Blog: Alexandre Fasel

The Swiss Ambassador on the 21st Swiss Ambassador's Award, an annual music showcase connecting Swiss culture with communities across the UK through a five date concert tour and reception

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One of the most rewarding aspects of serving as an ambassador, particularly to a country as culturally vibrant as the United Kingdom, is being able to provide a platform from which artistic projects and collaborations can flourish. When artists from Switzerland perform or exhibit in the UK, as well as showcasing their own talent they are representing the best of Swiss values, as well as gaining new ideas and experiences that shape their work. With each exchange, we further deepen the cultural links between our two countries.

The Swiss Ambassador’s Award is an accolade given each year to a talented Swiss-based classical musician or ensemble. It began as a single concert at Wigmore Hall in London back in 1998 and has evolved into a concert tour taking in all four UK capitals and, for the first time this year, Manchester.

With the support of the Swiss Cultural Fund UK and the Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia, the musicians are provided with not just a monetary grant, but with a platform to perform to audiences comprised of the political, diplomatic and business community as well as the general public. With this format we can connect with local communities across all the United Kingdom, with the concerts providing a setting to bring local political and business leaders into our cultural network.

The arts, and music in particular, serve as a common language: a form of expression and communication that transcends linguistic barriers and brings people together. This concept of unity in diversity is a core principle of this award.

Switzerland itself is an embodiment of diversity. With four languages and a regional approach to government, diversity and openness are not just values that Switzerland promotes but form the very foundations on which the country was created. It is a country that attracts talent and ideas from around the globe and harnesses this potential, creating an environment in which excellence can thrive, whether in the arts or in the fields of technology, science, finance or academia.

The geography of Switzerland as well as this diversity and multilingualism shape just about every aspect of Swiss life. Nowhere is this more evident that in the field of culture, including traditional as well as modern music. At the crossroads of three major European cultures – French, German and Italian – Switzerland has a rich and varied arts scene. As a result, artists living and working in Switzerland tend to be outward-looking, open to experimentation and ready to incorporate influences from other countries and cultures in their work.

This year’s recipients are a particularly strong expression of these values. Featuring a British cellist, a South Korean violinist and a German violist who came together while studying in Basel, the Orion String Trio have been delighting audiences around the world since. This diverse partnership of Soyoung Yoon (violin), Veit Hertenstein (viola) and Benjamin Gregor-Smith (cello) exemplify the same values that make Switzerland a success story, with their passionate dynamism, agility and fresh ideas.

The Trio plays by heart and has found that without the physical barrier of music stands between them they achieve a greater connection and spontaneity, which leads to a more intense and impassioned performance.

The concert programme is as diverse as the Trio itself, featuring composers from Hungary, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Beethoven’s String Trio in G major, Op 9, No 1 will open the evening, with pieces from Alfred Schnittke and Ernő Dohnányi to follow. Dohnányi’s Serenade for String Trio has a mix of European influences, composed in London and Vienna with elements of Hungarian folk.

Traditionally, Swiss Ambassador’s Award concerts also feature a modern Swiss composition and this year a Thomas Demenga piece, Palindromania, will receive its UK premiere. Demenga’s work is characterised by a confrontation of different historical eras and styles of interpretation and composition.

As the concert tour commences I look forward to introducing audiences in all four nations of the United Kingdom to the music of the Orion String Trio and to strengthening cultural ties between our two countries.

Swiss Ambassador’s Award Concert: Orion String Trio is at RNCM, Manchester, Friday 19 October, 7.30pm

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