John Wolf Brennan

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John Wolf Brennan (2007)

John Wolf Brennan (born February 13, 1954 in Dublin ) is an Irish - Swiss classical , jazz and improvisation musician (mainly piano ), composer , conductor and columnist . Brennan became known in the 1980s through his collaboration with the saxophonist Urs Leimgruber . He published more than 60 records and was awarded 12 "Swiss Grammys" for 12 CDs in a row. He is a member of the group of composers Groupe Lacroix and has composed over 260 pieces. Its best-known groups are Pago Libre, Pilgrims, Triangulation and Sooon.


Origin and music studies

John Wolf Brennan comes from a Swiss-Irish family of musicians with German roots. Brennan was born in 1954 in Dublin as the son of the Swiss hotelier and amateur pianist Hans-Peter Wolf (1923–1986) and the Irish Una Wolf-Brennan , a classical singer. Uncle Karl Ulrich Wolf (1921–1957), pianist and composer, was the designated director of the Royal College of Music in Stockholm at the time . In addition, John Wolf Brennan is closely related to the Irish new age singers Enya and Moya Brennan . His parents moved with him to Central Switzerland in 1961. From the age of eleven he received piano lessons in Lucerne. Musically he was influenced in his youth by the music of the Beatles , Cream , Miles Davis , Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix . Accordingly, he began in 1970 as a bass guitarist for the blues rock group Crossbreed . In 1974 he passed the Matura type E (business high school ) at the Cantonal School of Lucerne . In 1974 he joined Flame Dream as a keyboardist , an art rock / jazz rock band in which his brother Peter Wolf was the front man.

From 1975 to 1979 Brennan studied German with Peter Horst Neumann , musicology with Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini and film studies with Stephan Portmann at the University of Freiburg, as well as piano and music theory with Axel Jungbluth at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern. He then studied piano from 1979 to 1984 (diploma 1985) with Eva Serman and music theory with Peter Benary at the Lucerne Conservatory . In 1977, 1978 and 1980 he also attended summer courses in composition with James Wilson and in choral conducting at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. In 1983 he attended improvisation and jazz workshops by Karl Berger , Carla Bley , David Cherry , Marilyn Crispell , Steve Gorn , Paolo Moura , Babatunde Olatunji and Naná Vasconcelos at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock , New York / USA. From 1985 to 1987 he studied school music (diploma 1987) at the Academy for School and Church Music in Lucerne. In addition, Brennan took composition master classes with Ennio Morricone (1992), Edison Denissow (1993), Klaus Huber (1994), Heinz Holliger (1998) and Hanspeter Kyburz .

Jazz and improvisation musician

After attending the McGregor and McLaughlin concerts in Willisau and Montreux in the 1970s, he returned to his classical piano training and left the band Flame Dream . During his studies in 1977 he founded the free jazz group Freemprovisations with jazz trumpeter Peter Schärli (initially with guests; from 1979 as a quintet). In 1979 they released their first LP: Opening Seed . From 1980 to 1984 he was a member of the Afro-Jazz-Band Mohrenkopf . In addition, from 1980 to 1982 he was a member of the Trio Triumbajo, alongside Prem Ushma (violin) and Barni Palm (tabla) . He gained international attention from 1982 to 1989 as a duo partner of Urs Leimgruber (saxophone), with whom he recorded several albums. The duo was later expanded to include jazz singer Norma Winstone .

For the production of his first piano solo album The Beauty of Fractals he moved to Greenwich Village in New York for six months in 1988 . Brennan began his solo career in the late 1980s. Concert tours have taken him through Europe, Russia, Japan, China, Canada and the USA. Another focus since 1989 has been his work with the crossover quartet Pago Libre , to which Arkady Shilkloper (formerly Lars Lindvall ), Florian Mayer (formerly Tscho Theissing , Steve Goodman ) and Tom Götze (formerly Achim Tang , Georg Breinschmid and Daniele Patumi ) belong. During a 3-day festival in Wetzikon in 1990 he met John Cage , who advised him on the interpretation of some piano works. As a scholarship holder of the Binz-39 Foundation he stayed in 1993 at the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland. With a grant from the Zug cultural foundation Landis & Gyr , he lived in London's East End for six months in 1997 . During this time he completed his solo records Text, Context, Co-text & Co-co-text (1993/94) and The Well-Prepared Clavier (1997). He also recorded the album HeXteT (1998) with Julie Tippetts , Evan Parker , Paul Rutherford and Chris Cutler and made contacts with British musicians Eddie Prévost , Elton Dean and Simon Picard . He also played as a pianist with Christy Doran , Patrice Héral , Esther Flückiger , Magda Vogel , Robert Dick , Gene Coleman , Hans Kennel , Margrit Rieben and Christian Wolfarth . In addition, Brennan led several jazz and improvisation ensembles at music festivals in Willisau, Montreux and Lucerne a . a. the esa , the ensemble Extemporaneo , the Creative Works Orchestra , the Tribschen Sinfonietta , the Organic VolCes and sounded ship .

Composer and music teacher

In addition to numerous compositions for chamber music ensembles and excursions to the sound installation , Brennan mainly writes theater and vocal music. The operas Güdelmäntig (2003-2004) based on Thomas Hürlimann and Night.Shift (2007) based on The Age of Anxiety by WH Auden are part of his oeuvre , which comprises more than 220 works, most of which were published by Pan-Verlag in Zurich . The latter was staged by the director Jakob Peters-Messer at the St. Gallen Theater. Recently he has also been writing music for radio plays, such as for the award-winning audio book platzDADA! (2008). He makes important references in his works to Celtic topics, for example he published the yodel book Jodel Vol.1 (2008) with Nadja Räss and from 2010 the series Wurzelklänge . Brennan is a member of the Swiss-Austrian composer group Groupe Lacroix , which he founded in 1993 with Jean-Luc Darbellay , Christian Henking and Michael Schneider . Marianne Schroeder , Michael Radanovics and Alfons Karl Zwicker later joined the group . With this he realized various music projects, including pictures by Paul Klee . Brennan's classical compositions were a. a. by James Galway ( A Golly Gal's Way to Galway Bay ), Ori Meiraz ( Alef Bet - an Ori-ental Peace Piece ) and Evelyn Glennie ( Dundrum ) as well as the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble ( Epithalamium and Frictions ) and the Ensemble Sortisatio ( N- gl ) premiered.

