2015

On Wild Territories, Spark comes forward with a release that pursues the logical development of its wholly personal sound in the space between post-classical, minimal music and avant-garde. Virtuosic and unfettered, the five young musicians move between the poles of contrasting musical worlds and eras and forge tradition and innovation into a thrilling new sonic experience attuned to the zeitgeist. These are five young artists determined to chart virgin musical territory, confound convention and give free rein to their imagination. Together they conjure up a luxuriant rainforest that spreads its fronds from baroque times to the present day.

Wild Territories

Andrea Ritter - recorder
Daniel Koschitzki - recorda
 / melodica
Stefan Glaus – violin / viola


Victor Plumettaz - cello

Mischa Cheung - piano

CD, Berlin Classics, 0300640BC
Release: January 23, 2015

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Folk Song
When The Cock Crowed His Warning
Candybox
Silver Falls In The Heart Of The Forest
Obsession
Restless
Cruiser
Concerto RV 151
Agitation
Concerto TWV 52:E1
Venetian Gondola Song
Beyoncé
Alpha Dog
Lost Happiness
Dance Of Rebels
Encore

2012

On their album Folk Tunes, Spark is heading off to explore the magic of European folk music and pushes some of the most popular songs ever written right into the 21st century. The archaic spirit of old German balladry, the timeless beauty of evergreens from the Isles, the natural charm of Alpine tunes, the fierce fire of Balkan rhythms, mystical melodies from Scandinavia, Russian soul, Mediterranean joy and an echo of Bavarian brass flow together in this eclectic genre-bending listening experience.

 

Folk Tunes

Andrea Ritter  - recorder / lotus flute
Daniel Koschitzki - recorder / melodica
Stefan Glaus - violin / viola
Victor Plumettaz - cello
Mischa Cheung - piano

Guest Artist:
Kitty Hoff - Vocals

With:

Stefan Baumann - bass clarinet
Joss Turnbull - percussion
Benjamin Grän - tuba

CD, Deutsche Grammophon, 0028947650157
Release: September 14, 2012

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Folk Tune Rhapsodies I-III
Info

The three "Folk Tune Rhapsodies" by Johannes Motschmann are running through the album like a golden thread. Intentionally, they were placed in the key positions of the CD – at the beginning, at the end and in the golden section. Thus, the rhapsodies pervade the whole album and at the same time establish the main idea of a very free, intuitive approach to folk music.

Motschmann was aiming for an optimum presentation of the chosen tunes, giving space to the specific atmosphere of each song. In his concept, the sound should stay modern and meet with the spirit of the songs without focusing too much much on the songs themselves. On the other hand, he wanted to emphasize the characteristics of Spark – especially the virtuosity of the group.

The first rhapsody recomposes the song "Es war ein König in Thule" in the version of Georg Friedrich Zelter – a favorite song of Motschmann. The second air, "Es tönt des Abendglöckleins Schlag", is a lullaby from the old German collection "Zupfgeigenhansl". Interestingly, the collection contains some tunes without German heritage. This tune for example traces back to a Breton melody. The third rhapsody paraphrases the still very new folk song "Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen", which could almost be described as a pop hit. It didn’t become famous until the end of World War II – particularly through television. The well-known melody derives from Heinz Höhne, a pharmacist from Berlin Pankow. Each of the three pieces shows a different approach: The first rhapsody shows the melody only once in a slight modification played by the recorders. Then, the beginning of the melody is performed as a motivic core for the following passages through all registers, from the highest recorder to the lowest bass. In contrast, the second rhapsody shows the underlying lullaby as a whole, yet with time stretches and slightly different harmonics. Afterwards, the melody disappears for a while until the viola plays it again at the end of the piece. The third rhapsody is composed like a developing variation. All parts of the song are constantly swirled around, but stay recognizable. Nearly everything is made up of the melody. As a consequence, the original material can be heared in new variations over and over again. The Spark sound gradually melts together with the song forming a completely new union. The last few bars evoke some kind of reminiscence of the beginning of Folk Tune Rhapsody I. Thus, the rhapsodies fade away as quietly as they’ve begun.

