© Katrin Schilling

The Ensemble Modern

Since its founding in 1980, Ensemble Modern (EM) has been among the leading New Music ensembles. It currently unites 20 soloists from Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, the USA and Switzerland, illustrating the culturally diverse background of the ensemble. Resident in Frankfurt am Main, the ensemble is known for its unique democratic organisation and working method. Artistic projects, partnerships and financial matters are decided and implemented jointly. Its unique and distinctive programming includes musical theatre works, dance and video projects, chamber music, ensemble and orchestral concerts. Tours and guest appearances have taken it to the most renowned festivals and distinguished performance venues, such as the Berliner Festspiele, Bregenzer Festspiele, Cité de la Musique, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Festival d’Aix-en Provence, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Hellerau Dresden, Holland Festival, Klangspuren Schwaz, Konzerthaus Berlin, Kölner Philharmonie, Kunstfestspiele Herrenhausen, Ruhrtriennale, Salzburger Festspiele, Wien Modern or Wigmore Hall London.

In its hometown, Ensemble Modern has had its own subscription series at the Alte Oper Frankfurt since 1985. It regularly produces musical theatre works in cooperation with the Frankfurt Opera, as well as a series of workshop concerts entitled ›Happy New Ears‹. Since 2011 Ensemble Modern has joined the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in presenting the festival ›cresc... Biennial for Modern Music Frankfurt Rhine Main‹. Further cooperations and projects round out the multi-faceted profile of Ensemble Modern. The ensemble strives to achieve the highest possible degree of authenticity by working closely with the composers themselves. The musicians rehearse an average of 70 new works every year, 20 of which are world premieres.

Its work is characterised by extraordinary and often long-term cooperative ventures with renowned artists, such as John Adams, Mark Andre, George Benjamin, Peter Eötvös, Brian Ferneyhough, Heiner Goebbels, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, György Ligeti, Olga Neuwirth, Enno Poppe, Rebecca Saunders, Simon Steen-Andersen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve Reich, Frank Zappa or Vito Žuraj, as well as outstanding artist personalities from other artistic genres. In 2020 Ensemble Modern celebrates its 40-year anniversary with a anniversary cycle spanning the entire year as well as numerous concerts in Germany and abroad, once again highlighting the diversity of its musical work. In addition to its multi-faceted concert activities, Ensemble Modern presents the results of its work through regular recordings, many of which have won multiple awards. Almost 40 of the more than 150 CD productions have been released by the ensemble’s own label, Ensemble Modern Media.

In 2003 Ensemble Modern bundled its existing education and further education projects under one roof, founding the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA) with the goal of passing on the musical heritage of modernism. IEMA’s formats developed especially for specific target groups include the Master’s Degree Programme in contemporary music for young professional musicians in cooperation with the Frankfurt am Main Academy of Music and Performing Arts as well as international master courses, composition seminars and school projects. All these pursue the goal of educating a broad public about a great variety of contemporary musical tendencies and an open, creative approach to artistic processes.

Ensemble Modern is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the City of Frankfurt, the German Ensemble Academy, the Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts, and the GVL. The Ensemble Modern musicians thank the Aventis Foundation for financing a chair in their ensemble. hr2-kultur is Ensemble Modern’s cultural affairs partner.


  • The ensemble launches its own subscription series at Alte Oper in Frankfurt a.M.
  • The ensemble chooses Frankfurt a.M. as its domicile; the city of Frankfurt provides office and rehearsal space at Schirn Kunsthalle.
  • Concert with works by Helmut Lachenmann at the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik
  • The ensemble tours several university towns together with Antony Pay and Sigune von Osten playing music by John Cage, Manfred Trojahn, Heinz Holliger, Harrison Birtwistle, and Hans-Werner Henze
  • The ensemble participates at the Montepulciano festival Cantiere internazionale d'arte performing Hans-Werner Henze's ›Voices‹
  • Premiere of Wolfgang Rihm's ›Andere Schatten‹ at Frankfurt Feste (conductor: Ernest Bour)
  • Opening the Berliner Festwochen with Anton Webern's ›Ricercar a 6 voci‹, Arnold Schoenberg's ›Chambersymphony‹ and the premiere of Peter Ruzicka's ›... der die Gesänge zerschlug‹ conducted by Ernest Bour
  • Prize of the french foreign minister on the occasion of the European Year of Music