John Wolf Brennan worked for many years as a piano teacher at the Küssnacht music school and as a professor of piano at the Immensee high school . He also taught at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences . He gave lectures and workshops a. a. at the Cortona Weeks at ETH Zurich . He lives with his wife Regula Hasler in Weggis on Lake Lucerne .

Music genre

Brennan at the prepared piano (2007)

John Wolf Brennan is one of the protagonists of New Improvisation Music , a border area between classical, jazz and contemporary music . In an interview he described the music of the famous jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis as reactionary. Brennan also deliberately differentiates himself from free jazz and the so-called avant - garde of the Darmstadt holiday courses . In jazz, he pursues a piano game which, despite its atonality, is based on the music of the Romantic era and the Impressionist tradition. His interpretations are most reminiscent of the band leader John Zorn and the jazz pianist Irène Schweizer . The Südwestfunk jazz editor Joachim-Ernst Berendt commented: "In Brennan's hands the sounds transcend to timelessness." According to the music journalist Martin Kunzler , Brennan has "created an independent European contribution to improvised rhythmic" world music "that can be subsumed under the term jazz". His music takes up collage techniques, whose “reflective message” thrives on “a great openness of materials and ideas”. He is “out for polarization”. Brennan called his style of music "Comprovisation". He defined it as: "[...] the creation of (composed) music from the spontaneous spirit of improvised music, or the reverse process, improvising with the entire networked structural awareness of a composition." As well as the pianists Keith Tippett and Benoît Delbecq became Brennan one of the pioneers of the prepared piano technique introduced by John Cage . He misappropriated objects such as violin bow hair and fishing lines to generate dynamic overtones and called it "Arcopiano". Brennan composes in a polystylistic way and also uses folklore , jazz and pop music in his serial and dodecaphonic works . In his literary (Joyce, Beckett, Kafka) and pictorial (Klee, Kandinsky, Picasso, Miró) works, the listener encounters romantic irony , which creates a proximity to classical modernism . For him, role models are u. a. the composers Alfred Schnittke , John Cage and György Kurtág .


John Wolf Brennan has received several grants, prizes and honors for his work. In 1989 he was assigned the work year of the Marianne and Curt Dienemann Foundation , Lucerne. In 1991, the piece Bestiarium was awarded a prize from the Sarna Jubilee Foundation , Lucerne. In 1993 he was awarded the National Flute Association , USA prize for Three Darned Pieces . In 1994 Brennan received the Culture Prize of the Swiss Bank Corporation , Zurich, “in recognition of his unusual and fruitful work as a composer and pianist” . His CD Ten Zentences was voted Best Album of the Year in the 1994 jazz poll of the music magazine Musica Jazz . In 1995 the International Society for New Music gave a composer portrait for Brennan and in 1997 he was invited to the Hindemith Foundation in Blonay for the work Nearly Charming . The music critic Jörg Meilicke of the magazine Jazzthetik described the CD Pago Libre as record of the year. In 2000, Brennan received a grant from the Markant Foundation Schwyz for the opera project Night.Shift . In 2002 he received the Prix de la Fondation SUISA, endowed with CHF 10,000, for his “innovative work as a composer” . In 2008 he also received the Music Recognition Award from the UBS Kulturstiftung, Zurich, for his life's work to date. The audio book platzDADA! was added to the list of the best of the German Record Critics ' Award in February 2009 . Brennan is the record holder in Switzerland with 12 selections (Swiss Grammys) from Schweizer Radio International for twelve CDs in a row (1997–2002). In 2010, he also received grants from the Fondation SUISA, the canton Schwyz, the canton Lucerne and the municipality Weggis (for the series Wurzelklänge / Sonic Roots ) of the canton Schwyz, the canton Lucerne and the municipality Weggis (for the series Wurzelklänge / Sonic Roots ) and 2012 from the Markant Foundation Schwyz (for the vocal music project Singing Cities ). 2018 Recognition Prize of the UBS Cultural Foundation for “Traumpfade” (premiere August 18, 2018 Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, conductor: Kevin Griffiths, soloists: Arkady Shilkloper & Christian Zehnder)

Works (selection)

Stage works


  • Night.Shift, op.170 (2001). Figures in a Soundscape for soloists, choir, orchestra, jazz quartet. Text: Rudolph Straub based on The Age of Anxiety by WHAuden. WP St. Gallen 2007
  • Güdelmäntig, op. 184 (2003-2004). Speech opera for an actor, choir and orchestra. Text: Thomas Hürlimann. WP Aarau 2004

Theater music

He composed over 50 theatrical music.

  • FLUCTUS, op.273 (2019). A musical theater that has fallen out of time with moving images. Text: Ueli Blum. Video: Susanne Hofer. WP Chäslager Stans 2019 as part of the cultural project “The Other Time” of the Albert Koechlin Foundation.

