ensemble cantissimo, founded in 1994, is one of the most sought-after vocal ensembles in German-speaking countries. The name “cantissimo“ says it all: a concentration on a cappella singing, the highest discipline of choral music. A special emphasis is also put on discovering and rediscovering the works of forgotten (and new) composers. With their characteristic style of interpretation and exciting program selections, the German and Swiss singers under the direction of their founder Markus Utz delight critics and audiences alike. ensemble cantissimo established itself with performances at the Heiligkreuzer Concerts in Kempten, Germany. After these came concerts throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Israel. In 2018, Yale University invited the ensemble to perform at the Yale International Choral Festival. The only group from Europe invited to the Festival, cantissimo coupled these performances with a tour to New York City and Boston, where the ensemble was received very well. Regular invitations to well-known music festivals and close collaboration with state radio institutions demonstrate the high esteem in which the ensemble is held.
The considerable discography of ensemble cantissimo includes several premiere recordings and rediscoveries which have been highly praised by the trade press. Some examples include the sacred works of Mozart’s teacher Giovanni Battista Martini (Membran, 2007), or the cycle dedicated to the Virgin Mary, “Mater Dei“ by the Freiburg composer Franz Philipp (Spektral / SWR, 2008). In 2010 BR-Klassik released the coproduction “I Himmelen“ with Scandinavian choral music (Spektral / BR, 2010) and in 2011 Carus Publishing Stuttgart engaged the ensemble for the first ever recordings of the Brahms contemporary Heinrich von Herzogenberg’s choral works. This eventually turned into three CDs with a representative selection of Herzogenberg’s vocal music. The album “War Dreams,“ (Spektral / SRF 2015) produced in 2016 and recorded with the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, was nominated for an Opus Klassik award. The following year the CD “Mensch, werde wesentlich“ (Spektral / SRF 2015) was released and included sacred works by the Swiss composer, theologist and philosopher Adolf Brunner. This was a further coproduction with the Swiss Radio SRF.
Markus Utz has made a name for himself as a versatile conductor, organist and teacher. He has been the head choral conducting professor at the Zurich University of the Arts since 2007 and the titular organist at the Konstanz Cathedral since 2001. In 2018 he was invited to Yale University as a Visiting Professor in the School of Music.
As the artistic director of ensemble cantissimo, a group which he founded in 1994, Utz has become known for discovering and rediscovering rarely performed repertoire and for the ensemble’s CD recordings, which have been highly praised.
As an organist, Utz has earned numerous prizes at various competitions. In the year 2000 he received a stipend from the Scandinavian Bach Academy (Sir Andrew Parott) and in October of 2003, Utz was the only German finalist at the first Eric Ericson Award in Stockholm. As a part of the Heiligkreuz Concerts in Kempten, Germany the young conductor developed a broad repertoire — from the Renaissance into the twenty-first century.
Utz studied church music, organ and conducting at the University of Music Detmold. As a DAAD stipend recipient, he traveled again to Sweden and was a part of the renowned conducting diploma class of Professor Anders Eby at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm. He was also a student of Professor Eric Ericson. These experiences vastly influenced Utz’s music-making. After college Utz was awarded teaching positions for conducting at the University of Uppsala, Sweden (under the direction of Stefan Parkman) and at the Freiburg University of Music in Germany.
With his characteristically sensitive interpretations and his pursuit of an extraordinary choral sound, Markus Utz is one of the most prominent choral conductors in Europe today. As a juror, course instructor and guest conductor of prestigious choirs he travels to the United States, Canada, Asia, Sweden, Italy, France, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Israel.