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Biblical texts provided the inspirational sources and creative catalysts for the musical suite featured on this debut recording of Swiss duo Vera Kappeler and Peter Conradin Zumthor. Commissioned by the ‘Origen Festival Cultural’, the Babylon-Suite was premiered in July 2012 in the reverberant cavern of the Swiss hydroelectric power plant at Tinizong and eventually recorded at Radiotelevisione Svizzera in Lugano in June 2013, with Manfred Eicher producing.

The artistic challenge presented by the Origen festival was to create a suite inspired by the “Book of Daniel”. When tackling the task and approaching the book’s tales of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel’s survival in the lion’s den, and the young men singing in the fiery furnace, Kappeler and Zumthor did not do so from a religious point of view, but rather with a vivid interest in the dramatic qualities of the texts. “The dreams of Nebuchadnezzar in particular seemed almost psychedelic to me”, says Zumthor. “We drew inspirational starting points from the ‘Book of Daniel’, which gave us a frame of thought and an atmosphere, but it was not our intention to literally illustrate those tales with our music,” Kappeler adds.

“The room at Origen had unbelievable acoustics”, says Peter Conradin Zumthor referring to the power plant at Tinizong, “but we knew that certain details would remain inaudible there.” However, at the recording session in Lugano the suite was given its definite form. In the course of the recording, a new sequence of the pieces was defined to mould an organic and dynamic dramaturgy.

Surpassing – and at times literally reversing – the traditional roles of piano and percussion, the two musicians engaged in concentrated dialogues, leaving spaces and ellipses for the imagination to fill. Kappeler’s pianistic touch and phrasing, most subtly detailed and underpinned by Zumthor’s melody-and-texture conscious drumming, draw the listener in and produce, as Peter Rüedi writes in his liner notes, “an exceptionally coherent overall composition of dynamic contrasts, sophisticated dissonances, aggressive give and take, towering phalanxes of chords, trills evaporating into irreality and overtones wafting gently away. The conflict between highly differentiated layers of sound and the maximum simplicity of folk-like or even childlike melodies is stupendous. This music is always focused on contrast; mighty crescendos expand and collapse into silence in dramatic symmetry. In such a sequency of opposites we find, notwithstanding all the earnestness and even the aplomb of the undertaking, a unique and distinctive wit.”

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Vera Kappeler was born in Basel in 1974. She studied piano at the Winterthur Conservatory and jazz piano in Basel. She performs and records with a variety of projects such as Marianne Racine’s Tuliaisia, Felix Profos’ Forcemajeure, Christoph Irniger’s Pilgrim, Los Dos & Orchestra’s Hermanos, and Grünes Blatt, and also tours with solo programmes. Her trio-CD Nach Slingia was released in March 2009 on Veto Records. She has apperead at several international festivals and was appointed ‘Artist in residence’ in renowned Zurich jazzclub Moods in 2010. Vera Kappeler teaches at the Prova Music School in Winterthur and at the jazz department of the Luzern Academy of Music.

Peter Conradin Zumthor, born in 1979 in Chur, has initiated numerous projects and groups mainly in New Music, music for theatre, literature settings, music related to architecture and free improvisation in and outside of Switzerland. Currently he is engaged in projects with the composers Felix Profos and David Dramm, and also with the Ukrainian writer Juri Andruchowytsch. Zumthor is a member of Trio Klick with Lucas Niggli and Fritz Hauser, and also of the ‘Merz feat. Sartorius Drumensemble’ with Julian Sartorius, Lionel Friedli and Arno Troxler. Recent CD releases with Lucas Niggli: Profos (Not Two, 2009) and Spiegel (Edition Therme, 2011).

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