Chamber music

  • Xednindex, op.71p (1991) for piano solo, MIDI piano
  • Tangoneòn, op. 85 (1991) for 11 musicians
  • Three daring flute pieces, op. 11, 45, 49 (1980–1992)
  • Twelfth Night, op. 77 (1992) for saxophone quartet. Six songs, a prelude and five interludes
  • Pat me too, op.99d (1992) for guitar, double bass, piano and drums
  • Frictions, op. 104 (1993) for flute, bass clarinet, vibraphone and string trio
  • Atanos, op. 103 (1993). Trio for alto saxophone, piano and double bass
  • Diálogos, op.106 (1994) for 2 cellos
  • Epithalamium, op. 111 (1994). Nonet for flute (B-flat), oboe (Engl-Hn), clarinet (B-flat), violin, viola, violoncello, double bass, piano and percussion. Based on James Joyce's poem No. XIII from "Chamber Music (1907)
  • A Golly Gal's Way to Galway Bay, op. 120 (1995) for flute ensemble (55 flutes or a little less ...)
  • Equilibrio precario (Galliate), op.114b (1995) for violin, horn, piano and double bass
  • Alef Bet, op.127b (1996) for oboe, bassoon and piano (alternative scoring: piano trio)
  • Rhap.s.odie, op. 122 (1996) for violin and piano
  • Nearly Charming, op. 134 (1997). Octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, string quartet and double bass
  • for ED (i) S on ly, op.142 (1997) for oboe, alto saxophone, vibraphone, violin and violoncello
  • The well-prepared piano, op. 136 (1997). 24 movements for piano, prepared piano and tape
  • Enticing, op.148a (1998) for horn, violin, double bass and piano
  • Heptao, op.151b (1998) for trumpet and organ
  • Heptao, op.148c (1998) for horn, violin, double bass and piano
  • Kissing Joy (as it flies), op.151a (1998) for trumpet and organ
  • Kissing Joy (as it flies), op.148d (1998) for horn, violin, double bass and piano
  • Glockenspiel, op.150 (1998). 24 pieces for 27 bells
  • Locrian Locution, op.151c (1998) for trumpet and organ
  • Zigfing, op.149 (1998) for 2 pianos (8 hands)
  • Dance f Kara Ben Nemsi , op.148b (1998) for horn, violin, double bass and piano
  • TNT / Twelfth Night Tango, op. 155 g (1990–1999) for trumpet, tuba and organ
  • Schoop Loop, op. 155f (1995-1999). For Paul Klee for trumpet and organ
  • Gravity, op. 155e (1996–1999) for trumpet, tuba and organ
  • KLA4, op.161 (1999) for 2 pianos
  • N-gl, op.157 (1999) for cor anglais, bassoon and viola. After Paul Klee's Angelus Novus
  • Géo métrique ment, op.166 (2000) for piccolo oboe, oboe, cor anglais and bassoon
  • Church Bell (e) s & Singing Birds, op.173 (2001) for piano and tape
  • Hunting Santa Claus (remixed), op.173, 1 (2001) for prepared piano and tape
  • Agricultural (Dezi-) Bells: Pumpkinet (h) ics, op. 173, 3 (2001) for prepared piano and tape
  • Grand piano, op. 177 (1998–2002) for piano solo (incl. Prep. Clav, melodica, concertina) and tape
  • Let it find you, op. 181/5 (2002) for melodica, violoncello and percussion
  • Full Moon, op.183, 9 (2002). Klee-Pentagon No. 3 for piano and prepared piano (Arcopiano)
  • Western Front, op. 181/6 (2002) for piano, violoncello and percussion
  • Lagoon, op.183, 10 (2002). Klee-Pentagon No. 4 for piano and prepared piano (pizzicato piano)
  • Pipe ou pas ?, op.183, 2 (2002). Picasso triptych No. 2 for piano and prepared piano
  • ABC, op.183, 8 (2002). Klee Pentagon No. 2 for piano and prepared piano (glissando piano)
  • Amour fou, op.183, 3 (2002). Picasso triptych No. 3 for piano and prepared piano
  • Aubade (2002). Picasso triptych No. 1 for piano and prepared piano
  • Let it find you, op. 185/2 (2002-2003). Sextet version for horn, melodica / piano, percussion, violin, cello and double bass
  • Western Front, op. 185/3 (2002-2003). Sextet version for horn, piano, percussion, violin, cello and double bass
  • RMX, op.186/1 (2003) for violin, horn, piano and double bass
  • Chechov Variations, op.194 (2004) for horn / flugelhorn, piano and melodica
  • In a Gaelic Mood, op. 191a (2004–2006) for violin, horn, piano and double bass
  • Triple Stipple, op.198 (2006) for guitar trio
  • To the summit and back, op.199a (2006) for 4 alphorns
  • Song and Variations, op.199b (2006) for alphorn, flugelhorn and three horns
  • SILK / ST / RINGS, op.207 (2007) for pipa and guitar trio
  • Immram, op. 212 (2009) for guitar ensemble
  • State of Flux, op.211 (2009) for violin, violoncello and piano
  • Wolkenpumpentango, op. 214 (2009) for violin, violoncello and piano
  • Inner & Outer Spaces, op. 220 (2009–2010) for piano, prepared piano, melodica, flute, electronics and tapes
  • Hornborn Hymn, op. 221 (2010). Version for horn, timpani and string orchestra
  • Ever for never, op. 222 (2010). Version for horn, xylophone, marimba and string orchestra
  • Wurzelklänge / Sonic Roots, op. 224 (2010/11). 11 pieces for violin and piano
  • Wurzelklänge / Sonic Roots, op. 225 (2010/11). 11 pieces for violin (solo, duo, guitar or piano)
  • Perpetuum, op.230a (2011) for piano duo
  • TLS - a tarkus love story, op.230b (2011) for piano duo
  • Wurzelklänge / Sonic Roots, op. 235 (2012). 13 pieces for 1–2 clarinets and piano
  • Oscillating Orbits op.240 (2013) for violin and percussion ensemble (commissioned by the PAEB Percussion Art Ensemble Bern)
  • Music Klostermuseum Muri op.245 (2014) for organ, bells, triangle and melodica
  • Wurzelklänge / Sonic Roots, op.236 (2014). 14 pieces for 1–2 alto saxophones and piano
  • Angelus Arbonus, op.252 (2015) for trombone and harp
  • Lai Nair, op.253 (2016) for alphorn and double bass. WP Alpentöne Festival August 19, 2017 Soloists: Arkady Shilkloper (alphorn) and Tom Götze (double bass)
  • Zusenn's SWOT-Analyze (2018) for clarinet, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and double bass. Bauernmusik Altdorf (conductor: Peter Gisler)
  • As she breathes - Variations on a theme by Lindsay Cooper (2018), for 3 bassoons and contrabassoon. WP March 19, 2018 "in between four bassoons", Porgy & Bess Vienna
  • A Lady Lab (2018), for 3 bassoons and contrabassoon. Premiere March 19, 2018 "in between four bassoons", Tribute to Lindsay Cooper, Porgy & Bess Vienna

