The music is the most important thing. Regardless of how long the history of the band is, its wonderful achievements and lasting impression it leaves, the only thing that counts is the flourishes from the clarinets and the excitement that rises when the harmonies fill the air. The Landwehr is the official music of the canton and city of Fribourg. Its first concerts were held in 1804. The 90 musicians who form the orchestra today are the latest in a long line of predecessors. The people of Fribourg have traditionally been singers and musicians, and the members of the Landwehr share that heritage.
With this in mind, they have developed their ensemble into a world-class orchestra. As amateur musicians, they are brought together by harmony and friendship. Although their uniforms – the same worn by the Fribourg troops in 1858 – recall the richness of their past, their performances look distinctly towards the future, inspiring and lifting to all those who listen.
Crossing boundaries and repertoires
Under the direction of Isabelle Ruf-Weber, the wind orchestra focuses on performing an extensive and varied repertoire. Works ranging from spectacular descriptive pieces to street music allow the musicians to showcase the entire spectrum of their technical and expressive skills. The Landwehr seeks to meet the public’s expectations, but also wants to surprise them by introducing them to new discoveries. Throughout the year, it entertains audiences both in Switzerland and abroad.
As an official ensemble, it adds extra life to the religious ceremonies and historical events that are characteristic for the region: Receptions for Federal Councillors returning home after their election, swearing-in ceremonies for senior cantonal political authorities, funerals for significant Fribourg personalities, and the two most recent Winegrowers festivals in Vevey – to name a few examples.
It is also invited to perform abroad on a regular basis. The Landwehr therefore acts as an ambassador for both Fribourg and Switzerland. Outside Europe, it has performed in Iran, Japan, China, the USA, Canada, Argentina and Australia.
It travelled to Croatia to bring a peaceful note during wartime. The Landwehr was the first international musical corps to participate in the large Columbus Day Parade on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The band was also the guest of honour at an audience with Pope John-Paul II, the musicians of the Guardia degli Carabinieri and the Pontifical Swiss Guard. The Landwehr also took part in the festivities to mark the 700th anniversary of the founding of the Principality of Monaco, during which it was decorated by Prince Rainier III. Since then, Prince Albert of Monaco has been an honorary member of the Landwehr.
From New York’s Carnegie Hall to Washington’s Arlington cemetery, from the Sydney Opera House to St. Peter’s Square in Rome, and from the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Landwehr has filled the most prestigious of halls and squares around the world.
The future brings other great travel perspectives: After a charity concert in favour of the poors of Pope Francis in October 2015, it will be in august 2016 on the way to Costa Rica, answering an invitation of the government and there will be another adventure in 2018, presenting Gala concerts in India.
Training the musicians of tomorrow
In order to continue adding new chapters to its history and performing its exciting repertoire, the Landwehr is also dedicated to train young people. Its music school is designed for children, without a minimum age requirement. It provides a solid music education prior to conservatory study. The oldest students have the opportunity to join the junior ensemble. Conducted by Théo Schmitt, this group consisting of around 70 students takes part in the Landwehr’s gala concert every year. It also performs at various events in the Canton of Fribourg and in Switzerland. In 2009, it accompanied the Fribourg government to the swearing-in of the Pontifical Swiss Guards in Rome. After some time, depending on their progress, the members of the youth ensemble are invited to join the ranks of the Landwehr.
A long history
The Landwehr was founded in 1804, and was originally known as the Corps franc. At that time, Napoleon Bonaparte’s Act of Mediation required all cantons to create military contingents. These were accompanied by musical corps. Since time immemorial, musicians have strode across battlefields, issuing orders, exalting the troops and intimidating enemies. This military component was the historical foundation of the Landwehr. Since its creation, the Fribourg ensemble has risen like a phoenix from its own ashes several times in different eras and under different names. Finally, the Landwehr was born. Now controlled by the Conseil d’Etat, it no longer plays a role in battles and wars, but in promoting music first and foremost.
Conductor, Isabelle Ruf-Weber
Isabelle Ruf-Weber, born on 27 February 1960, worked initially as a teacher, a profession she practised for three years before training as a wind orchestra conductor at the Lucerne School of Music. In 1989, she received diplomas with distinction in conducting and flute. She honed her knowledge and technique during various courses and training programmes, including at the University of Michigan in the USA and with Kapellmeister Sylvia Caduff in Lucerne. In 2004, she attended a course in orchestra conducting at the Zurich University of the Arts.
She has conducted the Neuenkirch Wind Orchestra since 1988, and together they have won first place on two occasions at the Federal music festivals in Fribourg and Lucerne. For three years (2001 to 2003), she conducted the Sursee Orchestra, and has been in charge of musical direction for the Sursee town theatre since 2001. She took over as artistic director of the State Symphonic Band of Baden-Württemberg in 2004. With this ensemble, she obtained fourth place in the Concert Division at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade. No German band had previously been awarded such a high ranking.
Since 2007, she has been artistic director of the Swiss National Youth Wind Orchestra. She is often invited to work as a guest conductor abroad and also sits on judging panels in Switzerland and elsewhere. She works as an expert in several music schools, including a guest course at the Trossingen University of Music in Germany, which she has led since 2006. She joined the music commission of the International Confederation of Music Societies in 2005, before becoming a member of the musical commission of the Swiss Windband Association two years later. Currently a teacher at the Lucerne School of Music, she has conducted the Landwehr since the start of 2008.