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Musikexport – quo vadis?

Covid-19, digitisation, climate crisis: Musikexport in extraordinary times. Experiences and thoughts on the subject by Marcel Kaufmann, responsible at FONDATION SUISA for its presence abroad and the export promotion.

Fondation Suisa: Musikexport – quo vadis?

Will there ever be a back to “normal” times? The Swiss joint exhibition stand at the jazzahead! Bremen 2019. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Since the internet revolution of the 90ies, the value creation on the music market shifted to a large part towards the live sector. Concerts became the most important income stream for many musicians. One of the consequences was that numerous showcase events were launched. Artists could perform in front of international experts during short live concerts. This was done in the hope that they would get bookings in bigger clubs or festivals or taken under contract by international agencies. Together with various partners, the FONDATION SUISA supports the export endeavours of the domestic creators. For many years, the foundation organises Swiss networking platforms at international conferences and events.

This well-functioning system of travel, performances and shaking hands was brought to an abrupt halt by the pandemic. It was more or less overnight that music creators lost a large portion of their income, and at the same time also their export paths.

What now? How can they bridge this period? And what would happen if the “normality” we all love so much is never to return?

FONDATION SUISA took part in many pilot projects last year, tested chat tools, supported showcase videos via streams and negotiated potential new subsidising avenues with event organisers and promoters. “An interesting experience”, “a welcome transitional solution”, but surely “no surrogate for a real live performance”: This is our verdict at the end of 2020, in conformity with a large group of music creators and event organisers.

“Networking via the internet is, to many, still a very strange concept.”

The pandemic entailed cancellations of practically all physical face-to-face music conferences and exhibitions in 2020. Some, like Midem or WOMEX tried to hold virtual events. Back then, the planning insecurity was still too high. It was impossible to even consider being able to organise concerts again in the near future. In line with this, promoters booked much less artists during such online events than for physical events with a face-to-face audience. The ambiance of a live concerts can also not be recreated on a 1:1 level. And networking via the internet is, to many, still a very strange concept.

The most recent virtually held jazzahead! in Bremen confirmed these findings to a large degree. Ok, so it was easier to establish contact among those accredited for participation via the internet than on heaving exhibition grounds. In the absence of a collective feeling, however, you soon turn into a lone fighter. The real success of the Swiss presence at the biggest jazz conference in the world this year will only emerge in a few weeks and after surveys and conversations. In the past, it was possible to draw conclusions on the last day of the conference.

The two Swiss live acts in the official showcase programme of the jazzahead! chose different approaches: The formation The True Harry Nulz performed live in Bremen in front of a handful of journalists which at least applauded after each song which could be heard in the live stream. The showcase of the Luzia von Wyl Ensemble, however, had been pre-produced without an audience in the Moods in Zurich and then streamed. The silence between the pieces and the lack of feedback leave the performers in a vacuum.

“We must constantly create new scenarios, remain open and critically assess our own impressions.”

Now that in the face of the vaccination campaigns there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel again, it would be easy to fall into a state of hopeful anticipation and do away with the online world as a pure temporary solution. In a time, however, where our entire work life is significantly changed by the digitisation, many questions arise: Is there possibly more export potential in the online world as previously assumed? Can we even afford the old “normal” in times of a global climate crisis which will survive each pandemic? A crisis which is going to have a lasting effect on generations of future music creators and take many opportunities away from them?

There are still no conclusive answers to all of these questions. The most important developments do not take place online but in our heads. And these developments take more time than the technological ones. Until then, we must constantly create new scenarios, remain open and critically assess our own impressions. The most important factor is: listen to the music creators. Because their art must find its way across the country borders, also in the future. For them, FONDATION SUISA will continue to actively monitor and influence the developments in the music export world.

New Get Going! Invitation to tender
For the fourth time, the FONDATION SUISA is going to launch an invitation to tender regarding Get Going! contributions at the end of June / beginning of July. More information regarding the kick-off financing for extraordinary projects can be found in good time on the website of the foundation: www.fondation-suisa.ch
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Covid-19, digitisation, climate crisis: Musikexport in extraordinary times. Experiences and thoughts on the subject by Marcel Kaufmann, responsible at FONDATION SUISA for its presence abroad and the export promotion.

Fondation Suisa: Musikexport – quo vadis?