Orchestral works

  • Traumpfade op.250 (2015) for overtone voice and orchestra, soloist: Christian Zehnder, NOB Neues Orchester Basel, conductor: Christian Knüsel, premiere May 12, 2016 Martinskirche Basel
  • Boswil Rag op.258 (2016) for orchestra, conductor: Anne-Cécile Gross, Aargau Youth Symphony Orchestra. WP: February 20, 2017, Alte Kirche Boswil
  • Dädaleum op.260 (2016) for soprano and orchestra, soloist: Anna Herbst, premiere: June 10, 2016 Tonhalle Zürich, conductor: Paul Taylor
  • got hard - FunPhare for the common sense op.268 (2017) for wind orchestra. Soloist: Patrice Héral Premiere: August 19, 2017 theater (uri) Altdorf, conductor: Michel Truniger (Festival Alpentöne 2017)
  • Traumpfade - the Tü-Da-Do Songlines op.270 (2018) for (overtone) voice, alphorn and orchestra, soloists: Christian Zehnder, Arkady Shilkloper. Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, conductor: Kevin Griffiths, premier August 18th, 2018 Tonhalle Maag Zürich (Festival Stubete am See)

Choral and vocal music

  • Bestiary, op. 51 (1983–1990). 13 piano songs for high voice and piano. Text: Otto Höschle, Christian Morgenstern
  • SprüchGägeSprüch, op. 72 (1991) for 2 mixed choirs, string quartet and percussion. Text: Heinrich Ineichen. A dialectical cantata
  • Morgenstern has gold in its mouth, op. 109 (1987–1994) for mixed choir a cappella. Text: Christian Morgenstern. A choral approach to the gallows songs of Christian Morgenstern (1871–1914)
  • Go slow, op. 138, 6 (1997) for soprano, trombone, bass clarinet, soprano sax, piano and percussion. Text: Julie Tippetts
  • Through the Ear of a Raindrop, op. 138 (1997). Song cycle for soprano, bass clarinet, sax, trombone, piano and percussion. Text: Paula Meehan, Edgar Allan Poe , Seamus Heaney , Julie Tippetts, Theo Dorgan, William Shakespeare
  • Fraeschber's Dream, op. 135 (1997) for soprano, string trio and bass clarinet. Text: Arno Schmidt , Oskar Pastior , Eveline Hasler , Peter Rühmkorf
  • The Last Heretic, op.153 (1999). “Sulzigjoggeli” for mixed choir. Text: Paul Steinmann
  • Arpiade ("Kunigundula configurations"), op. 158 (1999) for mezzo-soprano and piano. Text: Hans Arp
  • Sculpted Sound, op.168 (2000) for voice, percussion and piano. Text: Eugen Gomringer , John Wolf Brennan, Eveline Hasler, André Thomkins , Ernst Jandl , Gerhard Rühm
  • Le souffle au coeur, op. 176/9 (2002) for voice, trumpet, tuba and piano. Text: John Wolf Brennan
  • Click, click, you Sätzlinge, op. 190 (2003) for recitation, piano, prepared piano, keyboards, percussion and melodica. Text: Eveline Hasler
  • Im Fluss (State of Flux), op.189 (2003) for voice, clarinet / bass clarinet, electric bass, piano and drums ad libitum. Text: John Wolf Brennan
  • Equilibrio precario, op. 192 (2003-2004) for soprano and tape (CD). Text: John Wolf Brennan
  • Schnickschnack, op. 197 l (2005) for voice, horn, piano, violin, double bass and percussion. Text: Daniil Charms
  • Höhefüür, op. 209 (2008) for yodel voice, alphorn, flugelhorn and piano. Text: John Wolf Brennan
  • Tü-Da-Do, op.215 (2009). 7 × 7 variations on the Postbus triad, for alphorn, voice and piano
  • Singing Cities (2012/13). Song cycle. Text: Leonor Gnos
  • Stand Up and Sing! (2014/2015) - nine choral arrangements for female choir, piano and percussion (commissioned by the Vogelfrei Frauenchors Zürich / Magda Vogel)
  • Weggis hymn (2014). Text: Markus Wolfisberg, Josef Doppmann. BelCanto Chor Weggis, conductor: Peter Werlen
  • Winds of May for soprano and piano (op.251, 2015). Text: James Joyce, from: Chamber Music IX.
  • Singfonie (2015) for singing and bird voices. Music for the opening of the ornithological station Sempach (European Museum of the Year Award 2017)
  • Wäggiser Lied (2016). Text: Markus Wolfisberg, Josef Doppmann. Band version. WP for the 900th anniversary of the Weggis community, 10.9.2016
  • Songs across the Border (2016/2017) - ten choir song arrangements for female choir and piano (commissioned by Vogelfrei Frauenchors Zürich / Magda Vogel)
  • Randulin Variaziuns (2016/17), based on a folk song from the Engadine. WP August 19, 2017 theater (uri) Altdorf with Ensemble Pago Libre. Soloist: Christian Zehnder (as part of the Festival Alpentöne 2017)
  • INLAND (2018/2019) - twelve choir song arrangements for female choir and piano (commissioned by Vogelfrei Frauenchors Zürich / Magda Vogel) Songs by Sina, Steff la Cheffe, Sophie Hunger, Bibi Vaplan, Sandee, Dodo Hug, Nina Dimitri, Yvette Théraulaz, Les Reines Prochaines, Gabriela Krapf, ea

