Founded in 1994, ensemble cantissimo is one of the most sought-after vocal ensembles in the German-speaking world. The name says it all: “cantissimo” signifies the focus on vocal music with an emphasis on a cappella singing; at the same time, the ensemble’s main interest has always been “unheard” music outside the usual repertoire. With their characteristic interpretations and exciting choice of programs, the singers from all over Switzerland and Germany, under the direction of the ensemble founder Markus Utz, has delighted critics and audiences alike. The ensemble cantissimo initially established itself with performances at the Heiligkreuzer Konzerte Kempten. These were followed by performances throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Israel. In 2018, ensemble cantissimo was invited by Yale University as the only European choir to participate in the Yale International Choral Festival 2018 and debuted with great success in concerts in New York and Boston. Regular invitations to renowned concert festivals as well as a close cooperation with broadcasting companies testify to the high esteem in which the ensemble’s vocal art is held.
The by now considerable discography of ensemble cantissimo includes some world premiere recordings and rediscoveries highly praised by the specialist press, for example, the CD recordings dealing with sacred works of the Mozart teacher Giovanni Battista Martini or the Marian cycle “Mater Dei” by the Freiburg composer Franz Philipp, a coproduction with SWR published by Spektral. 2010 saw the release of the coproduc tion with BR “I Himmelen” containing Scandinavian choral music, in 2015 “War Dreams – Songs on War and Peace” with the Raschér Saxophone Quartet and in 2016 sacred works by the Swiss philosopher, politician and composer Adolf Brunner. In 2011–2013 the Carus-Verlag engaged the ensemble for the premiere recordings of the choral works of Brahms contemporary Heinrich von Herzogenberg, which can be heard on three CDs.
Markus Utz is a versatile conductor, organist and pedagogue. He has served as professor of choral conducting at the Zurich University of the Arts since 2007 and as titular organist at Constance Cathedral since 2001. Since 2013 he is regularly invited to be a visiting professor at the prestigious School of Music at Yale University. As artistic director of the ensemble cantissimo, which he founded in 1994, he has made an outstanding name for himself in the international choral scene with newly discovered repertoire and highly acclaimed CD recordings. The meanwhile considerable discography documents his stylistic versatility.
In addition to awards as an organist in various competitions, he received the scholarship of the Scandinavian Bach Academy (Sir Andrew Parott) in 2000. In October 2003 he was the only German finalist at the 1st Eric Ericson Award Stockholm.
Utz studied church music, organ and conducting at the Detmold State Academy of Music. He acknowledges formative artistic impulses to his subsequent studies as a DAAD scholarship holder in the renowned conducting diploma class (Prof. Anders Eby) at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm and in private studies with Prof. Eric Ericson. His studies were followed by lectureships in conducting at the University of Uppsala (assistant Stefan Parkman) and the Musikhochschule Freiburg.
His subtle, characteristic interpretations and the pursuit of an exceptional culture of sonority have since gained international recognition. This is also proven by numerous invitations as guest conductor of renowned professional choirs as well as the activity as masterclass teacher and juror in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Sweden, Italy, France, Germany, Israel and Switzerland.