Will there ever be a back to “normal” times? The Swiss joint exhibition stand at the jazzahead! Bremen 2019. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Since the internet revolution of the 90ies, the value creation on the music market shifted to a large part towards the live sector. Concerts became the most important income stream for many musicians. One of the consequences was that numerous showcase events were launched. Artists could perform in front of international experts during short live concerts. This was done in the hope that they would get bookings in bigger clubs or festivals or taken under contract by international agencies. Together with various partners, the...read more

“Amen”: Another ESC song that comes from the SUISA Songwriting Camp

The Eurovision Song Contest will be held again after its 2020 cancellation. A song which was created in the SUISA Songwriting Camp in the Powerplay Studios in Maur will be featured in Rotterdam. We spoke with the SUISA member Tobias Carshey, from Zurich. He wrote “Amen” together with Jonas Thander and Ashley Hicklin. The singer of the song, however, is Vincent Bueno from Vienna – and he performs for Austria. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

“Amen”: Another ESC song that comes from the SUISA Songwriting Camp

Tobias Carshey performs the vocal track for the demo recording of “Amen” at the SUISA Songwriting Camp. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Tobias Carshey, how do your normally create your songs?
Tobias Carshey: I write from my own life, that is why the results are different each time. I tend to sit down and write, sometimes the melody comes first, more rarely the lyrics, so mostly I start with the music.

Are you usually the sole author of your songs?
When it comes to writing, yes, but not when it comes to arranging.

You have written on your website: “Writing songs is and was always a very personal process to me”. Has it been difficult to work with songwriters that you did not know during the Songwriting Camp?
At the beginning, very much so. I usually withdraw to a quiet place where I can work away. At the Songwriting Camp, I was exposed and had to collaborate with a team. I had done this before, but …

… here, the pressure was probably higher since you worked together with the Swedish producer Jonas Thander and the Scottish topliner Ashley Hicklin for the first time?
That’s right, it is simply a new situation: There are new dynamics which you have to understand first. I was lucky enough that Ashley Hicklin took the reins from the start with a specific notion.

How did this work, did you bring along some ideas for the songs?
I would do it differently today but back then, I simply went there. It was my first time at a Songwriting Camp and I wanted to be completely unbiased. Before we started with the writing process, we listened to a few of my songs so that Jonas Thander and Ashley Hicklin could find out where I come from musically.

Was that the right thing so that the two could find out where your strengths were?
Exactly, in this regard, my song “Almond Eyes” was the starting point.

At a Songwriting Camp, there is a certain specialisation with producers and topliners. What was your role, were you more the singer in the sense of a performer or were you involved as a songwriter?
I was definitely also involved as a songwriter. My two partners accepted me as a peer.

Jonas Thander Ashley Hicklin

The Swedish producer Jonas Thander (left) and the songwriter Ashley Hicklin, a resident of Edinburgh, deeply focussed when working on their composition in the studio A of the Powerplay Studios in Maur. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Did this kind of job sharing make sense to you?
Very much so, because everyone has their own experience and we used this role allocation as a starting point. Friction can easily occur when three songwriters, who do not know each other, work together. That way, you can withdraw to your own competences if you are not in agreement, and still make progress with the song.

How far did the specialisation go?
I was clear who held which role. But each of us was considered to be competent enough to be able to contribute everywhere, whether to songwriting or the lyrics, also the production.

In your opinion, how did the fact contribute that you had never written a song together or played together, and that you weren’t a well-established team?
Ash and Jonas already knew each other but that did not make any difference because they are experienced musicians who know the dynamics of songwriting. As a consequence, it was easy for me to join them as a newcomer and go with the flow, so to speak. If all of us had been newbies, it would probably have been more like a lottery.

Did you also do some jamming or did you decide on something and then each of you separately carried out their job?
There wasn’t a moment where someone was just tinkering on their own – that was a new aspect to me. I am more the type who withdraws in order to continue with the development of an idea to then present it to everyone. At the Songwriting Camp, Ashley Hicklin came up with a refrain pretty much at the beginning. This also acted as the starting point for our work which matched the goal to write an ESC song. And then the path was clear for everyone.

Thander Carshey Hicklin SUISA Songwriting Camp

The co-authors of “Amen”, playing around with their creation (f.l.t.r.): Jonas Thander, SUISA member Tobias Carshey and Ashley Hicklin. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

The refrain came first: How dominant was the goal to write an ESC song, i.e. a potential hit, and to remain catchy?
We were aware of that, but it had no influence on the feeling of the song. We also paid attention that we managed to get to the point with the song in three minutes.

