The Ensemble Linea

Presentation of the Ensemble Linea

Linea at a glance

Ensemble Linea is an internationally renowned music ensemble founded in 1998 by pianist and conductor Jean-Philippe Wurtz.

Linea has been regularly invited to play at music festivals and has notably performed in New York, Paris, Chicago, Seoul, Budapest, Brussels, Bilbao, Berlin, Huddersfield, Geneva, Lyon, Royaumont and Prague, among others. Its concerts have aired on radio channels such as France Musique, the BBC (United Kingdom) and the Südwestfunk (Germany).

Linea encourages and supports young composers by commissioning new works, organizing composition and performance masterclasses as well as concerts. Its unique multicultural approach focuses on developing collaborations with ensembles from all parts of the world and exploring repertoires across continents.

Linea has won the confidence of some of today’s leading contemporary composers right from its early years, resulting in promising and rich collaborations with Péter Eötvös, Brian Ferneyhough, Philippe Manoury and Helmut Lachenmann, among others.

Since 2014, Linea has also set up its own summer academy of contemporary music in Strasbourg.

Since its inception, Ensemble Linea has been committed to promoting a democratization of contemporary music by placing special emphasis on the encounter with the audience, openness towards other artistic disciplines and a proactive booking strategy.

Linea brings together musicians in ensembles of varying sizes ranging from an intimate duo to a full-scale orchestra. They come from diverse cultures and backgrounds and are trained in the world’s finest academies.

Linea’s artistic vision transcends schools and trends to encompass an array of aesthetic styles from musical theater to electronic music, from Western music to the rich repertoires of Asia and America. Strasbourg’s strategic location at the crossroads of several cultures provides a natural cross-cultural dimension to the ensemble. Linea’s musical approach is firmly anchored in modernity and seeks out works that explore the complex transformations and undercurrents of our times.

Each concert is conceived as a holistic performance. Spatial and theatrical, vivid and explosive, they have earned Linea a strong reputation for dynamic staging. Linea’s three key focus areas are: creation of new music, dissemination of musical works and transmission of musical knowledge.

Every year, new pieces are composed for the Ensemble both by established composers such as Eötvös, Aperghis, or Manoury and by younger, upcoming names like Filidei, Dumont and Lannotta. Linea views the creation of music as a dynamic and interactive process centered on the composer’s unique personality. To this end, the Ensemble works closely with each composer in a host of different ways, from concert readings to meetings, open rehearsals to recordings and lecture concerts. Over the years, the outfit’s characteristic performance style combining precision, exuberance and interaction has been a source of inspiration to music creators everywhere.

Linea’s dissemination strategy aims at casting a wide net. While the ensemble has naturally featured in prestigious European music festivals such as Musica Strasbourg, ManiFeste – Ircam (Paris), Ultraschall (Berlin), Huddersfield, Darmstadt and Zurich, it has also not shied away from more unexpected performances and collaborations in regions of the world like the Middle East, Russia and Korea where the contemporary music scene is less developed. This reflects Linea’s policy to be both an active participant and facilitator in the geopolitical landscape. Over the last five years, the Ensemble has toured America three times, bringing the latest developments in contemporary American music to France and introducing French composers like Raphaël Cendo to the American public with great success.

Last but not least, transmitting musical knowledge remains a major focus for Linea, whose summer academy for performers was launched in 2014 and has had three successful editions so far. The Ensemble also participates in several training sessions and workshops for composers. The underlying foundation of its training and pedagogical work is restoring the lost link between composers, performers, trainers and the audience. These efforts have been brought into practice by today’s enthusiastic and talented young performers.

In line with its strong commitment to new music creation, Linea regularly collaborates with young composers.

To this end, the Ensemble has participated in composition sessions during its stints at Royaumont (2009 and 2010), the June in Buffalo festival, USA (2011 and 2013), the MATA festival, New-York (2016) and at the Ferienkurse, Darmstadt (2012). Linea has also been invited to artist residences in American universities such as the University of Pittsburgh, Buffalo University and Northwestern University. In addition, it has organized its own residence program bringing together eight composers.

