A piano trio, a string quartet, a wind quintet – Camerata variabile is all of those. Founded in Basel in 1994, the group unites internationally active musicians who have devoted themselves to chamber music. The ensemble's artistic director has been Helena Winkelmann since 2011. It does not perform in a fixed formation, but rather in mobile formations that – from solo works to arrangements of orchestral compositions – allow for many combinations. Old and new music are contrasted in exciting ways in carefully researched programs oriented around a theme. The Camerata variabile interprets outstanding twentieth century compositions as well as playing unknown and forgotten works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Moreover, it is especially important to them to introduce new compositions; therefore, they regularly commission works by promising Swiss composers.
The theme of the concert season 2016/17 is Contrat Social, the key work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's enlightenment philosophy. They seek points in common between music and the body politic. Four composers have been asked to give a musical commentary on this theme: Isabel Klaus from Basel, Silvan Loher from Schaffhausen, and Mischa Käser and Dominik Blum from Zurich. Works by twenty-six composers will be performed by twenty-two musicians in five locations in Switzerland.
The Foundation Board acknowledges the works of the composers as well as the commitment of the Camerata variabile to contemporary classical music and supports the compositions with a grant of CHF 6,000.