© Katrin Schilling

The Ensemble Modern

Since its founding in 1980, Ensemble Modern (EM) has been among the leading New Music ensembles. It currently unites 18 soloists from 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. 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 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 CD ›Peng! Gründungskonzert Ensemble Modern‹, the live recording of EM’s first concert in 1980, is released by Ensemble Modern Media
  • Ensemble Modern meets Gagaku at Frankfurter Positionen (with Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble)
  • Kurt Weill's ›Dreigroschenoper‹ at Kurt Weill Fest in Dessau and Salzburg Festival
  • German-Slovenian Encounters with concerts in Frankfurt and Ljubljana (World premieres and premieres by Nina Senk, Vito Zuraj, Uros Rojko, Karola Obermüller, Hanna Eimermacher)
  • ›Black and White‹ by Heiner Goebbels at Israel Fesival in Jerusalem
  • Ensemble Modern as Artist-in-Residence at Festival Time of Music in Viitassari/Finnland with works by Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Brian Ferneyhough
  • The new series ›Checkpoint‹ – Concerts Under the Roof is launched. Here, Ensemble Modern musicians experiment with a kind of ›open source‹ process, presenting themselves as performers, improvisers and composers.
  • Ensemble Modern Orchestra with Michael Gordon's ›No Anthems‹ at festival Acht Brücken and with Luigi Nono's ›Prometeo‹ at Ruhrtriennale
  • Premiere of Johannes Maria Staud’s ›Specter of the Gardenia‹ oder Der Tag wird kommen with texts by Josef Winkler at steirischen herbst
  • Concert readings at at the plenary hall of the Federal Council (Bundesrat) and at Paulskirche in Frankfurt as part of the culture week ›25 Jahre Deutsche Einheit‹
  • ›Ruang Suara – Zeitgenössische Musik aus Indonesien‹ as part of Indonesia LAB at Frankfurt LAB as well as in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta (Indonesia) with eight premieres by Indonesian composers
  • Ensemble Modern at ›Festival Internacional Cervantino‹ in Mexico
  • Third edition of cresc... ›Biennale für Moderne Musik Frankfurt Rhein Main‹ under the theme ›Images of Sound‹ with concerts in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt and Hanau,in which EM commemorates Helmut Lachenmann’s 80th birthday.