To support and promote composers, new works are regularly commissioned and performed, even and especially outside the composer’s own country. Composers are regularly brought on board Linea’s projects, thus facilitating access to its networks. For instance in 2013, French composer Raphaël Cendo accompanied Linea on its US tour in order to lead the composition sessions at the June in Buffalo Festival together with the ensemble. Cendo’s Rokh I was first performed by Linea in New York, and was soon followed by the British premiere at Huddersfield festival in November 2013. The Ensemble is currently working with Francesco Filidei (Italy), Aurélien Dumont, Raphael Cendo, Frédéric Durieux, Philippe Manoury (France) and Unsuk Chin (South Korea).

Over the first ten years, Linea’s intensive work with Klaus Huber, Ivo Malec, Younghi Pagh-Paan, Michael Jarrell, and Péter Eötvös led to the composition of several new pieces for the Ensemble.

Linea’s founder Jean-Philippe Wurtz is a former student of the renowned International Eötvös Institute in Hungary. As such, a close and longstanding collaboration with Péter Eötvös has been underway since the very beginning. Linea has played almost his full catalogue of ensemble and chamber music as well as his piece “Octet Plus” that was premiered in 2008 at the Musica Festival in Strasbourg (France) and featured soprano Barbara Hannigan.

Linea has recorded all these recent pieces for its new CD Ensemble Linea plays Eötvös, which was released in early 2011 by the Hungarian label BMC. This CD has received the Fonogram prize in Hungary and was awarded the Orphée d’Or de la Création Lyrique in France. Linea and Eötvös met again at Royaumont Abbey to co-organize a master class for orchestral conducting in spring 2013. Another masterclass in Royaumont will be conducted by Péter Eötvös sometime in 2017.

A similar collaboration with Brian Ferneyhough has resulted in Linea recording the composer’s ensemble piece Chronos Aion in 2011. After its highly acclaimed French premiere in September 2010 at Royaumont Abbey, Linea performed this piece in Zurich as well as in Huddersfield (its British premiere) in November 2011. In 2013, Linea performed the French premiere of Ferneyhough’s Liber Scintillarum at Royaumont, and went on to perform its British premiere that same November at the Huddersfield festival, which was broadcast live by the BBC.

More recently, collaboration with Philippe Manoury has seen the creation of a new piece for violin, ensemble and electronics. It was performed at the Festival ManiFeste in June 2016 and featured the violinist Hae-Sun Kang.

Among other noteworthy projects is an upcoming piece by David Felder featuring the violinist Irvine Arditti which is slated to be performed during the Overseas 2017 tour in the United States.

Easily recognized internationally as one of France’s best contemporary ensembles, Linea is regularly invited to contemporary music festivals in France and around the world. These include Musica (Strasbourg, France, from 2002 to 2017), ManiFeste (Paris, France, 2016), Darmstadt Ferienkursen (Germany, 2012), Archipel (Geneva, Switzerland, 2008 and 2015), ACMF (Seoul, South Korea, 2009), Budapest Autumn Festival (Hungary, 2009), Aspects des Musiques d’Aujourd’hui (Caen, France, 2009), Ars Musica (Brussels, Belgium, 2011), Ultraschall (Berlin, Germany, January 2013), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (United Kingdom, 2011 and 2013), June In Buffalo (USA, 2011 and 2013), Contempuls Festival (Prague, Czech Republic, 2013), reMusik Festival (Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2015), and the MATA Festival (New York, USA, 2016).

This solid international positioning has made Linea an ambassador of French contemporary music abroad that in turn brings international works to the French audience.

Linea has become one of the leading new music ensembles from France to develop cultural exchanges with the United States. The three US tours sponsored by FACE (French American Fund for Contemporary Music) in 2011, 2013 and 2016 have made a great impression on music professionals, the media and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. These tours have been an opportunity to promote French repertoire throughout America and establish close relations with young American composers whose works Linea has since performed in France at the Festival Musica in 2012 and the Season of the Arsenal in Metz in 2014. In addition, new works by upcoming American composers such as Mincek and Eckart have been commissioned. The most recent US tour in April featured concerts in Buffalo, New York while focusing especially on developing exchange and training programs with the composition departments of renowned universities such as Northwestern University (Chicago), Harvard (Boston), University of Pittsburgh etc.