Greensleeves
Info

"Greensleeves" originates from Renaissance England. A legend says that Henry VIII wrote this melancholy tune about the lady with the green sleeves for his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Be it fact or fiction, the song was very popular from the very beginning and has inspired artists from William Shakespeare to Jethro Tull. In his version for Spark, Daniel has combined different versions of the song, added some extra ingredients and mixed it all up. At the beginning, classical music lovers will immediately recognize the elegiac first part of Ralph Vaughan Wiliams’ "Fantasia on Greensleeves". Later on, anyone who has played the recorder himself will spot those variations by an unknown composer from the collection "The Division Flute". These divisions start quite harmless, but become quite tricky in the end. Nevertheless, Stefan got a little bored and started to fiddle one of the last variations of Arcangelo Corelli’s "La Follia" just for fun. Surprisingly, one theme seemed to flow into the other quite smoothely. That’s why Spark’s version of "Greensleeves" finally comes to an end with Corelli!

Two Step Passion
Info

The music of Turkish-American composer Kamran Ince unites as divers elements as rough, energetic folklore from Turkey and the Balkan, courtly music from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire, European art music and the modern American soul. This exciting connection of tradition and modernism is reflected in the piece "Two Step Passion" which he wrote for Spark.

The cooperation between Spark and Ince was extremely easy-going. While Andrea – who was Inces’ contact person in the group – was located in Germany, Ince was sitting at the piano at his holiday appartment in Turkey. They communicated via Skype. The dynamics of this vivid exchange can be found in the character of the piece. It’s a lively dance that demands a lot of power and endurance from the musicians because of its wild restlessness. The idea of enrichening the sound in the low register with a bass clarinet and different percussion instruments for the recording traces back to a festival appearance of Spark in summer 2011. During Karlsruhes’ summer festival "Zeltival", Spark was playing a mixed opening concert together with oriental jazz band LebiDerya. They performed the piece "Two Step Passion" together with bass clarinetist Stefan Baumann and percussionist Joss Turnbull. The five Spark members were amazed by the additional power which the piece gained that way. So they decided to record the work in this particular version.

Ich hab die Nacht geträumet
Info

For his arrangement of the German folk song "Ich hab die Nacht geträumet", Daniel has been guided strongly by visual ideas. The song describes a mystical scenery in the nightmare of a young girl. It ends with her desparate conclusion that her lover might be dead. Daniel was trying to create a musically floating soundscape that should evoke gloomy impressions like in a Tim Burton movie. At the same time, he wanted the listener to be able to nearly touch the girl’s horror and feel the kind of rigor she’s in while having this cruel dream. A so-called slide whistle is responsible for the concise sound of the glissandi dominating the fragile atmosphere of the arrangement. A slide is used to vary the length of the instrument in order to change the pitch.

Spark wanted to make music together with Berlin-based singer Kitty Hoff for a long time. They were fascinated with Kitty’s unique way of singing from the first moment they’ve listened to one of her solo albums. Her approach to music is quite similar to the one of the Spark members. She has a classical education, but decided to go beyond that and open up for a rich variety of musical stiles. This provided the perfect basis for a cooperation and the arrangement of "Ich hab die Nacht geträumet" is practically tailor-made for her soft and pure timbre.

Kumru
Info

Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say is a world citizen, who couldn’t possibly be more Turkish. At home on the main stages of the world, he never forgets his Turkish roots and has made his mark with his very personal style combining Turkish folk music and the musical tradition of western culture. Yet, his compositions are anything but old-fashioned. Many of them reflect the modern side of Turkey and Say intentionally uses fresh titles like "Fenerbahçe" or "Alla Turca Jazz" which is referring to the evergreen by Mozart.

"Kumru", which means dove, is originally one of three ballads for piano solo from 1995. In this piece, Say refers to the medieval tradition of the oriental troubador song, especially a Spanish text from 1030 by Ibn Hazm al-andalusi, "The ring of the dove – a treatise on the art and practice of arab love". In addition, the title of the piece has a very personal meaning. Kumru is the name of Say’s daughter.