Did the factor that you had to stand out with something special despite the hit character also play a role?
Not especially for us. But our song stood out in comparison to the other songs of the Songwriting Camp because we kept it very tranquil – only piano, guitar and my voice, we also did not use any effects such as auto tuning. That was, in my opinion, the strong point of the song: It also works just with a guitar which seemed to be atypical.

How does the song “Amen” at the end of the Camp day differ from the one that we can hear at the ESC?
It has become more pompous. The original is very reduced: a bass drum, my voice, an acoustic guitar and a piano. Strings and backing vocals can now also be heard.

How come that someone different performs this song, a third of which has, after all, been created by you?
I have written songs for others in the past, and once a performance actually did hurt, because if was a personal song. I do, however, find it very exciting and very beautiful that Vincent Bueno is going to interpret the song “Amen” with his own history which gives it its own proper meaning. No regrets!

How has the Songwriting Camp changed your own personal songwriting process?
The unrestricted, also free approach influenced me most of all. I am otherwise probably too hard on myself, too acrimonious in order to just write away and try things out.

Did you suffer under the speed that the song had to be finished in just one day at the Songwriting Camp?
Yes, I found that difficult. Because, in my view, really cracking, really good and timeless songs need more time for their development. I am used to the fact, however, that I was proven wrong when it came to such dogmas.

www.tobiascarshey.com

Eurovision Song Contest 2021: In the second semi-final of the ESC on 20 May 2021, Vincent Bueno is going to compete with “Amen” for Austria and Gjon’s Tears with “Tout l’univers” for Switzerland. The final will take place on 22 May.

Songwriting Camp: The Songwriting Camp organised by SUISA in collaboration with Pele Loriano Productions has already generated several successful international pop songs. “Amen” is the fifth song from the SUISA Songwriting Camp which made it to the semi-final or final of the Eurovision Song Contest. The song “She Got Me” which had been co-composed and sung by Luca Hänni made it to fourth place during the ESC 2019. Other qualifiers were “Répondez-moi” (Gjon’s Tears, for the eventually cancelled event in 2020), “Stones” (2018, Zibbz) and “Sister” (2019 for Germany, Sisters).

The credits of “Amen”:
Lyrics/Music by: Tobias Carshey (CH), Ashley Hicklin (UK), Jonas Thander (SE). Produced by: Jonas Thander (SE), Mikolaj Trybulec (PL), Pele Loriano (CH). Recorded by: Pele Loriano, Jonas Thander, Mikolaj Trybulec. Mixed by: David Hofmann. Published by: Schneeblind Publishing, ORF Musikverlag. Label: Unified Songs.

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The Eurovision Song Contest will be held again after its 2020 cancellation. A song which was created in the SUISA Songwriting Camp in the Powerplay Studios in Maur will be featured in Rotterdam. We spoke with the SUISA member Tobias Carshey, from Zurich. He wrote “Amen” together with Jonas Thander and Ashley Hicklin. The singer of the song, however, is Vincent Bueno from Vienna – and he performs for Austria. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

“Amen”: Another ESC song that comes from the SUISA Songwriting Camp

Tobias Carshey performs the vocal track for the demo recording of “Amen” at the SUISA Songwriting Camp. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Tobias Carshey, how do your normally create your songs?
Tobias Carshey: I write from my own life, that is why the results are different each time. I tend to sit down and write, sometimes the melody comes first,...read more

Attendance at IKF opens up new prospects for Swiss musicians

The FONDATION SUISA and Pro Helvetia presented their joint stand under the banner “Swiss Music” for the first time at the 31st Internationale Kulturbörse in Freiburg, Germany. The results have been positive. Text by Urs Schnell, FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA: Attendance at IKF opens up new prospects for Swiss musicians

Mich Gerber appears at the 2019 Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Last year, the Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg (IKF) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a Swiss focus. The FONDATION SUISA went along to see whether the most important trade fair in the German-speaking region for stage production, music and events would be the right place for Swiss musicians to be represented. There were repeated suggestions from the music scene that this could give rise to new performance opportunities on German stages and in small venues.

For years, the FONDATION SUISA has been involved in foreign music showcase festivals and music trade fairs, with the aim of promoting networking between the domestic music scene and international promoters and agencies. Following an in-depth assessment of the IKF’s potential, it thus seemed an obvious choice to implement the successful concept of a joint Swiss stand from 20 to 23 January this year in Freiburg for the first time.

Over the three days, the “Swiss Music” stand – in collaboration with Pro Helvetia – allowed artists and their agencies to connect with the vibrant promoter scene and, in particular, to meet promoters who operate outside the usual music network. Exchange with the Swiss music scene could especially open up new prospects for small theatres relying on a varied programme of fringe events.

