© Katrin Schilling

Ensemble Modern

Since its founding in 1980, Ensemble Modern (EM) has been among the leading New Music ensembles. It currently unites around 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, musica viva / Bayerischer Rundfunk, Ruhrtriennale, Salzburger Festspiele, Wien Modern and 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 Current 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 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 50 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 University 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. 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