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The 36th ESTA International Conference, in Bern, Switzerland, 30th April – 4th May 2008

The content of this Conference was very well organised and thought out by a committee chaired by Swiss Vice-President Elisabeth Frei-Kuster. In particular, Barbara Doll, Ruedi Bernet and Kaspar Zwicky played a decisive role. Werner Schmitt had seen to it that the 150th anniversary of the Bern Conservatoire was celebrated concurrently with the ESTA Conference.

Proceedings began with a reception in Bern’s City Hall, at which we were greeted by ESTA International President Edith Peinemann and Barbara Doll. That evening there was a Gala concert in the Bern Kultur- Casino, at which the Bern Symphony Orchestra accompanied outstanding students from the Conservatoire. The soloists were three young violinists playing Vivaldi and Sarasate, and Thomas Demenga in the Elgar cello concerto. The evening ended with Janacek’s Sinfonietta. A thrilling concert took place in the Paul Klee Museum, given by the Paul Klee Ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano). Works by Ravel, Bartok and Elliott Carter were performed with élan, virtuosity and understanding.

In the course of the excursion to Lake Thun, where Brahms spent several summers composing some wonderful string works, we heard the F major cello sonata in the Salle Beau Rivage, followed by the D minor violin sonata in the Thun Music School. We were then taken past the sunlit lake, with the mountains as a scenic backdrop, to the Hotel Seepark. There we were met by cello4fun – four female cellists playing on amplified instruments. Further light entertainment followed from a jazz quartet, then finally Kreisler “lollipops” played by Thomas Füri and James Alexander.

The so-called ‘Star Play’ Orage d’Oiseaux (Storm of Birds) was an incredible feat of organisation. The composer and violinist Isabel Wullschleger had been commissioned by ESTA Switzerland to write a piece based on four folk songs, one from each of the Swiss language communities (German, French, Italian, Romansh). This was performed on the Bundesplatz in Bern, with much enthusiasm despite acoustic problems, by around 500 young people from all parts of the country.

Another highlight of the Conference was a ‘Sonata Evening’ with Barbara Doll and her pianist Cristina Marton. Violin sonatas by Brahms, Janacek and Enescu, and the Hebrew Melodies by Joachim for viola were played with great mastery, many shades of tone colour, temperament and intensity. The Conference ended in fine fashion in the Arena Kursaal, with the Conservatoire’s anniversary party – ‘a culinary feast with 4 intermezzi’. See you in Vienna!

Presentations included:

Werner Schmitt (CH) History of the Bern Conservatoire
Walter Grimmer & Eva Zurbrugg (CH) Bern Conservatoire: differences in training today and the influence of Max Rostal
Louise Hopkins (UK) Cello masterclass
Palvi Arias (FIN) The Polifonia Project
Bettina Keller (CH) Swiss folk music and folk dance for double bass orchestra
Käthi Gohl (CH) New music and improvisation: “Ghost train and pulsating engines”
Beatrix Borchard (D) Joseph Joachim: his life and works
Edith Peinemann (D) The Brahms double concerto
Anna Modesti (CH) Structuring lessons for group teaching
Regina Hui (CH) Singing Swiss folk songs
Thomas Füri (CH) Do Kreisler’s works still speak to us today?
Anders Groen (DK) The long journey from open strings to Mahler
Philippa Bunting (UK) Wider Opportunities: whole class string teaching
Roland Moser (CH) György Kurtag: “Signs, Games and Messages”
Romeo Alavi Kia (D) The connection between breathing and sound in string playing
Paul Jakobs (B) ‘Luthiers Sans Frontières’
Corinne Zurfluh (CH) A project in India, teaching underprivileged children
Lutz Jäncke (CH) Brain research on professional musicians
Ferenc Szecsödi (H) Secrets of the renowned violin school of Hubay
Merit Palas (FIN) Rhetoric in the Bach Chaconne
David Sella (Israel) Rebuilding cello technique (after a hand injury)
Noldi Adler (CH) & Mauno Järvelä (FIN) Workshop: playing folk music

Delegates’ Meeting Main Points:

  1. Branches who do not pay their subscriptions should be excluded.
  2. Elections: President Edith Peinemann (D), Karen Valeur (DK) and Peter Esswood (UK) remain in post.
    Eva Bogren (S) and Agnes Stein von Kamienski (D) have been elected to replace Kjell Hamrén and Käthi Gohl-Moser.
  3. Greece has been accepted as a new ESTA Branch.
    Kosovo, Bulgaria and Portugal would like to join.
  4. ESTA Partners: Polifonia; ESTA Edition Müller&Schade, Bern
  5. The Koch Foundation wishes to support an orchestra workshop for ESTA students at the 2009 Conference in Vienna.
  6. Future International Conferences: 2009 Vienna, 2010 Bruges, 2011 Sweden, 2012 possibly Germany? 2013 UK.

English translation by Janet Thomas, based on her abridged version of Barbara Ströbel-Brack’s report in German.

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