Our joint stand allowed musicians and agencies to present themselves to a wide audience without having to hire their own expensive stand, allowing them to take maximum advantage of the IKF as a communication platform, marketplace and a place for development. Many saw the fact that IKF is not merely a music trade fair as a positive, offering potential new ground. Having the ‘Swiss Music’ stand right next to the entrance to the adjoining performing arts and street theatre hall was a major boost to visibility.

A wide array of extraordinary figures also appeared live on stage, with performances from Mich Gerber, Gina Été, the Postharmonic Orchestra, Moes Anthill, Bruno Bieri and Park Stickney.

Initial feedback on the first Swiss presence in Freiburg has been extremely positive. As a key meeting point for small and mid-sized stage productions in the German-speaking region, the IKF will also open up new opportunities for Swiss musicians in future.

For more information, please visit:
ikf.swissmusic.ch and www.fondation-suisa.ch/ikf

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The FONDATION SUISA and Pro Helvetia presented their joint stand under the banner “Swiss Music” for the first time at the 31st Internationale Kulturbörse in Freiburg, Germany. The results have been positive. Text by Urs Schnell, FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA: Attendance at IKF opens up new prospects for Swiss musicians

Mich Gerber appears at the 2019 Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Last year, the Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg (IKF) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a Swiss focus. The FONDATION SUISA went along to see whether the most important trade fair in the German-speaking region for stage production, music and events would be the right place for Swiss musicians to be represented. There were repeated suggestions from the music scene that this could give rise to new performance opportunities on German stages and in small venues.

For years, the FONDATION SUISA has been involved in foreign music...read more

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival Label Suisse on Saturday, 17 September 2016. (Photo: Melissa Jundt)

What does the nomination for the music award of the Federal Office of Culture (BAK)?
Tobias Jundt: I am, of course, honoured that my art is recognised and appreciated as such. Especially when you create something that is usually neither here nor there and thus cannot be squeezed into a pigeon-hole, it takes quite some time until you will be recognised as an artist with your own language. With such a huge variety on offer, it is basically impossible to compare or rate the creations of some with the works of others. But after 30 years as a songwriter, I am rather flattered that I am given the opportunity to be a representative of the cultural language of my country as one of the possible musical parts.

The BAK presents the music award 2016 in the run-up to the Festival Label Suisse. The Festival in Lausanne attracts mainly Swiss music from various genres to the stages over a three-day period. Access to the concerts is free. Why does Swiss music need a music award from the BAK and a Festival like the Label Suisse?
I think we should consider ourselves grateful to live in a country where the government takes time to honour the arts and luckily has the necessary change in the pocket to temporarily and considerably simplify the creativity of the prize winners with this award. All of the nominees would continue to relentlessly do what they do anyway, in order to face the high seas of life, even without the award. We should thankfully accept the fact that the BAK supports us with this and provides a silver-lined breeze for our sails.
Festivals are places where you can discover things. The audience discovers music bands, artists meet other artists, collaborations are forged and, somewhere, a Schwyzeroergeli fan falls in love with a Stockhausen follower. Festivals, do, however, never replace an artist’s concert experience a whole evening provides, but they are very important as events where expression can be exchanged and even collide. It is always the right choice to campaign for a broad and liberal-minded culture.

“You need stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive.”

You once said in an NZZ interview that it was only possible to survive in Switzerland with mainstream pop music or in one of the heavily subsidised genres such as jazz or classical music. What has to change so that the diversity of Swiss music creations will attract more listeners, both at home and abroad?
It’s a problem that a musical niche related only to Switzerland is indeed rather small, so that it cannot really be exercised as a main profession but only ‘on the side’. You therefore either have to be active in a genre where you can generate a lot of turnover, or in a subsidised sector, or tackle a bigger territory. The latter requires a lot of stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive. Unless the motivation for this artistic insanity comes from deep within yourself, there is no real driver for the majority of Swiss people to risk their existing quality of life. You do actually have to be a little bit crazy to want to renounce on it at least temporarily in order to plough this rather tough musical field. During my travels, I repeatedly meet very active Swiss expats. It isn’t the talent that is lacking, it is the attitude.

