Virtuosity, humour and improvisation
The septet Philharmonix is shaking up the classical music scene. On 1 August 2022, these members of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras will celebrate their debut at Klosters Music.
The double bass player plucks a descending line. The high strings set their fast interjections exactly against the beat. And when the clarinet (Daniel Ottensamer) and piano (Christoph Traxler) join in, things really get going. Steamy Gypsy Swing in the style of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grapelli. “Swing on Beethoven” is Stephan Koncz’s very own arrangement for the ensemble Philharmonix, which also calls itself the “Vienna Berlin Music Club”. The cellist also gets to play the famous solo from the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony – not only as a noble cantilena over the funeral march rhythm, but with a light groove to the heated beats of the band. A trumpet solo played by second violinist Sebastian Gürtler and an excerpt from the finale of the Moonlight Sonata played as a spectacular ascent on the piano show the much-heard piece in a completely new light. Sebastian Gürtler’s “Tristan’s Tango” with Richard Wagner in a milonga or the wild “Dances from Transylvania” by Stephan Koncz with spectacular violin solos by Noah Bendix-Balgley are good-humoured, original pieces to listen to and smile at: more composition than adaptation.
“Everyone brings their music with them”
It is high time to catch up with cellists Stephan Koncz and Noah Bendix-Balgley, both members of the Berlin Philharmonic. “It’s similar to a tennis club, we meet among friends, write music together, experiment and have a good time with each other and our music”, says Stephan Koncz. And adds: “Everyone brings their music with them. Our clarinettist Daniel Ottensamer loves swing jazz in the style of Benny Goodman, our double bass player, Ödön Rácz, grew up with Hungarian folk music”. Noah Bendix-Balgley has brought klezmer music into the ensemble. “My father is a dance teacher. I’ve been hearing Jewish folk dances since I was a child. I want to discover klezmer influences in classical music, but also, conversely, to integrate klezmer pieces into classical recitals. Improvisation plays a big role in this music. Improvisation is also crucial for Philharmonix,” says the concert master of the Berlin Philharmonic. The American violinist was brought into the ensemble by Stephan Koncz in 2017, after a total of three musicians – founder Tibor Kovác and brothers Roman and Frantisek Jánoska – left the group, which was originally called “the Philharmonics”.
Less Csárdás, more Pop
The new name “Philharmonix” continues to name the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras, from whose ranks three musicians come. “The ‚X‘ represents the often unconventional approach to all musical genres,” says Koncz. Stylistically, the ensemble has changed considerably since the reshuffle and is tantamount to a new foundation. South American music, such as the ingenious bossa nova «Babarababa” in fantasy Portuguese, is also in the repertoire. Sebastian Gürtler composed it. The Viennese violinist, who plays in classical ensembles such as the Hugo Wolf Quartett or the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, dares to cross borders with the Amarcord formation and who has already been on stage with the musical comedian Aleksey Igudesman, is a new member, like the pianist Christoph Traxler. He was asked by violist Thilo Fechner, who contributes to the corporate identity of Philharmonix with his red suit.
Quick perception, high professionalism
Gürtler is not only a fan of South American music, (“I find this leaning back, combined with the intense way of life, fascinating”), but has also brought singing into the ensemble. In his arrangements, he tries to be relatively irreverent and very free with the original and create something of his own. What he appreciates about Philharmonix is the quick perception and high professionalism of the members. He is particularly taken with the double bass player. “Ödön is the heart of the ensemble, the Zinédine Zidan of the team. A central midfielder who pulls the strings and gives everyone the space they need. Gürtler, like his colleagues, is very much looking forward to Philharmonix’s debut at Klosters Music. “The pieces continue to develop on stage”, says Bendix-Balgley. „We never stand still, but want to create something new every time.“
You can experience the Ensemble Philharmonix live on 1 August 2022 at Klosters Music. Tickets can be purchased here.