Solo works

  • Treiblinge, op.16 (1982). 13 pieces for piano
  • Larice e Pratolina, op.15 (1982). A fairy tale for piano
  • Capriccio, op.55 (1990). A concert piece for piano
  • Omega, op.71m (1990) for piano solo
  • Tau 2, op.71n (1990) for piano solo
  • Tau 3, op.71o (1990) for piano solo
  • Happy Birthday Variations, op.95 (1992) for piano. 9 variations in the style of old and new masters - from Bach to Satie to Pärt
  • Sonata Pentatonica, op. 94 (1992–1993) for piano
  • Pandaemonium, op.107 (1994) for organ solo
  • Asikudaphari, op. 121 (1995). Monody for violin alone
  • Olos, op.123 (1996) for solo clarinet
  • Leave it in Limbo, op.90 (1996) for horn solo
  • 5 Interludes, op.141 (1997). At Rachmaninoff's Chrysostom Mass for organ solo
  • Kyoto, op.140 (1997) for piano solo
  • Silly Blooze, op.162 (1999). A solo piano blues
  • Klastr, op.156d (1999) for organ
  • Metaterz, op.156a (1999) for organ solo
  • Subcutaneous, op.156b (1999) for organ solo
  • Another Different Train, op.156c (1999) for organ solo
  • London Glockenspiel, op.173 (2001) for Glockenspiel
  • Carillon à Dondolio, op.173, 4 (2001) for piano solo
  • Dancer in the Sky, op.183, 6 (2002). D'après Mirò for piano
  • E rose garden, op.183, 11 (2002). Klee Pentagon No. 5 for piano
  • Etude, op.183, 4 (2002). D'après Cézanne for piano
  • Little X, op.183, 7 (2002). Klee Pentagon No. 1 for piano
  • Pictures in a Gallery, op.183 (2002) for piano solo (prepared piano, melodica)
  • Candy 'n Sky, op.183, 5 (2002). D'après Kandinsky for piano
  • Discombobulated Rug Cutters, op. 171 (2001–2005) for tuba solo
  • THE SPEED OF DARK, op.206 (2007/08) for piano solo (with prep. Piano, melodica, harmonium, accordion, Irish whistle)
  • Wurzelklänge / Sonic Roots, op. 218 (2009/2010). 24 pieces for piano
  • Empty Minds op.244a for piano solo (2014)
  • The Little Rabbit's Waltz op.244b for piano 4 hands (2014)

Electronic music / sound installation

  • Klanggang, op. 180 (2002–2003). Sound installation for 3 tapes
  • Vals bells lure, op.233 (2012). Sound installation on the theme of bells

Radio plays

  • I'll tear you apart like a fish by Franz Kafka . DRS 2001. Director: Geri Dillier
  • My favorite crocodile from Olga Knipper / Anton Chekhov. DRS 2004. Director: Geri Dillier
  • The son of Jon Fosse . DRS 2009. Director: Geri Dillier
  • Click, click, you saplings by Eveline Hasler . Christoph Merian Verlag 2009.
  • Schreckmümpfeli : Only no up to the sluggish rank ... by Irma Greber. DRS 2010. Director: Isabel Schaerer
  • Swiss mirror by Meinrad Inglin , read by Hanspeter Müller-Droossaart. SRF 2014. Director: Geri Dillier
  • The worm in the apple - a poetic-musical ballad about the life and work of Francis of Assisi by Stefan O Hochstrasser . Read by Stefan O Hochstrasser, Jasmine Mathis, Annemarie Hochstrasser & John Wolf Brennan. Church of St. Wendelin, Greppen, WP 10/30/2016
  • "Echo". Radio feature by Bettina Mittelstrass. With Christian Zehnder & John Wolf Brennan. Basel Feature Prize 2016. Christoph Merian Verlag 2017.

Film music

  • Bulles d'Utopie . 8 short films, Switzerland 1989–1991. Director: Alexander J. Seiler .
  • Meditative moments . 8 short films, Switzerland 2011. Director: Milos Savic.
  • Bus 31 . Multimedia pilot project, Switzerland 2012. Director: Alexandra Prusa .
  • Kosovo Dreams . Documentary, Switzerland 2013. Director: Valeria Stucki. (Premiere: Solothurn Film Festival )

Discography (selection)

Brennan's discography includes more than 50 records, the majority of which have been released by Creative Works Records , Leo Records and Bellaphon Records . He arranged his piano solo albums according to the primary colors (previously blue and yellow trilogy ). The The Penguin Guide to Jazz lists the following CDs:

  • Shooting Stars and Traffic Lights ( Leo Records , 1993) with John Voirol, Tscho Theissing, Daniele Patumi and Alex Cline
  • Text, context, co-text & co-co-text . ( Creative Works Records , 1994) Solo piano
  • Moscow-Petuschki / Felix scenes . (Leo Lab, 1994/95) with Lars Lindvall, Martin Mayes , Marin Namestnik, Tscho Theissing, Daniele Patumi, Oscar Bingisser, Liana Schwanja
  • Pago Libre . (Leo Records, 1996) with Pago Libre
  • Pago Libre: Wake Up Call: Live In Italy . (Leo Records, 1997) with Arkady Shilkloper, Tscho Theissing & Daniele Patumi
  • The Well-Prepared Clavier . (Creative Works Records, 1997) Solo piano with Marianne Schroeder
  • … Through The Ear Of A Raindrop . (Leo Records, 1997) with Paul Rutherford, Evan Parker, Peter Whyman, Chris Cutler, Julie Tippetts
  • Aurealis . (Victo Records, 1997) with Robert Dick, Daniele Patumi
  • HeXtet: Through the Ear of a Raindrop . (Leo Records, 1998) with Julie Tippetts, Peter Whyman, Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Chris Cutler
  • Momentum . (Leo Records, 1998) with Gene Coleman, Christian Wolfarth
  • Momentum 2: The Laws Of Refraction . (Leo Records, 1999) with Gene Coleman, Christian Wolfarth, Alfred Zimmerlin
  • Momentum 3 . (Leo Records, 2001) with Christian Wolfarth, Bertrand Denzler , Christian Weber
  • Pago Libre: Cinémagique . ( TCB Records , 2001) with Arkady Shilkloper, Tscho Theissing & Daniele Patumi
  • Zero Heroes . (Leo Records, 2002) with Peggy Lee , Dylan van der Schyff
  • Carillon . ( Altrisuoni , 2003) Solo piano
  • Pago Libre: Phoenix: Live in Salzburg & Zurich . (Leo Records, 2003) with Arkady Shilkloper, Tscho Theissing & Daniele Patumi
  • Triangulation . (Leo Records, 2004) with Christy Doran, Patrice Héral
  • Momentum 4: Rising Fall . (Leo Records, 2005) with Gene Coleman, Marc Unterstährer, Thomas KJ Mejer
  • Pago Libre Sextet: platzDADA! . (Christoph Merian Verlag, 2008) with Agnes Heginger, Arkady Shilkloper, Tscho Theissing, Georg Breinschmid & Patrice Héral
  • Pago Libre: Fake Folk . (Zappel Music, 2009) with Arkady Shilkloper, Tscho Theissing, Georg Breinschmid & Patrice Héral
  • Triangulation: Whirligigs . (Leo Records, 2010) with Christy Doran, Bruno Amstad & Patrice Héral
  • Pilgrims . (Leo Records, 2013) with Tony Majdalani & Marco Jencarelli
  • Pilgrims: Oriental Orbit . (Leo Records, 2017) with Tony Majdalani & Marco Jencarelli
  • Pago Libre & Friends: got hard . (Leo Records, 2018) with Florian Mayer, Arkady Shilkloper, Tom Götze, Patrice Héral, Christy Doran, Christian Zehnder & the Alpentöne Blasorchester, conducted by Michel Truniger
  • Pago Libre: Cinémagique 2.0 . (Leo Records, 2019) with Arkady Shilkloper, Tscho Theissing, Daniele Patumi & Georg Breinschmid
  • John Wolf Brennan: Nevergreens . (Leo Records, 2019) Solo piano
  • Sooon: Youchz . (Das Narrenschiff, 2019) with Sonja Morgenegg & Tony Majdalani
  • Pago Libre Sextet: platzDADA !! (remastered). (Leo Records, 2020) with Agnes Heginger, Arkady Shilkloper, Tscho Theissing, Georg Breinschmid & Patrice Héral
  • Pago Libre: Mountain Songlines . (Leo Records, 2020) with Florian Mayer, Arkady Shilkloper, Tom Götze (& Sonja Morgenegg)


John Wolf Brennan wrote numerous articles and columns for the weekly papers Luzerner Woche and Wochen-Zeitung .

Technical article

  • Time leaps in the Wild East. Impressions of a concert tour through Ukraine and Estonia . In: Jazz Podium 41 (1992) 5, pp. 28-30 and 6, pp. 20-22.
  • Archeology, Dialectics & Province . In: Musik & Theater 6/1992.
  • Of leaps in time in the Wild West. A travel report in fifteen breaks from the end of Europe . In: Jazz Podium 44 (1995) 3, pp. 17-20.
  • East End Stories. 13 scenes from the London diary . In: Schweizer Monatshefte 80 (2000) 4, pp. 41–44. / East End Stories. 12 scenes from the London diary . In: Jazz Podium 47 (1998) 7-8, pp. 24-25
  • The Celts. The enigmatic legacy of a culture . In: Schweizer Monatshefte 79 (1999) 2, pp. 32–35. doi: 10.5169 / seals-166077

Music books

  • Driftlings / Larice e Pratolina / Capriccio. 15 pieces for piano. Pan-Verlag 1991
  • Bestiary. 13 piano songs based on texts by Otto Höschle and Christian Morgenstern. Pan-Verlag 1991
  • Happy Birthday Variations for piano. 9 variations from Bach to Satie, from Gershwin via Bartók to Pärt. Pan-Verlag 1992
  • Twelfth Night. 6 saxophone quartets (based on Shakespeare) with a prelude and 5 interludes. Pan-Verlag 1993
  • Three darned pieces for solo flute. Pan-Verlag 1993
  • Sonata Pentatonica for piano. Pan-Verlag 1994
  • Morgenstern has gold in its mouth. A choral approach to the gallows songs of Christian Morgenstern for mixed. A cappella choir. Pan-Verlag 1994
  • Sonic Roots / Wurzelklänge, Vol. 1. 24 pieces for piano. Pan-Verlag 2010
  • Sonic Roots / Wurzelklänge, Vol. 3. 11 pieces for violin and piano. Pan-Verlag 2011
  • Sonic Roots / Wurzelklänge, Vol. 7. 13 pieces for violin and various instr. Pan-Verlag 2011
  • Sonic Roots / Wurzelklänge, Vol. 2. 13 pieces for clarinet and various instr. Pan-Verlag 2013
  • Sonic Roots / Wurzelklänge, Vol. 4. 13 pieces for alto saxophone and piano. Pan-Verlag 2014
  • GruyAIR for orchestra. Pan-Verlag 2016
  • Wäggiser Lied for 2 voices, flute, clarinet, electric guitar, piano, bass & drum set. Pan-Verlag 2016
  • Sonic Roots / Wurzelklänge, Vol. 5. 11 pieces for 1–2 flutes and piano. Pan-Verlag 2017
  • Sonic Roots / Wurzelklänge, Vol. 6. 12 pieces for 1–2 recorders (treble recorder ad lib.) And piano. Pan-Verlag 2018



