© © Wonge Bergmann
© © Wonge Bergmann
© © Wonge Bergmann für das Ensemble Modern

Ensemble Modern

Ensemble Modern is a curious loudspeaker for music of our times: courageous, uncompromising, energetic. An essential, aesthetically polyglot amplifier for trend-setting sound concepts.

It is one of the most well-known, leading current music formations in the world. Founded in 1980 and at home in Frankfurt am Main, 18 soloists currently determine the activities of this democratically organized ensemble. The musicians from Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the USA jointly decide on artistic projects, partnerships with other artists and all financial matters. Its aesthetic spectrum includes musical theatre works, dance and multimedia projects, chamber music, ensemble and orchestral concerts.

Tours and guest appearances regularly take Ensemble Modern to the most renowned festivals, such as Acht Brücken Music for Cologne, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Festival d’Automne in Paris, Festival d’Avignon, the Berliner Festspiele, Bregenzer Festspiele, the Donaueschingen Festival, Holland Festival, Klangspuren Schwaz, KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen, ManiFeste Paris, November Music in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Ruhrtriennale, steirischer herbst Graz, Transart Festival in Bolzano, Ultima Oslo, Warsaw Autumn Festival, Wien Modern and the Witten Days of New Chamber Music. The Frankfurt-based ensemble frequently performs at major national and international venues such as Berlin’s Philharmonie, the Concertgebouw, Muziekgebouw Amsterdam, Konzerthaus Berlin, Hellerau Dresden, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Philharmonie in Cologne, London’s Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre and the Cité de la Musique in Paris.

In its hometown, Ensemble Modern has its own subscription series at the Alte Oper Frankfurt. It regularly produces musical theatre works in cooperation with the Frankfurt Opera, as well as a legendary series of workshop concerts entitled ›Happy New Ears‹, which began in 1993 and has taken place in cooperation with the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts (HfMDK) since 2019. Together with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern has been presenting the festival ›cresc... Biennial for Current Modern Music Frankfurt Rhine Main‹ since 2011.

Every year, Ensemble Modern rehearses and performs approximately 70 new compositions, including about 20 world premieres, some of which it commissions itself. The ensemble strives to achieve the highest possible degree of authenticity by working closely with the composers themselves. Ensemble Modern’s concept and goal is to achieve the highest possible precision in implementing a composer’s ideas. Its work is characterised by extraordinary and often long-term cooperative ventures with renowned artists, such as John Adams, Mark Andre, George Benjamin, Unsuk Chin, Peter Eötvös, Brian Ferneyhough, Heiner Goebbels, Hans Werner Henze, Heinz Holliger, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, György Ligeti, Cathy Milliken, Brigitta Muntendorf, Olga Neuwirth, Enno Poppe, Steve Reich, Wolfgang Rihm, Rebecca Saunders, Iris ter Schiphorst, Simon Steen-Andersen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Frank Zappa, Hans Zender or Vito Žuraj, as well as outstanding artist personalities from other artistic genres. Among its commissions, there are also large-scale compositions written for the Ensemble Modern Orchestra, for which the ensemble expands to orchestral dimensions. The Ensemble Modern Orchestra was founded in 1998 as the first orchestra in the world dedicated exclusively to contemporary music.

Since 2000 Ensemble Modern has run its own media label, Ensemble Modern Media. Numerous productions, many created in cooperation with the public radio stations in Germany – hr2-kultur is Ensemble Modern’s cultural affairs partner – have thereby been made available on a permanent basis. Further audio media, of which Ensemble Modern has produced approximately 150 so far, have been released by other established labels, including col legno, ECM Records, NEOS Music, Sony Music and Wergo.

In 2003 Ensemble Modern founded the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA), bundling its existing education and further education projects under one roof. Its goal is to convey the numerous artistic movements of our times as well as an open, creative manner of dealing with artistic processes. Since its founding, IEMA has developed customized formats for various target groups: these include the Master’s Degree Programme ›Contemporary Music Performance‹ for young professional musicians in cooperation with the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts (HfMDK) as well as the International Composer & Conductor Seminars (ICCS) and education projects for children and teenagers.

The diverse, self-administered work of Ensemble Modern never stops questioning musical and concert conventions. Its members are indefatigable in their search for expressive, artistic sonic positions of our times, delivering authentic performances of these positions.

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. hr2-kultur is Ensemble Modern’s cultural affairs partner.


  • Heinz Holliger receives the Frankfurter Musikpreis endowed with 25,000 Deutsche Mark and forwards his reward to Ensemble Modern, who is at that point struggling with financial difficulties
  • Dance theatres ›Red Run‹ by Amanda Miller with music by Heiner Goebbels and ›Choros‹ by Rhys Martin with music by Elena Kats-Chernin are being premiered at Jahrhunderthalle Höchst in Frankfurt a.M.
  • Performance of the opera ›Stallerhof‹ based on a play by Franz Xaver Kroetz, (composition by Gerd Kühr) at the first Munich Biennale and in Wiesbaden
  • Mark Antony Turnage's opera ›Greek‹ an HK Gruber's ›Frankenstein!!!‹ are being staged at the Munich Biennale
  • Initiation of ›Response‹ a practical school-project that tries to make contemporary music more accessible for young people, first season in Berlin in collaboration with London Sinfonietta
  • Premiere of Ernst Krenek's ›Symeon der Stylik‹ at ›Salzburger Festspiele‹ under the direction of Lothar Zagrosek
  • Portrait concerts of György Ligeti and György Kurtág at ›Berliner Festwochen‹
  • Concerts with Steve Reich (›Different Trains‹, ›Eight Lines‹, ›Sextet‹, ›Four Organs‹ i.a.) in Frankfurt a.M., Berlin, Bolzano and Cologne
  • Concerts within the theme of ›music and machine‹ at Kölner Philharmonie, with works by Conlon Nancarrow, transcribed by Ivar Mikashoff
  • Gesellschaft für Neue Musik (contemporary music society) and Ensemble Modern host an international composers workshop in Blonay: Ten composers write pieces to be performed by Ensemble Modern, the ensemble studies their works, offers support to the composers during development and realization and performs the completed compositions; lecturers are Helmut Lachenmann, Ingo Metzmacher, and Hans Zender