Linea’s commitment to working with countries where the contemporary music sector is yet to develop or where exchange programs are rare is another important aspect of its international dimension. From South Korea to Romania, Egypt to Russia (where Linea was invited to the Saint Petersburg Contemporary Music Center in 2015,) the Ensemble has been a pioneer in exchange with countries around the world. Over the years, it has developed an intercultural approach to exchange founded in a deep respect for the culture of the host country. In a complex and globalized world, Linea tries to break down barriers and bridge cultural divides through its humble contribution.

In France, Ensemble Linea has been invited by the renowned Musica festival since 2002, performing there on a regular basis since 2011. In September 2016 Linea performed a monograph of Spanish composer Alberto Posadas’ oeuvre featuring 3 of his pieces including 2 original compositions.

Linea was ensemble-in-residence at the Royaumont Foundation in 2009 and 2013. Since 2015, Jean-Philippe Wurtz has also been the artistic director of the foundation’s Voix Nouvelles musical training and composition program.

In March 2015, Ensemble Linea also premiered Xavier Dayer’s new opera Contes de la lune vague après la pluie. It was created at the Rouen Opera and co-produced by the Opéra Comique in Paris and the Royaumont Foundation.

In 2017 and 2018, the ensemble is looking to strengthen its position in France through numerous events such as the Festival Manifeste in Paris and a long collaboration with the Cité Musicale in Metz.

Linea has firmly established connections within professional networks through which it develops partnerships with other ensembles. It has collaborated with Bordeaux’s Proxima Centauri 2006 and 2015, Korean musicians at the Tongyeong International Music Festival in 2010, the Talea Ensemble in 2011, New York’s Moto Perpetuo in 2013, Stuttgart’s Neue Vocalsolisten (NVS) in 2012, and the Egyptian Contemporary Music Ensemble with which it performed in Cairo and Alexandria in May 2012.

Thanks to its excellent reputation, Linea has been invited to numerous artist-in-residence programs, like the one at Royaumont Abbey, and many master classes, workshops and composition sessions such as at June in Buffalo (USA), Darmstädter Ferienkurse (Germany), Festival Musica and the composition academy of Philippe Manoury.

This recognition has also allowed the Ensemble to work with internationally renowned musicians and soloists such as violinists Hae Sun Kang (2016) and Irvine Arditti (2013), sopranos Barbara Hannigan (2008) and Allison Bell (2009 and 2013), pianist Wilhem Latchoumia (2013 et 2015) – to name just a few.

A new collaboration with violinist Irvine Arditti and composer David Felder is slated to be performed in Buffalo (USA) as part of the Overseas American tour in November 2017.

The Ensemble maintains a consistent dialogue with its partners in the public and private sector, music professionals and the society at large, thus playing a role in ongoing reflections on the future of the cultural sector. This two-way dialogue guides Linea’s work on a daily basis.

Ensemble Linea is also a member of PROFEDIM, which is a trade union of French music producers, festivals, ensembles and independent music distributors.

Linea has consistently been involved in the training and promotion of young composers and performers through numerous workshops and masterclasses conducted over the years.

Through many years of work in the field, Linea has detected a need for supplementary training among young performers or composers coming out of music academies. This has led to Linea strengthening its role as a center for music training and development in recent years.

From 2013 onwards, the Ensemble has joined hands with Péter Eötvös and the Royaumont foundation to set up a masterclass geared towards orchestral conducting. This initiative was received extremely favorably as such programs are relatively rare on the contemporary music scene. Over the course of a week, 10 among 60 conductors who applied from all over the world had the opportunity to train alongside Linea, Péter Eötvös and Jean-Philippe Wurtz.

“Music academies are slowly becoming the centers (…) where new music is created. (…) Linea is participating in this movement with great conviction and a real interest in transmitting knowledge accompanied by a will to take risks and increase interaction.” Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, 27 August 2014.

Encouraged by this success, Linea created its own summer academy of new music in Strasbourg in August 2014. This first edition offering 9 instrumental performance classes and one class for orchestral conducting attracted 25 students from countries like France, Italy, Russia, Spain, UK, Germany, Japan and the USA. Its successful run promised great potential for the future.

