David Philip HeftiDespite his classically avant-garde musical language, Hefti’s prime concern is expressiveness – addressing his listener with a candid eloquence. He loves powerful contrasts and does not refrain from writing intense cantilenas. His music is capable of cumulative processes of concentration, and can unleash a vehement drive. (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
David Philip Hefti’s oeuvre encompasses some 80 works, including orchestral, vocal and chamber music. He has composed large-scale orchestral works, solo concertos, works for chamber orchestra, string quartets, solo pieces, song cycles and two operas. Hefti has enjoyed a working relationship of several years’ standing with artists such as Juliane Banse, Mojca Erdmann, Viviane Hagner, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Christian Poltéra, Lawrence Power, Hartmut Rohde, Baiba Skride, Jan Vogler and Antje Weithaas, who all perform his music.
As both conductor and composer, Hefti has worked with numerous orchestras and ensembles including the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, the Bavarian State Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Berlin Baroque Soloists, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Tokyo Sinfonietta, the Ensemble Modern, the Amaryllis Quartet and the Leipzig String Quartet. His orchestral works have been performed by conductors such as Peter Eötvös, Cornelius Meister, Kent Nagano, Jonathan Nott, Michael Sanderling, Mario Venzago and David Zinman. He has been invited to music festivals including Wien Modern, Beijing Modern, Ultraschall Berlin, the Lucerne Festival, the Gstaad Menuhin Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Heidelberger Frühling, the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades, the Dvorak Festival in Prague and the Suntory Festival in Tokyo.
In May 2017, Hefti’s first opera, Anna’s Mask
, was given its world première at the St. Gallen Theatre under the baton of Otto Tausk. It is based on the true story of the Swiss singer Anna Sutter, whose life tragically mirrored the fate of her own star role, that of Carmen: her former lover, the conductor Aloys Obrist, murdered her in 1910 in Stuttgart. David Philip Hefti’s musical language, which is characterised by transparency, a chamber-music intensity and a concentrated sense of dramaturgy, is also manifested in this, his first opera. Luminous ecstasy – and this is the point of it – is no betrayal of Hefti’s aesthetic stance, which otherwise tends to fragile, pointillist drops of sound solidifying into chordal structures. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)
Hefti composed his second music-theatre work, The Snow Queen
based on the eponymous fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, to a commission from the Zurich Tonhalle Society for its 150th anniversary. The semi-staged world première of this musical tale for the whole family took place in November 2018 in the Tonhalle Maag in Zurich. The title role was sung by the soprano Mojca Erdmann, with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra under the baton of the composer himself. This CD recording was released on the NEOS label and was honoured with the Supersonic Award in 2020. In
The Snow Queen, the cold takes many audible forms. There are wine glasses filled with water – they sound as clear and transparent as frozen crystals. The serial techniques that always accompany the appearance of the icy queen also come across as frosty and cool – these are academic number games that freeze into lifeless formulae. In stark contrast to all this are the micro-intervals and overtones that unite to create iridescent natural harmonies conjuring up an unsophisticated, real warmth. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)
In the 2021/22 season, several works by David Philip Hefti were given their first performances. They included a new arrangement of Gustav Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder
for high voice and string quartet and Hefti’s own Sixth String Quartet, Five Scenes for Gustav
, which was composed as a prelude to the Rückert-Lieder
, but which can also be performed independently. Both works were performed in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and elsewhere, with the soprano Juliane Banse and the Amaryllis Quartet. Jürg Dähler played Antiphony – Mosaic No. 2 for Viola solo
at the Whitsun Festival at Schloss Brunegg. Philipp Jundt and the Berlin Baroque Soloists recorded the Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra Four Moments
for CD under the baton of the composer. Hefti’s Songs of sorrow, songs of joy – Concerto No. 2 for Viola and String Orchestra
was also given its world première in the Cologne Philharmonic, with Lawrence Power accompanied by the Camerata Zürich and conducted by the composer; a further performance was given one day later in the Zurich Tonhalle.
Besides David Philip Hefti’s opera The Snow Queen
, two further CDs of his music have been released: The album Light and Shade
, which documents Hefti’s longstanding, close collaboration with the Amaryllis Quartet, brings together the works An durchsichtigen Fäden (On transparent threads)
for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, with Maria Riccarda Wesseling; Concubia nocte
– Music for the second nocturnal vigil (String Quartet No. 5); and Danse interstellaire
– Mourning music for basset clarinet and string quartet, with Bernhard Röthlisberger and was described by the magazine Musik & Theater
as "Music of existential urgency". Above and beyond this, David Philip Hefti also gave his conducting debut on the Deutsche Grammophon label. This album, entitled Shades of Love: Korean Drama Soundtracks
, was made under the composer’s direction together with top-ranking artists including James Galway, Daniel Hope, Philipp Jundt, Sebastian Knauer, Albrecht Mayer, Richard O’Neill and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, and reached No. 1 in the Korean classical music charts.
Further first performances are planned in the current season, 2022/23. In September, Benjamin Appl will sing a new work by Hefti for baritone and orchestra to texts by Sir Salman Rushdie, accompanied by the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn under the direction of Case Scaglione. In the New Year, the Kebyart Ensemble will give the first performance of a saxophone quartet in the Zurich Tonhalle and the Basel Casino. After that, Hefti’s successful collaboration with the Berlin Baroque Soloists will continue, with a CD production of a new work for string orchestra. Reinhold Friedrich will present a birthday miniature for Wolfgang Rihm for the first time, entitled Fanfare for Wolfgang – for Solo Piccolo Trumpet
, while Hefti’s new work Round Dance – Mosaic for Violin and Clarinet
continues the composer’s collaboration with the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the clarinettist Reto Bieri. The close of the season will see Hefti’s first ballet (on Schubert’s Death and the Maiden
) performed by the ballet ensemble of Graz Opera, with choreography by Beate Vollack. Hefti is currently busy with a new work for the Scharoun Ensemble of the Berliner Philharmoniker.
In 2013, Hefti was awarded the Composer Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and in 2015 the Hindemith Prize of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. He has also won the International Composition Competition of the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades, the George Enescu International Competition for Composition in Bucharest, and the International Gustav Mahler Composition Prize. Hefti’s works are published by Edition Kunzelmann and C. F. Peters and have been recorded for CD by various labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, NEOS and col legno. When his CD Changements
was released, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung
praised his “excellent mastery of the orchestral apparatus”, both as composer and as conductor.
David Philip Hefti was born in Switzerland in 1975 and studied composition, conducting, clarinet and chamber music at the music academies of Zurich and Karlsruhe, where his teachers included Cristóbal Halffter, Rudolf Kelterborn, Wolfgang Meyer, Wolfgang Rihm and Elmar Schmid. He is active today as both composer and conductor, and lives with his family near Basel.
Season 2022/23 – Not to be altered or shortened without permission of PR² classic