David Philip Hefti

Conductor / Composer

Despite his classically avant-garde musical language, Hefti’s prime concern is expressiveness – addressing his listener with a candid eloquence. He loves powerful contrasts and does not refrain from writing intense cantilenas. His music is capable of cumulative processes of concentration, and can unleash a vehement drive. (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

David Philip Hefti’s oeuvre encompasses some 70 works, including orchestral, vocal and chamber music. He has composed large-scale orchestral works, solo concertos, works for chamber orchestra, string quartets, solo pieces, song cycles and two operas. He is currently completing his orchestral cycle Beziehungsweisen (“Interplays of relationships”), of which three movements have already been performed. Hefti has enjoyed a working relationship of several years’ standing with artists such as Viviane Hagner, Christian Poltéra, Hartmut Rohde, Baiba Skride, Jan Vogler and Antje Weithaas, who all regularly perform his music.

As both conductor and composer, Hefti has worked with numerous orchestras and ensembles including the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, the Bavarian State Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Tokyo Sinfonietta, the Ensemble Modern, the Amaryllis Quartet and the Leipzig String Quartet. His orchestral works have been performed by conductors such as Peter Eötvös, Cornelius Meister, Kent Nagano, Jonathan Nott, Michael Sanderling, Mario Venzago and David Zinman. He has been invited to music festivals including Wien Modern, Beijing Modern, Ultraschall Berlin, the Lucerne Festival, the Gstaad Menuhin Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Heidelberger Frühling, the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades, the Dvorak Festival in Prague and the Suntory Festival in Tokyo.

In May 2017, Hefti’s first opera, Anna’s Mask, was given its world première at the St. Gallen Theatre under the baton of Otto Tausk. It is based on the true story of the Swiss singer Anna Sutter, whose life tragically mirrored the fate of her own star role, that of Carmen: her former lover, the conductor Aloys Obrist, murdered her in 1910 in Stuttgart. David Philip Hefti’s musical language, which is characterised by transparency, a chamber-music intensity and a concentrated sense of dramaturgy, is also manifested in this, his first opera. Luminous ecstasy – and this is the point of it – is no betrayal of Hefti’s aesthetic stance, which otherwise tends to fragile, pointillist drops of sound solidifying into chordal structures. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

Hefti composed his second music-theatre work, The Snow Queen based on the eponymous fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, to a commission from the Zurich Tonhalle Society for its 150th anniversary. The semi-staged world première of this musical tale for the whole family took place in November 2018 in the Tonhalle Maag in Zurich. The title role was sung by the soprano Mojca Erdmann, with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra under the baton of the composer himself. In The Snow Queen, the cold takes many audible forms. There are wine glasses filled with water – they sound as clear and transparent as frozen crystals. The serial techniques that always accompany the appearance of the icy queen also come across as frosty and cool – these are academic number games that freeze into lifeless formulae. In stark contrast to all this are the micro-intervals and overtones that unite to create iridescent natural harmonies conjuring up an unsophisticated, real warmth. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

Hefti is currently working to complete his four-part cycle Nocturnal vigils, whose starting point is the Roman vigils of the church. The first part, Prima nocte for chamber orchestra, was given its world première in February 2018 by the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra under Kazuki Yamada. It was followed in October of that same year by the string quartet Concubia nocte, given its first performance by the Merel Quartet at the chamber music festival “Zwischentöne”. The third piece in the cycle, Media nox for flute and orchestra, received its world première at the Heidelberg Spring Festival in April 2019, performed by Tatjana Ruhland and accompanied by the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Jamie Phillips; it was also recorded for release on CD. David Philip Hefti is currently composing the fourth and last Nocturnal vigil: the wind quintet Gallicinium will be given its first performance in June 2020 at the “Bläserserenaden” concerts in Zurich. This cycle by David Philip Hefti explores the sounds of twilight, the night, dreams and sleeplessness, creating sound-surfaces alternately static, animated and iridescent that impel rhythm and melody into the background. The result is a microtonal music. The variety of tone-colour combinations was especially impressive, reaching into the realm of noise, creating a mysterious tension and conjuring up all kinds of images of living things such as the forest at the break of day, swarms of insects and foggy landscapes. (Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, on “Media nox”)

Besides Gallicinium, two other world premières are planned for 2020: in April, Hefti’s new wind quartet will be performed at the Swiss Chamber Concerts, and in May his Viola Concerto will be given its first performance by the orchestra of the Musikkollegium Winterthur with Jürg Dähler as soloist, conducted by the composer.

In 2013, Hefti was awarded the Composer Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and in 2015 the Hindemith Prize of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. He has also won the International Composition Competition of the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades, the George Enescu International Competition for Composition in Bucharest, and the International Gustav Mahler Composition Prize. Hefti’s works are published by Edition Kunzelmann and C. F. Peters and have been recorded for CD by various labels. When his CD Changements was released, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung praised his “excellent mastery of the orchestral apparatus”, both as composer and as conductor.

David Philip Hefti was born in Switzerland in 1975 and studied composition, conducting, clarinet and chamber music at the music academies of Zurich and Karlsruhe, where his teachers included Cristóbal Halffter, Rudolf Kelterborn, Wolfgang Meyer, Wolfgang Rihm and Elmar Schmid. He is active today as both composer and conductor, and lives with his family near Basel.

Find further information on www.hefti.net.

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