  • Simon Adams: Brennan, John Wolf. In: Barry Kernfeld (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz . Volume 1: A – fuzz . 2nd edition, MacMillan, London 2002, ISBN 0-333-69189-X , pp. 299-300.
  • Brennan, John Wolf. In: Europa Publications (Ed.): International Who's Who in Popular Music 2012 . 14th edition, Routledge, London 2012, ISBN 978-1-85743-643-3 , p. 75.
  • Ian Carr : John Wolf Brennan. In: Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather , Brian Priestley : The Rough Guide to Jazz. The Essential Companion to Artists and Albums. The Rough Guides, London 1995, ISBN 1-85828-137-7 , pp. 97-98.
  • John Wolf Brennan . In: Richard Cook , Brian Morton : The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. 8th edition. Penguin, London 2006, ISBN 0-14-102327-9 , pp. 160-161, 1011.
  • Brennan, John Wolf . In: Martin Kunzler : Jazz Lexicon. Volume 1: A-L . (rororo-Handbuch) Rowohlt, Reinbek 2002, ISBN 3-499-16512-0 , pp. 140-141.
  • John Wolf Brennan . In: Internationale Musikfestwochen Luzern (Ed.): “From alphorn call to synthesizer sound”. Swiss music from 150 years of the City Hall of Lucerne (Kornschutte). August 17 - September 11, 1991 . Walter Labhart, Endingen 1991, ISBN 3-9520167-0-5 , pp. 118-119.
  • Brennan, John Wolf. In: Axel Schniederjürgen (Ed.): Kürschner's Musicians Handbook. 5th edition. De Gruyter Saur, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-598-24212-3 , p. 54.
  • Brennan, John Wolf . In: Bruno Spoerri : Biographical Lexicon of Swiss Jazz . CD supplement to: Bruno Spoerri (Ed.): Jazz in Switzerland. History and stories . Chronos-Verlag, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-0340-0739-6 .
  • John Wolf Brennan . In: Hans Steinbeck, Walter Labhart (Hrsg.): Swiss composers of our time. Biographies, catalog raisonnés with discography and bibliography . Amadeus, Winterthur 1993, ISBN 3-905049-05-8 , pp. 58-60.


  • Søren Gundermann: The Taming of the Screw . John Cage's prepared piano in the music of Hauschka and John Wolf Brennan. Master's thesis summer semester 2014 University of Potsdam (Christian Thorau and Bringfried Löffler)
  • Manfred Papst: You should be able to whistle melodies . The Irish-Swiss jack-of-all-trades John Wolf Brennan brings WHAuden's Age of Fear to the stage as an opera with Noëmi Nadelmann. In: NZZ on Sunday April 22, 2007
  • Bettina Kugler: The ferryman . For the world premiere of the opera Night.Shift in the Lokremise. An encounter with the Irish-Swiss composer John Wolf Brennan. In: St. Galler Tagblatt April 28, 2007
  • Thomas Gartmann: In the barrage of styles. The Irish-Swiss musician John Wolf Brennan from Weggis has a talent for both recording and passing on . In: Turicum 25 (1994) 1, pp. 63-66.
  • Ulrich Roth: John Wolf Brennan. Irish re-inflections . In: Jazz Podium 44 (1995) 3, pp. 16-17.
  • Ulrich Roth: John Wolf Brennan. When the avant-garde takes the rear guard . In: Jazz Podium 41 (1992) 5, pp. 26-27.
  • Michael Scheiner: Playing with texts, colors and shapes. John Wolf Brennan . In: Jazz Podium 47 (1995) 12, pp. 16-17.


  • Interview with Beat Blaser , Swiss Radio DRS 2 , August 2009.
  • Interview with Paula Edelstein, All About Jazz / Sounds of Timeless Jazz , July 2001 ( online ).
  • Interview with Paula Edelstein, The Jazz Review , June 2000 ( online ).
  • Interview with Luigi Santosuosso, All About Jazz Italia , November 2002 ( online ).
  • Interview with Michael Scheiner, Jazz Podium , October 1998 ( online ).
  • Interview with Martin Schuster, Concerto , August 2006 ( online ).
  • Interview with Roger Spence, The Jazz Review , April / May 2007 ( online ).
  • Interview with Ludwig van Trikt, Cadence Magazine , February 2005 ( online ).
  • Interview with Ajie Wartano, WartaJazz , April 2001 ( online ).

