© 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 Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, the USA and Switzerland, illustrating the culturally diverse background of the ensemble. Resident in Frankfurt am Main, the ensemble has been incorporated as a civil law association (GbR) under German law since 1987, with the musicians as partners. EM is known for its unique organisation and working method, foregoing an artistic director: projects, co-productions 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 Salzburger Festspiele, Klangspuren Schwaz, Bregenzer Festspiele, Wien Modern, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Holland Festival, Klangspuren Schwaz, Berliner Festspiele, Ruhrtriennale und Lucerne Festival, as well as Wigmore Hall, Cité de la Musique, Tokyo Wondersite, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Elbphilharmonie, Kölner Philharmonie, Konzerthaus Berlin, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. It has had its own subscription series at the Alte Oper Frankfurt since 1985, presenting most recent works and developments. It regularly produces musical theatre works in cooperation with the Frankfurt Opera, as well as a series of workshop concerts entitled ›Happy New Ears‹, introducing and explaining central works and composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since 2011 Ensemble Modern has joined the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in presenting the festival ›cresc... Biennial for Modern Music Frankfurt Rhine Main‹.

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, George Benjamin, Peter Eötvös, Heiner Goebbels, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, György Ligeti, Benedict Mason, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve Reich or Frank Zappa.

In addition to its multi-faceted concert activities, Ensemble Modern presents the results of its work through regular radio and CD recordings, many of which have gone on to win ECHO Awards and the Prize of the German Record Critics, as well as several Grammy nominations. Almost 30 of the more than 150 CD productions have been released by the ensemble’s own label, Ensemble Modern Media. Ensemble Modern was declared a ›Leuchtturm‹ or ›beacon‹ of contemporary culture in Germany in 2003 by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. That same year, Ensemble Modern began bundling 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 course »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 Ministry of Science and Art of the State of Hesse 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.


  • World premiere of Henze's ›Requiem‹ in Cologne, followed by concerts in Vienna, Frankfurt a. M., Berlin, Munich, Firenze, Venice and Salzburg
  • World premiere of Manfred Trojahn's ›... une campagne noire de soleil‹ at Kölner Philharmonie
  • Concerts under the direction of John Adams in Frankfurt a.M., Berlin and Vienna
  • CD production of works by Edgar Varèse together with Frank Zappa in Los Angeles
  • John Cage once wished his audience ›happy new ears‹. The Ensemble Modern’s subscription series at the Frankfurt Opera was initiated in 1993 by Hans Zender. In the workshop concerts individual works by different contemporary composers are presented. In discussion with musicians, musicologists or other experts, individual passages from the works are rehearsed first and then explained and placed in context. Very often other background information is brought into the discussion, as well as other media (films, lectures etc.) and only then is the entire work performed.
  • Luigi Nono's ›Prometeo‹ at Salzburger Festspiele
  • Hans Zender’s ›Winterreise‹ premiered at Frankfurt Feste
  • The German Record Critics' Award, Quarterly Critics' Choice 4/1993: György Kurtág - ›Song Cycles‹ (Ensemble Modern/Peter Eötvös)
  • The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences nominates the CD ›Ives: A Portrait of Charles Ives‹ of the Ensemble Modern and Ingo Metzmacher as the best orchestral recording