An Eye For Optical Theory
Info

British composer Michael Nyman is one of the great and famous contemporary composers of our times, especially when it comes to film music. His general attitude towards modern art music is very similar to the one of Spark. Both are rejecting any sort of contemporary music that is too academic and unfriendly for the audience. Nyman’s music is attracting fans from all over the world and from all walks of life. It is inspired by American Minimal Music, but doesn’t follow these aesthetics too strictly. In fact, this tradition is just one aspect of a very individual handwriting that avoids an all too clear characterization and remains in a world of its own.

Nyman became famous for his multi-platinum soundtrack album to Jane Campion’s movie "The Piano" from 1993. His works have been performed by renowned artists, such as Ute Lemper or the Kronos Quartet. Moreover he has been touring the globe for decades with his own band, the Micahel Nyman Band. Insiders have known Nyman since the 1980s for his lengthy collaboration with British cult filmmaker Peter Greenaway. The piece "An Eye For Optical Theory" originates from the Greenaway movie "The Draughtsman’s Contract" (1982) and was arranged for Spark by Johannes Motschmann.

It may not be immediately obvious why Spark has chosen this piece for their "Folk Tunes" project. However, a closer look on the structure of the piece reveals the ensemble’s motivation to include this piece in the album. "An Eye For Optical Theory" is based on a ground by English Baroque composer William Croft. The idea of playing on an ostinato bass has been known since people started to play music. Thus, it’s hard to imagine a more popular and folk-related way of making music.

The Old Lautar
Info

Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin, who has been called "one of New York’s fastest rising composers" by Billboard Magazine, adds a great deal of internationality to the Spark cosmos. He was born the son of Russian composer Alexander Zhurbin and writer Irena Ginzburg. The family moved to New York, when Zhurbin was a child. He still lives there today. Nevertheless, he has always stayed in touch with his origin in the "Old World". That’s why a lot of influences of European culture can be found in Zhurbin’s music, for example in the song "The Old Lautar", which is referring to the music of the Roma. The title relates both to the music of a special clan of these people as well as to the musicians themselves and also to a fiddle-like instrument, called "lăută", which is used in such music.

Budget Bulgar
Info

"Budget Bulgar" is one of Ljova’s biggest hits. He has made several arrangements of the piece for various settings. Spark represents the European variation of the piece, which the American wrote especially for the group.

In summer 2007, when Spark was just founded, Ljova visited the group in Karlsruhe, as he was travelling through Europe anyway. They spent a funny day together, examined the different recorders, introduced their favorite music to each another and finally went to Heidelberg, because "every American must have seen that". Afterwards he stayed overnight at his new friend’s home. They heard him rumbling next door all night long. He seemed to sleep little and was busy until dawn. The next morning he handed the score of "Budget Bulgar" over to them and said: "This is something for you!"

Csillagok, Csillagok
Info

Victor is representing the Hungarian element in the weird mix of different heritages within Spark. He contributed the song "Csillagok, Csillagok" which has many different meanings to him. As a popular Hungarian folk song, it stands for childhood memories. The title "Csillagok"means stars. In the song, a poor journeyman sings to the stars, asking them to lead him the way to the house of his beloved. While the cello part sings the melody in the beginning of the piece, the piano part represents the sparkling stars.

Later on, the piece serves as a reference for Hungarian music in general. Other songs are quoted, for example some passages from the Folk Opera "Háry János" by famous Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. However, for Victor the most important thing in the arrangement is the feeling for the country, which is transported through the music. The infinite vastness, the starry sky of the Puszta, travelling people, campfire, old horse-drawn carriage… Last but not least, the people of Hungary are honoured. They are peasants with pride, but also with a lot of warmth and cordiality.

Wild Heart
Info

Dutch composer Chiel Meijering was one of the first composers to write original pieces for Spark. He has composed numerous pieces for the group and thus strongly defined the sound of the band. In his home country, Meijering is known as the "enfant terrible" of contemporary music. He’s always game for anything and incredibly creative. This earned him a large amount of fans reaching to the highest circles. Even Queen Beatrix I. ordered a commission for a gala concert on the occasion of her 60th birthday.

Without doubt, Meijering’s pieces can be described as radical and anarchic and they are physically demanding too. The piece "Wild Heart" asks for this kind of virtuosity. Especially Stefan and his violin are challenged, while from time to time a leisurely Bavarian brass band is marching by as a sharp contrast. Maybe this is meant as a homage to the origin of Andrea?