Web links

Commons : John Wolf Brennan  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c M. B .: traces off . In: Leipziger Volkszeitung , March 28, 2009, p. 11.
  2. On their father's side, the Wolfs were Jews from Dresden and Karlsbad who emigrated to Switzerland in 1938; the Brennans came from Donegal and Dublin on their mother's side .
  3. ^ A b Ian Carr: John Wolf Brennan , p. 97.
  4. Interview with Ludwig van Trikt, 2005 ( online ).
  5. The anglicized name Brennan is written in Irish Bhraonáin and means small tropics . Source: John Wolf Brennan: The Celts - the mysterious legacy of a culture ( PDF ).
  6. a b c d e f g h Ian Carr: John Wolf Brennan , p. 98.
  7. Maria Künzli: First performance in St.Gallen . In: Berner Zeitung , May 3, 2007, p. 34.
  8. ^ Heinz Horat: Flame Dream . In: Heinz Horat (ed.): Out of bounds and boundaries. The Lucerne scene 1950–1980 . Velvet, Luzern 2006, ISBN 3-9522411-4-8 , p. 152.
  9. a b c d e f John Wolf Brennan . In: Hans Steinbeck, Walter Labhart (Ed.): Swiss composers of our time , p. 58.
  10. ↑ He completed further training courses with Joey Baron , Joëlle Léandre , Tim Berne , Hank Roberts , Don Friedman , Ray Anderson , Chris Burns, Pauline Oliveros , the Rova Saxophone Quartet and Pierre Favre .
  11. Walter Meier, Alois Koch , Hans Zihlmann, Monika Henking and Ernst Pfiffner were among his teachers .
  12. a b Overview of the Foundation's prices  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 114 kB). Website of the SUISA Foundation for Music. Retrieved December 28, 2012.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  13. a b c d Interview with Martin Schuster, 2006 ( online ( memento from March 11, 2008 in the Internet Archive )).
  14. a b c Simon Adams: Brennan, John Wolf . Grove Music Online.
  15. rororo-Jazzlexikon, questionnaire, 1999 . JW Brennan's website. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  16. The name is composed of the first letters of the surnames of the founders: Patumi, Goodman, Lindvall and Brennan.
  17. Music is also known as a third stream .
  18. pago libre . JW Brennan's website. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  19. ^ A b c Martin Schuster: Music in precarious equilibrium . In: Concerto 04/2006 ( online ).
  20. Interview with Roger Spence, 2007 ( online ).
  21. ^ Biography ( Memento from March 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). Musinfo website. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  22. Martin Kunzler: Brennan, John Wolf , p. 141.
  23. a b c Axel Schniederjürgen (Ed.): Kürschner's Musicians Handbook , p. 54.
  24. Catalog raisonné by JW Brennan ( Memento from March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). Musinfo website. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  25. a b Bettina Kugler: The ferryman. For the world premiere of the opera Night.Shift . In: St. Galler Tagblatt , April 2007.
  26. a b Pirmin Bossart: The Indefatigable from Wattawis . In: Das Kulturmagazin , No. 12, December 2005.
  27. Urs Mattenberger: John Wolf Brennan and Pago libre. Only the slurry pump never falls out of step . In: Neue Luzerner Zeitung , December 29, 2009.
  28. Stephan Sabotta and Michael Baumgartner, who were also involved in the founding, did not appear actively again.
  29. Interview with Paula Edelstein, 2000 ( online ).
  30. ^ Groupe Lacroix in the Music Information Center Austria
  31. John Wolf Brennan (PDF; 618 kB). CMC website. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  32. ^ Corona Week 2012. Workshop John Wolf Brennan ( Memento from April 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). ETH Zurich website. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  33. Weggis personalities from the current cultural sector . Website of the municipality of Weggis. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  34. Interview with Michael Scheiner, 1998 ( online ).
  35. Thomas Gartamann: In the barrage of styles. The Irish-Swiss musician John Wolf Brennan from Weggis has a talent for both recording and passing on , p. 66.
  36. Ulrich Roth: John Wolf Brennan. When the avant-garde takes the rearguard , p. 26.
  37. a b Ulrich Roth: John Wolf Brennan. Irish re-inflections , p. 16.
  38. Ulrich Roth: John Wolf Brennan. When the avant-garde takes the rearguard , p. 27.
  39. Martin Kunzler: Brennan, John Wolf , p. 140.
  40. Peer Schlechta: A tightrope walk between musical worlds. An interview with John Wolf Brennan (PDF; 1.3 MB) . In: Working Group of Independent Music Publishers (ed.): Tableau Musical 6/2008, p. 11.
  41. John Shepherd (ed.): Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Vol. 2: Performance and Production. Continuum, London 2003, ISBN 0-8264-7436-5 , p. 34.
  42. Manfred Papst: You should be able to whistle melodies . In: NZZ am Sonntag , April 22, 2007, p. 60.
  43. Frank von Niederhäusern: CD tip of the month . In: RadioMagazin , August 2006.
  44. Andreas Felber : John Wolf Brennan / Daniele Patumi. Ten Zentences - Music For - Grand Piano And Double Bass . In: Jazz Podium 42 (1993) 7-8, p. 78.
  45. Michael Scheiner: John Wolf Brennan. Moscow-Petuschki / Felix Scenes - Aurealis - The well-tempered piano . In: Jazz Podium 47 (1998) 7–8, p. 90.
  46. Cadence, Questionnaire, 1999 . JW Brennan's website. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  47. News . In: Neue Luzerner Zeitung , May 21, 2002, p. 13.
  48. Music Recognition Award to John Wolf Brennan (PDF; 2.3 MB) . In: Association of Independent Music Publishers (ed.): Tableau Musical 7/2009, p. 15.
  49. Leaderboard 2-2009 . Website of the PdSK. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  50. biography . JWB website. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  51. John Wolf Brennan honored with a record number of “Swiss Grammys” . Swiss Music News. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  52. John Wolf Brennan . Swiss Music News. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  53. Activity report 2010 of the SUISA Foundation for Music, p. 16.
  54. Interview with Ajie Wartano, 2001 ( online ).
  55. John Wolf Brennan and his partners work on CD productions under the following names: Pago Libre, Trio Aurealis, Pipelines, Momentum, Entropology, HeXtet and Nisajo.
  56. Stefan Joss: At the border. "For me, letters are just as Lego as sounds". In: Jazz'n'more , September / October 2005.
  57. Rainer wine: no chaser. The Prevention Producer . In: Jazzzeitung , 2003/11, p. 17.
  58. The 8th edition (2007) and 9th edition (2008) of the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings and the 10th edition (2011) of the Penguin Jazz Guide are taken into account . The History of the Music in the 1000 Best Albums .
  59. Texts . JW Brennan's website. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
This article was added to the list of articles worth reading on March 6, 2013 in this version .