In 2015, the second edition of its summer academy saw 34 students coming to Strasbourg from all over the world.

The third edition was organized in August 2016 and brought together students from 5 different nationalities: France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, USA and even Japan. The course program was concluded with two evenings of concerts, featuring 12 pieces ranging from solos and quartets to a complex ensemble piece entitled Sur Incises by Pierre Boulez.

Linea’s training programs focus on ensemble performance: from the beginning, the students play within or conduct an ensemble composed of Linea’s musicians and other scholars. Concerts conclude each training program. These real-life conditions enable students to improve their skills by playing with more experienced musicians who are well-acquainted with the challenges of contemporary music. This kind of experience and exchange is exactly what young musicians are looking for. At the end of the program, each participant is presented with high-quality audio and video recordings of their performances as well as a diploma.

The 4th edition of the summer academy is scheduled from 17 to 23 July 2017.

In addition, Linea joined hands with Festival Musica and Philippe Manoury for a composition academy organized in Strasbourg. Another master class for orchestral conducting with Péter Eötvös and the Royaumont Foundation is in preparation. Divided into two sessions, one at Royaumont Abbey (near Paris), and the other at the Budapest Music Center (an information and training center founded by Eötvös in the Hungarian capital) this program will explore Pierre Boulez’s Marteau sans maître and György Kurtag’s Troussova. The award-winning Hungarian composer will grace this exceptional masterclass with his presence.

Right from the outset, Ensemble Linea has left its mark by taking on wide-ranging projects demanding significant time, effort, resources and the involvement of several players. These include premieres for large ensembles, interdisciplinary shows, opera premieres, innovative projects, participations in big events and international tours.

A great illustration of this is the world premiere of Swiss composer Xavier Dayer’s Les contes de la lune vague après la pluie, organized by Linea in 2015. A joint production of the Opera of Rouen, the Royaumont Foundation and Festival Archipel, the Ensemble performed the Swiss premiere of the opera in March 2015, followed by two nights at the Opéra Comique in Paris later in May.

Linea was also invited to participate in the official program celebrating the thousand year celebrations of Strasbourg’s cathedral. Inside the famous cathedral, the ensemble premiered Frédéric Durieux’s new work Verticales rouges for organ ensemble and reciter (actress Marianne Denicourt), alongside several works by composition students of CNSM in Paris (class of Philippe Manoury)  and of the Conservatory of Strasbourg. Also on the program was Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum, a work for cathedrals by Messiaen.

This vast and ambitious project fulfilled a dual celebratory and pedagogical purpose. On the one hand, several of the works played were written by students of composition, on the other, half of the 47 performers were students of the Conservatory of Strasbourg, providing them the opportunity to gain real-world exposure by performing with the Ensemble in a concert setting.

Linea’s deep conviction that music should be a source of transversal experimentation has inspired several crossover initiatives that combine dance, theater, multimedia, traditional and contemporary music.

In 1999, Linea presented a scenic production of the Belgian work Pierrot Lunaire. In 2004, the Ensemble performed Stockhausen’s Kurzwellen in association with the Hoogenraad troupe who performed a choreographed dance adapted to the music. In 2007, Linea premiered For what they are by Bernd Schultheis, a production that combined music, live electronics, dance and video installations with audience interaction.

The Ensemble’s interest in traditional arts and intercultural exchange has also spawned collaborations with a Noh dancer from Japan and a Sungmu dancer (traditional dance performed by Buddhist monks) from Korea. A new piece by the Korean composer Hyun Wha Cho was commissioned by Linea especially for this performance. It premiered in June 2010 at festival Champs Libres.

Linea’s active communication policy has ensured sustained media coverage of its activities since the very beginning.

The Ensemble’s development abroad has earned the attention of the media. For instance, the American press widely covered Linea’s US tour through New York, Buffalo, Chicago and Pittsburgh, a feat for a relatively little-known French ensemble before the tour. The New York Times’ extensive feature of Linea was a special highlight.

Linea’s latest CD has been reviewed by several media outlets in France and across Europe.

French radio has consistently presented Linea’s works to the public. France Musique has reviewed its CD on its radio shows, interviewed Jean-Philippe Wurtz on multiple occasions, advertised and aired its concerts at Royaumont and the Musica festivals.