In a very frolic rehearsal for the CD recording, Daniel came up with the idea to boost the marching band sequences with a tuba in order to exaggerate the irony of the piece. No sooner said than done. That’s how Spark met Benjamin Grän, a very inventive tubist who tried out the weirdest ideas of the band with much patience and was open for all kinds of jokes – totally in line with Meijering!

Scarborough Fair
Info

From the Middle Ages until the 19th century, a large market took place every year in August in the English town of Scarborough. The "Scarborough Fair" was a great event for the people of that time. In the song of the same title, it provides the scenery for the considerations of two former lovers. They are thinking about giving each other another chance, but at the same time they are putting almost unsolvable challenges in the way. That’s the way life goes: They can neither live together nor apart from each other.

The song originates probably from the 16th or 17th century and got famous through the version of Simon & Garfunkel. Yet, numerous cover versions of this evergreen have been performed over the years by the most various artists, from Herbie Hancock to Helene Fischer.

Daniel’s arrangement is a homage to Swiss composer Frank Martin who has proven excellently how to combine folk tradition and art music in his "Trio sur des mélodies populaires irlandaises". While the beginning is strongly geared to the first movement of Martin’s piano trio and even uses direct quotes, Daniel develops his own interpretation of the song over the course of the arrangement. In its culmination, the song is changed into a wild Jig and then steadily cools down towards the end of the piece.

Dve Gitary
Info

Victor arranged this well-known traditional which has been made famous by Charles Aznavour. Every cellist probably understands his source of inspiration: Being on your way with a cello case on the back, you are regularly addressed by caring fellow citizens, who show their sympathy because of the oversized guitar you are carrying around. Some day, you give up explaining the slight difference. However, a cello can be used exactly like a guitar. So can a violin...

Kahden Kauppa
Info

The title "Kahden Kauppa" traces back to a Finnish proverb: "Kahden kauppa on kolmannen korvapuusti". This means something like "If two people close a bargain, a third one might be left out in the cold." Literally translated, the third one even gets a slap in his face.

In his composition, Jonne Valtonen, who is mostly famous for his video game music, combines two Finnish traditionals. The first one, "Pappani maja" (My grandfather’s house), is a serious song about childhood memories while the second one, "Kullan ylistys", is a satirical song where the singer makes fun of his lover and her physical shortcomings.

Valtonen knows the music of Spark and wrote an arrangement which is perfectly tailored to the individual sound of the group. In order to do justice to the theme of the album, he has enriched the arrangement with a lot of folk elements. At the same time, he made sure to add some extra spices to the music. According to his wishes, the piece should be showy, true to the motto "Bartók goes pop". Just like Spark.

2010

On its debut album, Spark presents the most exciting sounds from New York, London, Amsterdam and Berlin. Radically and uncompromisingly, the five exceptional musicians demonstrate where music comes from and where it’s going. Dreams and trends, classical beats, fusion sounds, neon trance and minimal grooves melt into the pulse of the city.

Downtown Illusions

ECHO Klassik 2011

Andrea Ritter  - recorder / lotus flute
Daniel Koschitzki - recorder
 / vocals / melodica / piano
Stefan Glaus - violin / viola

Victor Plumettaz - cello

Jutta Rieping - piano

Guest Artist:
Robeat - Human Beatbox

Super Audio CD, ARS 38 084
Release: September 01, 2010

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Harde Puntjes
Wonderland: Jack
3 Songs, Op. 7: No. 1. Apres un reve (arr. for chamber ensemble)
Tango Heavy
Swing Shift: Groovebox Variations
The Journey Has Just Begun
Meteor
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106, "Actus tragicus": Sonatina
Song and Dance (after R. Jannotta and C. Bolling)
Wonderland: Nadia
Dinah's Night Flight
Dreams
Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 3, No. 2, RV 578: I. Adagio e Spiccato
Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 3, No. 2, RV 578: II. Allegro
Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 3, No. 2, RV 578: III. Larghetto
Harde Puntjes
Can't Take My Eyes off You
Nostalgie