21.03.2024 | Timeline

ECM New Series 40

  1984  –  1990

In the wake of the 40th anniversary of ECM’s New Series imprint, launched in 1984 with Arvo Pärt’s seminal Tabula Rasa, albums from the New Series catalogue will be highlighted throughout the anniversary-year 2024, chronologically retracing the path that has led through four decades of influential discoveries in notated music and beyond.


          1984: Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa 

The album Tabula Rasa was the very first introduction of Arvo Pärt´s music on ECM, featuring performers Gidon Kremer, Tatjana Grindenko, Keith Jarrett, Alfred Schnittke, with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Saulius Sondeckis.
This recording was the first of Pärt’s long collaboration with Manfred Eicher.

„The album that brought Pärt’s name to the West, and to the world (…) Back in 1984 Tabula rasa helped re-educate our ears and throw open the doors of our musical sensibilities to spatial domains that had otherwise been closed to us. (…) This is without any shadow of a doubt one of the great recordings of the last century.“ – Gramophone Magazine

In 2010, a special edition of the album was produced in collaboration with the composer’s publisher Universal Edition. It includes unpublished manuscript scores of Tabula rasa and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, and study scores of the album’s four works, as well as Wolfgang Sandner’s 1984 liner essay, and a new introductory note for this edition by Paul Griffiths.

Get the special edition


                                                                              Early Days: Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians

Steve Reich’s pioneering brand of minimal music was premiered on ECM before the New Series imprint was even introduced. In 1978, the composer’s Music for Eighteen Musicians made a powerful impact on the music world that has yet to subside. Looking back on the influential recording, BBC Music Magazine says “all Reich’s experiments came together in this tour de force of ultra-disciplined bliss. The structure is tightly logical as ever (…). You can feel the sheer force of the composer driving this performance of almost superhuman finesse; every note glistens in a perfectly balanced, glowing recording.”

With Octet / Music for a Large Ensemble / Violin Phase and Thillim two further recordings of Reich’s works followed in 1980 and 1982. All three albums are compiled in the 3-CD box-set The ECM Recordings from 2016, replete with a 44-page booklet containing original liner notes by Steve Reich, a new essay by Paul Griffiths, and session photography by Deborah Feingold and Barbara Klemm.

“Another shimmering, hypnotic minimalist classic” – The New York Times on Music for Eighteen Musicians In the year of the album’s release.

Get the box set here


                                                                             1985: Gidon Kremer – Edition Lockenhaus

Early in Lockenhaus’s history, producer Manfred Eicher began working with Gidon Kremer, who initiated the festival in 1981. They soon began tor regularly record the festival, thereby launching the Edition Lockenhaus in 1985 under the larger umbrella of ECM’s New Series.

These recordings are fascinating for many reasons and not least for giving us the opportunity to hear some of the finest chamber musicians of our era, alongside Gidon Kremer, early in their respective careers. The long list includes musicians now strongly associated with ECM: Kim Kashkashian, Thomas Zehetmair, Thomas Demenga, Robert Levin, Heinz Holliger and more.

Original liner notes, an interview with Gidon Kremer, and new texts are presented in the 5-CD Lockenhaus box set. Gidon Kremer: “The artistic atmosphere in Lockenhaus soon has everybody speaking on the same wavelength.”

Get the box set here

„Great musicians from all over the world have been coming together at Gidon Kremer’s chamber music festival in Lockenhaus for three decades. (…) In such an atmosphere, great moments, rousing and touching concerts happen all too often. ECM has released such great moments time and again, and now a wonderful box set with five CDs has been released to mark the 30th anniversary. (…) They convey much of the spirit that has been present in Lockenhaus over thirty years. This Lockenhaus edition is a musical celebration.“ – BR Klassik


                                                                              1986: Kim Kashkashian / Robert Levin – Elegies

Elegies introduced the violist Kim Kashkashian on ECM’s New Series for the first time, in a duo program with pianist Robert Levin – both musicians shaped the New Series significantly over the years. Elegies includes Benjamin Britten´s Lachrymae – Reflections on a song of Dowland, as well as pieces by Vaughan Williams, Carter, Glazunov, Kodaly, Vieuxtemps and Liszt.