Linea has also garnered the attention of radio channels abroad. Several of its concerts have been broadcast by DRS 2 (Swiss radio dedicated to classical music), Deutschland Kulturradio (German) and BBC Radio 3, who aired both Linea’s performances at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (2011 and 2013). The 2013 concert was broadcast live.

This extensive media coverage has contributed to building Linea’s visibility and its reputation on the musical landscape.

On the regional level, Ensemble Linea is involved in several outreach programs that aim to facilitate cultural access in places where contemporary music is not easily accessible.

This cultural policy is made possible by networking with numerous partners who have cooperated with Linea for years: universities, foundations, public libraries, music schools, municipalities and cultural centers. In cooperation with these institutions, Linea has organized free shows, conferences, workshops and public rehearsals, events in museums and multimedia libraries, as well as programs geared towards exposing new audiences to more accessible works of music.

The Ensemble regularly collaborates with the cultural center of Vendenheim, the multimedia libraries of Strasbourg and Cernay, the cultural department of the city of Saint-Louis and the puppet theater company Flash Marionnettes, among others.

Enlarging the audience of contemporary music also means addressing the public of tomorrow.

With Stockhausen for kids, a 45 minute-show conceived in partnership with the puppet theater company Flash Marionnettes, Linea took up the challenge of introducing a young audience to highly complex music. Thanks to a careful selection of pieces, effective theatrical direction and lighting, and the performance of its musicians, Linea managed to hold a young audience through 30 minutes of pure Stockhausen. The success of this show has seen it being performed in the Paris region, in Besançon (as part of the Musiques Libres festival) and in the Alsace region, notably during the Musica festival, where it drew a crowd of more than 4000 enthusiastic spectators.

Linea is also involved in numerous educational projects with schools and universities, including teaching music classes in secondary schools.

The musical team is the core strength of Linea. The soloists of the Ensemble boast not only extensive technical mastery and experience, but are also deeply involved in promoting new works. To this end, they work closely with composers to understand their vision. They invest time and energy in preparing and rehearsing in order to present these works in their most precise, refined form.

From September 2006 to July 2008, Ensemble Linea was ensemble-in-residence at the Dominicains de Haute Alsace cultural center in Alsace, France, where it worked on a project centered on new technologies. The resulting production highlighted works by Reich, Stockhausen and Varèse by placing them alongside contemporary electroacoustic pieces and “popular” electronic music.

Ensemble Linea organized its own residence program in 2007-2008 with the support of the European Social Fund. Eight young composers from France and abroad were provided creative support and entry into professional networks through this program. The resulting new works were performed by Linea in June 2008 at the Champs Libres festival.

In 2013, Ensemble Linea concluded its five-year-long “Ensemble-in-residency” program at Royaumont Abbey (France). During this period, Linea provided support to many young and talented composers by enabling them to work with famous composers like Brian Ferneyhough and carried out many innovative large-scale projects like conducting masterclasses and premiering new works.

This residence bolstered Linea’s reputation in France while enabling team members to understand each other better and improve their overall artistic rapport.

The Ensemble Linea plays Eötvös CD – released in 2011 – is a monograph of Péter Eötvös’ works. It was recorded at Budapest and directed by the composer himself. The CD includes many previously unrecorded recent works by Eötvös.

Released by the Budapest Music Center label, the CD has already won two prestigious awards:

  • the Fonogram prize for Best Contemporary Music album presented on 2 March 2011 at the Hungarian Music Awards (the Hungarian equivalent of the Grammies)
  • the Orphée d’Or de la Création Lyrique in contemporary music presented on 3 May 2011 at the Paris Bastille Opera by the Académie Internationale du Disque Lyrique (Lyric Recordings Academy).

Linea’s first CD Ivo Malec – Œuvres pour orchestres was released by Motus in 2011. The French magazine Diapason awarded its Diapason d’Or prize to the Ensemble for this disc.

Three new CDs featuring the compositions of Aurélien Dumont, Raphaël Cendo and Francesco Filidei will be released in 2017-2018 by the Empreinte digitale and Odradek record labels.