An artist in search: this is probably the most accurate portrait that can be drawn of the violist Geneviève Strosser. From her first concerts under the baton of Harnoncourt, to her encounter with Aperghis, via her daily exposure to the music of Bach, this search is reflected in all the facets of her profession as a musician-performer: her relationship with her instrument, her relations with other musicians, her creative work, her interdisciplinary approach, her programme design, her pedagogy… For her, the viola is a tool for tirelessly questioning the world and art, as well as a vehicle for expression and knowledge. Hence, she works endlessly on her repertoire everyday, enriching it, going from surprise to surprise, for herself as well as for her public.
Her quest for new artistic experiences has taken shape in recent months with a position as violist with the Ensemble Recherche (until Summer 2022), which enabled her to create Helmut Lachenmann’s String Trio No. 2 last May and which she recorded in the autumn. In July 2022, she was appointed principal viola with the Zurich Camerata. In the meantime, she has been visiting the Hungarian composer György Kurtág to work on his music and that of the past, especially Johann Sebastian Bach’s.
In the spring of 2023, she performed two monuments of viola music: Gérard Grisey’s Espaces acoustiques (24 March in Winterthur, Switzerland) and Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel (30 March in Amsterdam).
As this list suggests, Geneviève Strosser is a fervent advocate of the music of today. This is a tropism that she developed as a teenager, discovering in the contemporary repertoire a prodigious sense of freedom that she had previously felt only in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. She has tirelessly explored the greatest works of the 20th and 21st centuries, sometimes in direct contact or even in collaboration with the composers: among others, Franco Donatoni, György Kurtag, Helmut Lachenmann, Heinz Holliger, Hannah Kulenty, Isabel Mundry, George Benjamin, Luca Francesconi. Stefano Gervasoni, Laurent Cuniot and Hugues Dufourt have each dedicated a viola concerto to her. Demonstrating great eclecticism in her aesthetic choices, she is today one of the most sought-after and recognised violists in the field and performs with such prestigious phalanxes such as the Ensemble Modern and the Ensemble Recherche (two groups of which she was a member), the Ensemble intercontemporain, Klangforum Wien, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Contrechamps or the Salzburg Camerata (to name but a few), under the direction of conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Stefan Asbury, Heinz Holliger, Peter Eötvös, Emilio Pomarico, Sylvain Cambreling – her involvement with them remains an inexhaustible source of learning for her.
It is also an opportunity for her to approach other fields of creation, such as musical theatre, which she explores with Georges Aperghis within the framework of an ongoing relationship. She played in Commentaires, Machinations and Un Temps Bis. She is also the recipient of Volte-Face and Urwerk for solo viola, Crosswind for viola and four saxophones, the Rasch duo, and Die Hamletmaschine for ensemble, choir, three singers, percussion and solo viola.
Finally, her discography is devoted to the contemporary repertoire: from György Ligeti’s Sonata for viola (Æon, 2011) to George Benjamin’s Viola-Viola and works for solo viola by Georges Aperghis (Kairos, 2006).
Geneviève Strosser is particularly at ease in solo concerts, for which she carefully composes the programmes. These are all about putting her musical tastes into perspective, often going back to Bach, a reference point to which she returns again and again. Some of these performances are more like “lectures” or “concerts with commentary”: she opens the door of her studio to show the musician at work, searching and looking for what the musical discourse has to say that she has not yet perceived. The concert format is a laboratory for her, and her search to reinvent the encounter between a work and its audience occasionally leads her to collaborate with visual artists.
Geneviève Strosser does not, however, neglect the traditional concert, especially the symphonic one. With her founding experience with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Claudio Abbado, Carlo Maria Giulini, Paavo Berglund, Pierre Boulez, Sir Georg Solti and many others, she is regularly invited to play the role of principal viola with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France, the BBC Wales, the Scottish National Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Monnaie, the Orquesta de Cadaquès, Symphonie Orchester Basel, and Orchestre de chambre d’Auvergne.
She is also frequently invited to play solo works with orchestra (Berlioz, Rihm, Mozart, Feldman, Grisey, Eötvös…) by orchestras such as the Gewandhaus Leipzig, SWR Stuttgart, SWR Freiburg, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Bavarian Radio Orchestra Munich, Radio Orchestra Frankfurt, Residentie Orchester Den Haag, Katowice Orchestra, La Verdi Milano, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Radio Orchestra Cologne, Basel Sinfonietta or the NDR Orchester Hamburg
A former member of the Vellinger String Quartet in London (with Gordan Nikolitch as first violin), Geneviève Strosser also performs in chamber music.
Finally, as the profession of musician-performer is also that of a teacher, teaching is for her the inseparable counterpart of her career as a concert performer. She shows a genuine vocation for transmission and is not content with teaching but develops a real reflection on the subject, learning from her students as much as they learn from her. Driven by her taste for foreign languages and other places, it is mainly outside France that she seeks teaching positions: she has taught string quartet at Trinity College of Music in London, viola at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris, and she has been Professor of viola at the Basel Academy of Music since 2004.
After several years of violin, Geneviève Strosser discovered both her her true calling and voice in the viola, thanks to her meeting with Claude Ducrocq at the Conservatoire de Strasbourg. He accompanied her until she entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris in 1988, in Serge Collot’s class, soon to be taken over by Jean Sulem.
Geneviève Strosser plays a viola by Matthias Albani from 1660, and a viola by Joël Bion from 1992.