Swiss National Day is traditionally celebrated on 1st August with bonfires across the Alps during the evening. Due to the recent heatwave, however, Klosters and Davos have banned the traditional Feierabend, but there was heat aplenty in the Klosters Arena with a feelgood holiday programme by the Philharmonix, a septet drawn from players active in Vienna or Berlin, especially their respective Philharmonics. Whether riffing on the classics or playing jazz standards, Latin or pop songs by Freddie Mercury, they present their repertoire with an infectious upbeat style, living up to their motto of “Anything goes, as long as it’s fun”.

The Philharmonix
© Marcel Giger

Cellist Stephan Koncz and second violin Sebastian Gürtler are the most frequently credited arrangers, although all members of the ensemble contribute. There is more than a touch of genius about the way they weave different works together. Take Tchaikovsky Overture which starts with a hearty rendition of the Russian folksong Korobeiniki – yes, they sing too – which morphs into the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto which transmutes into the Trepak from The Nutcracker and back again via a Gershwin-like piano solo for Christoph Traxler and a burst of the Sabre Dance. Their Oriental Overture mashes up themes from Mozart’s Entführung with the “Turkish” Fifth Violin Concerto and the Rondo alla turca. They switch between genres with ease, slipping into the groove with Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, then giving the Bosnian pop song Žute Dunje the folk music treatment. There was even an appearance for Waltzing Matilda. It’s ridiculously clever, yet the Philharmonix make it seem ridiculously easy. 

Ödön Rácz, Stephan Koncz and Daniel Ottensamer
© Marcel Giger

Virtuosity abounded, from Daniel Ottensamer’s klezmer inflections on the clarinet to Noah Bendix-Balgley’s silky violin to Ödön Rácz, whose earthy double bass contributions transported the audience to the cafés of his native Budapest. Thilo Fechner stood out from the ensemble; he is always wearing a red suit, but that’s viola players for you. 

There was plenty of multitasking on show. In Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova, Koncz abandoned his cello for the world’s smallest triangle, a melodica and a recorder, but it’s Gürtler who seems the most versatile. I swear he turned his violin into a balalaika at one stage and his vocalisations included a hi-hat cymbal and imitating a wah-wah trombone mute in Art Hickman’s Rose Room. Gürtler gets to sing in every gig, here in “fantasy Portuguese” in the bossa nova Babarababa

Noah Bendix-Balgley, Sebastian Gürtler and Thilo Fechner
© Marcel Giger

As Ottensamer explained in his amiable introductions, the Philharmonix is a free time project for these musicians and you can totally feel the love they have for performing together. This was just the right programme for a national holiday – light-hearted, infectious music-making and tonnes of fun. 

Mark’s accommodation was funded by Klosters Music; his travel was funded by Switzerland Tourism