You have been living in Berlin since 2006 and are now settled in there. How can you ‘be’ as a Swiss songwriter abroad and how is Swiss music, in your opinion, perceived abroad?
Most people of this solar system fall in love with Switzerland and what it represents. You often forget about that when you sit on the mountain too long. If I write music for other artists in Berlin or New York, nobody ever asks me where I grew up. The aim is always the same: to write the right work for a specific phase of an artist. That involves either aspects of commercial success or artistic reinvention. And when I perform my songs as a soloist appearing as Bonaparte from Beijing to Wellington, nobody asks me where I am from either – even though I do quite like to add that I am Swiss – especially as it distinguishes me from those out there and because it is an important part of my being. In order to prevail, you need to have an alert mind and soak in and apply the various parameters of the different cultures. Everyone can do that, irrespective of where they’re from.

“I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world. SUISA is where I belong as a composer.”

You live in Germany, but you are a member of the Swiss SUISA. Why?
I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world – and that’s an opinion shared by quite a few international authors. I say this with a clear conscience and out of my own free will. I was a member of BMI in the USA in the past, and I also run a publishing company which is a member of GEMA. All well and good but SUISA is the place where I belong as a composer. I really enjoyed the time under Poto Wegener and, due to his support, I began looking into copyright more intensively. The good relations to SUISA have stayed in place and I really appreciate the mutual exchange and respect.

You lecture the subject “songwriting” at the Zurich University of the Arts. Can you learn how to write a hit? Which tips do you give students for composing on their way?
I usually advise them to forget everything they think they know. I like to ask them to write songs as humans and not as musicians. Of course, analytical and theoretical knowledge and practical techniques help us to find a quicker way out of musical cul-de-sacs. But at the core of finding ideas, there isn’t much difference between us and Mrs Mountainvalley who whistles a little melody while having a shower in the morning. You can, of course, just like in every situation in life, learn a technique – whether it’s holding a club as a golfer or using Kamasutra positions as a lover – which allows you to write good songs at any old day of the week. But there are many and enough good songs already – you need to rather try to write songs with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi: songs which still have a raison d’etre even to be let loose onto mankind in their genre, even after the life work of a, Lennon-McCartney an Udo Jürgens, an Igor Strawinsky or Daft Punk. This doesn’t always work, but that’s what the songwriter has to get up for each morning – for the attempt to write a song which, in its own way, enriches the world.

“The most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea.”

A musician on a concert stage is not necessarily at the same time the songwriter, who is often forgotten in comparison with the star in the limelight. How can composers step out of the artists’ shadow when it comes to public perception?
The question is, do they have to. I only sing the songs that I cannot expect others to perform. The psychological pressure that a front man and artists have to sustain, can – in the long run – be rather exhausting. A songwriter, however, can act in the background, sit in front of their piano somewhere, unnoticed, and simply focus on the core of the music. And believe me, the most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea. Nothing, and nothing at all beats a really well-written song which cleverly combines craft and original ideas. There may be hope for all who thought that there had been too much speak of the devil. I am rather glad that I have a dozen pseudonyms at SUISA – these are songwriter roles into which I can morph depending on the style, genre or mood and that aren’t even known to my closest friends. I like it that professional songwriting sometimes simply remains a secret between the piece of paper and myself. If a musician does something odd on stage, everybody will talk about it the next day. If a composer creates a little string quartet, naked, while eating two spoons of peanut butter, nobody cares two hoots about it. I really like that. It’s important that we as composers exchange our views and that our rights are well represented through the change of the times.

Composing music for third parties or performing with Mule & Man on stage – what’s the thrill for you of these two activities?
I did have some elitist phases in my life, where I only considered this kind of free jazz or that type of soul to be worth listening to. But at the end of the day, I am suffering from musically inflicted polyamory, and love all kinds of music with a passion, but also have to co-invent. I get satisfaction from composing string or wind arrangements, protest songs, punk chansons, film score, electronic music, experimental fiddling about with noise or country music for the deaf. I like it that you can take from this bottomless cornucopia of combinations and possibilities between the composer and the listener.

Links
Bonaparte, official website
Mule & Man, official Facebook fan page
Label Suisse, website of the Festival
Schweizer Musikpreis (Swiss music award), website of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture (BAK)

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The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival...read more

Schweizer Jazz an der Jazzahead! 2016 allseits präsent

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Jazzahead! 2016: Der Schweizer Jazz im Fokus

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Zusammenarbeit am MaMA: Ein Erfolg, der sich bestätigt

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Schweizer Pop und Rock am Reeperbahn Festival 2015

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Die Schweiz ist jazzahead!-Partnerland 2016

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Präsentation ist Innovation: die vierte Ausgabe der Classical:NEXT

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