press quotations on "gländ"

tages anzeiger / der bund

"...Of surreal beauty, on the other hand, is «Gländ», the new programme by Christian Zehnder (Stimmhorn), a duet with Barbara Schirmer at the Swiss cimbalom. Zehnder, the virtuoso yodeller and overtone singer, sang in a comparatively restrained manner, and in the strongest moments one hear yodelled melodies that were as loftily artistic and profoundly melancholic as a song by Schubert."

 

badische zeitung, dez. 09

"How a voice and a cimbalom are supposed to provide the entertainment for an entire evening is a question many members of the audience may have asked themselves before the debut showing of "Gländ" in Basel. One might suspect that the programme would be of a more esoterical nature, and if not that, then possibly traditional. But that assumption is mistakien. It is certainly one of the more daring ventures of his career that Christian Zehnder has decided to embark on with Barbara Schirmer, without the safety net of a backing band. Half a year ago, at its first showing at the Alpentöne festival in Altdorf, this unorthodox chamber-musical encounter still had to struggle with the baroque sonority of a church. Now, it was the Roxy theatre in Birsfelden with its dry acoustics that provided the perfect stage for a lively concert performance.

Because, although Zehnder and his vocal escapades are very much at the centre of the proceedings, a delicate dialogue with the cimbalom nonetheless frequently ensues. Schirmer creates the accompanying structures in a freestyle and virtuoso fashion, using four drumsticks, borrowing from minimal music, with the courage not to shy away from brittle chromatology. The reverberation of the strings creates intriguing contrasts to Zehnder's overtone vocals, which are delivered in the usual elaborate and nuanced fashion, such as when he creates percussive effects by drumming on his lips with his fingers. The duo breaks up the heritage of Swiss folk music, and subtly confront it with colours from all corners of the earth. Throaty vocals dance to skewed beats which could originate in the balcans. The melodic sequence of traditional Swiss music is slowed down and merges with counter-tenor elements to become a completely new melodic logic. Or, in another example, baroque recitatives are suddenly broken up by yodelling.

A multi-layered Folklore Imaginaire

Within the space of a solo, Schirmer turns from a simple folk tune to almost expressionist phrases, expressing her distress at the minaret ban in Switzerland and greeting her friends in Persia, home of cimbalom high culture. It is a multi-layered folklore imaginaire that both these artists have already mastered individually. In their collaboration, the focus turns even further away from folklore and towards brilliant imagination. Time and time again, they tell stories within which, for all their filigree, humorous characteristics take on an important role: Zehnder wordlessly tells the story of a lonely Appenzell farmer, who finds love in the middle East, portraying both the country-boy male role and the rapt lady simultaneously with hilarious body language.
A sudden tango rings out, supported by a bandoneon, and this tango has as its protagonist a lovesick cynic who, to the great joy of the audience, succeeds in uniting aspects of Tom Waits and a soprano singer. Generally, the manner in which Zehnder takes on different roles throughout this programme is striking: From a chatty little old lady to a belcanto singer, from the curmudgeonly mumbler to the coy young girl, he plays the range of vocal colours with mastery. The strength of his performance is further amplified by his ability to put himself into the background of the proceedings with long, strenuous sustained notes that give Schirmer the space needed for pointed solos in the upper ranges of the cimbalom.

After a storm of frenetic applause in the sold-out Roxy theatre, the duo returns for a thoroughly surprising encore: Schirmer creates bizarre slide effects by using a glass on the strings of her instrument. What results from this in combination with Zehnder's improvised sprechgesang is indeed something almost like avant-garde blues."

 

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