„Kashkashian weaves this tapestry seamlessly, never deserted by her viola or her amazing technical dominion over it. Emotion is layered upon emotion in deep strata. Everywhere the score asks to go, she deftly and sensibly conveys it. Levin employs his piano with the intuition of a Monet, tingeing, blending with, illuminating the viola.“ – Opus




                                                                              1987: Meredith Monk – Do You Be

Meredith Monk ‘s Do You Be was released in 1987, but her collaboration with Manfred Eicher dates back to 1981 with her groundbreaking album Dolmen Music. ” Do You Be, a selection from her various works for musical theater, “counts as one of Monk’s best and most representative discs, full of haunting melody and strangely touching simplicities”. – John Rockwell, The New York Times

Meredith Monk – The Recordings, a 13-CD limited box set edition compiling all Meredith Monk ECM New Series recordings to date, was issued on the occasion of the composer and singer’s 80th birthday.

This beautifully designed box set incorporates a 300-page book reprising all original liner notes, as well as new texts and interviews. Additionally the book includes an introductory essay by Frank J. Oteri, “The Worlds of Meredith Monk”, an autobiographical text by Meredith titled “The Soul’s Messenger” and a preface by Manfred Eicher, including some previously unpublished photos, archival documents, and more.

Get the box set here



                                                                              1988: Arvo Pärt – Passio

„The benchmark for future interpretations“ is how Gramophone magazine lauded this album in a retrospective review from 2022. Indeed, the Hilliard Ensemble’s recording of Arvo Pärt’s St. John Passion “Passio Domini nostril Jesu Christi secundum Joannem” with the Western Wind Chamber Choir is today considered a reference performance of the work.

Already in the year of its release, Grammophone magazine recognized the scope and quality of the record and spoke of an “uncanny radiance at the heart of the music.” The Guardian called it “an extravagantly beautiful record and a profoundly moving performance so expressively rich, yet paradoxically austere that Pärt might have written the work for the Hilliards.”

In a 1988 rave-review of The New York Times, music critic John Rockwell said: “The best new-music disk of the year was the Hilliard Ensemble’s performance of Arvo Pärt’s mystically compelling, profoundly religious St John Passion. This was a pretty good year for classical records, period. But any year that produced an album as important as this would be considered special.”

Get the album here



                                                                             1989: Paul Giger – Chartres

„A rare experience, (…) strongly recommended to all with an instinct to explore“ wrote Hi-Fi Review about the first appearance of violinist Paul Giger on ECM New Series. Giger’s interest in ancient cultures, religious history and mysticism led him to study the history and architecture of the Chartres Cathedral in France where these recordings were made – on two nights around the summer solstice, between one and five in the morning. There are five sections, recorded in different parts of the building and culminating at the „Holy Centre“, representing the traditional passage of pilgrims.

„The music of Chartres draws life from the building in every way, its magnificence and mysteries inspiring Giger’s musical invention, its echoing spaces supporting and sustaining the sound of his solo violin. In his spectacular technical control of his instrument (…) he far outclasses many concert violinists, and his resourcefulness and assurance breathe vitality into the work. – Gramophone Magazine

Get the album here



                                                                               1990: Thomas Demenga – Johann Sebastian Bach / Elliott Carter

“A direct path leads from Bach’s virtuoso art, as one discovers with astonishment on direct comparison, to the refined chamber music of the American avantgardist Carter. There are no daunting inhibitions. Anyone listening, inspired by Demenga’s grandiose Bach playing, should feel the desire and curiosity to devote themselves just as intensively to the perhaps somewhat unfamiliar music of the present day.”

Such was the verdict of the German weekly paper Die Zeit upon the 1990 release of Thomas Demenga’s interpretations of J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 3 in C major and a selection of Elliott Carter chamber works. The cellist’s close associate and in his own right highly acclaimed Suisse composer Heinz Holliger contributed liner notes to the recording. In them, he addresses himself to the listener:

“As the door opens to a new visual and aural panorama full of the richest forms, colours, movement and sound, so you will find yourself becoming more open. The new sounds, the tangled network of rapid figurations, the fleeting, almost imperceptible motifs, the insistent multiple rhythms, the sounds cascading from the heights to the depths, all this will gradually penetrate you, take on meaningful forms, acquire a language and gestures, articulating harmonic, rhythmic and melodic space.”

Current Concerts
& Events

Dominic Miller is playing almost 50 concerts across the globe in the cominig months

John Scofield and his trio are performing in the US and Asia in April and June. Throughout the year, more solo and quartet concerts are scheduled.

Fred Hersch is touring in support of his piano solo album 'Silent, Listening'

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin performs in the US, Mexico and Switzerland.