as pieces written in memoriam – those of Schnittke in honour of Mozart, and Pärt in honour of Benjamin Britten.
The sense of brotherhood reaches even further. This concert is a collaborative occasion between GAIA and Stretta Concerts. The latter is called to life by violinist Sebastian Bohren, who performs at GAIA for the first time. Moreover, GAIA’s new organisational lead, Andreas Fleck, proffers his CHAARTS Chamber Artists on this occasion.
Looking forward to welcoming them, and you, at GAIA. To celebrate brothers, sisters, people, and our connectedness to music.
Thursday, 26 August, 19:30 | GAIA 2021
The hero that the title of this concert refers to is none other than Beethoven. Beethoven dedicated his third symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte before, later, scratching out the name of the dedicatee upon realising that Napoleon had named himself Emperor.
The symphony, however, is majestic, and considered by many as the first Romantic symphony, breaking the boundaries of what the Classical era understood as symphonic form.
Whilst Beethoven might have briefly flirted with the idea of idolising Bonaparte, the adulation of Ferdinand Ries, who arranged Beethoven’s “Eroica” as well as the composers Moscheles and Hummel stood the test of time. All three, celebrated composers in their own lifetimes, were deeply inspired by Beethoven.
This concert welcomes back the charismatic violist Tomoko Akasaka, who played at the only concert GAIA was allowed to give in 2020. It also allows us a warm welcome to another renowned violist, Razvan Popovici and to violinist Suyeon Kang, who will both be playing at GAIA for the first time.
I can’t wait for you to hear them all in some weeks’ time.
See you soon at GAIA!
In Beethovens Universum
Wednesday, 25 August, 19:30 | GAIA 2021
… and finally we play! A year and a half later than expected, and half a year later than the anniversary date of our composer-in-residence: Beethoven. In the 13-year history of GAIA we have paid homage to only two other composers, namely Schumann in 2010 and Mahler in 2011. Both gentlemen received a concert. We have never rolled out the carpet for someone as we will for Beethoven. Our journey through Beethoven’s Universe brings us down paths of not just his own music, but of others inspired by him. In the case of our opening concert, two of Beethoven’s best-known pupils: Carl Czerny and Ferdinand Ries. As every year, I invite musicians who are not just outstanding personalities but have each gone down their own extraordinary paths, fearless to what may lie ahead. Three of those I am delighted to welcome to GAIA for the first time, namely Wouter Vossen, Hervé Joulain and José Gallardo.
See you at GAIA!