Zug, 21.07.2021

Music fulfils me

For her great cultural commitment in the canton of Zug, the pianist Madeleine Nussbaumer will be honoured with the Recognition Award 2021. Her enthusiasm for music began in the cradle, so to speak. From where does the Zug native draw energy from for her perseverance?

For Madeleine Nussbaumer, 2021 is a year of challenges, but also a year of highlights: In June, the Sommerklänge (summer sounds) Festival, which she founded as artistic director 20 years ago, received the Zug Cultural Sash (Kulturschärpe) as the main prize. Just one month later, Madeleine Nussbaumer was honoured with the Zug Recognition Award 2021, an award for great services to cultural events in the canton.

For more than 30 years, the Zug pianist has contributed to local cultural life with a lot of passion and a remarkable perseverance: On the one hand with the above-mentioned Sommerklänge-Festival, which is currently underway for the 21st time, and with her chamber ensemble Chamäleon, founded in 1990, on the other, with which she gives concerts year after year with a top-class choice of works each time. The two awards, and, even more so, the recognition are a "real boost" for her, as she says herself: "The whole organisation was incredibly difficult and nerve-wracking due to the corona situation," and she would often have liked to throw in the towel. "The awards were a great comfort for me, and at the same time motivation to continue."

Dimensions that cannot be experienced in everyday life
This motivation, however, is fed above all by a principle of the Zug pianist: "Culture is vital!", she emphasizes. "This is proven by the feedback from the audience alone. In such difficult times as the last year and a half in particular, it's especially fulfilling when you see so many satisfied faces after the concert." Madeleine Nussbaumer mainly draws her energy from her basic passion to work out something beautiful in a team, from presenting it to an interested audience and seeing how her own enthusiasm is transferred to the audience. And of course from the music itself: "There is something special about music. It has depth and conveys important things – without words. It opens up a dimension that you can't experience in everyday life."

When Madeleine Nussbaumer sits and plays the piano, she is always confronted with herself, as she says, with her own strengths and weaknesses. "Working on myself and exploring my own possibilities is a permanent process." But this shouldn’t only be about her: she’s most comfortable when she works together with other musicians. "I don't like to be the centre of attention," says the Zug native in a modest way.

She has been less modest throughout her career as a musician in terms of her ambition and the demands on herself, however. This was already evident to her as a seven-year-old girl, after she received her first piano. "You never had to motivate me to practice," she says and laughs. When she auditioned at the Lucerne Conservatory without telling her piano teacher shortly before graduating from high school, the latter was not particularly pleased, but the young musician simply wanted to know. "I couldn't judge myself at all. Was I good enough and suitable? But one thing was certain: music fulfils me!" She was accepted, and received her soloist diploma with flying colours in 1973. Her teacher and mentor Hubert Haerry was a driving force for this – an absolute stroke of luck for her, as she says looking back.

Music takes place here: Madeleine Nussbaumer at her home in Cham.
Pianist with passion.

Photos: Matthias Jurt (Cham, 15 July 2021)

Despite marriage and children, Madeleine Nussbaumer always managed to balance her family and career against her teaching activities. The family moved from their apartment on the Zugerbergstrasse in Zug to Cham in the 1980s, where, with luck, they had found a building plot after a long search. The spatial conditions were very accommodating for the family, and especially for Madeleine Nussbaumer as a pianist. In all these years, many international music stars have come and gone in the house on the Moosstrasse in Cham, and have sometimes even stayed here. This has also created a trusting, family-like relationship between the organiser and the musicians, which has an effect not least on the joy of playing and, of course, on the quality of the concerts.

The audience will not die out
The fact that music, and thereby culture, takes place in the house in the Cham is unmistakable. Two black Steinway grand pianos stand next to each other In the living room, but there’s nevertheless still enough room left for chamber music formations. And Madeleine's heart beats in particular for chamber music. "Before the founding of the Ensemble Chamäleon in 1990, there was not much chamber music in the canton of Zug," she recalls.

"We were able to fill a gap. Audiences have always been there for smaller concert formations."

And they will not die out. On the contrary, it seems to me that more and more people are getting excited about it: they discover their joy in music." For this reason alone, Madeleine Nussbaumer will never tire of reaching people with her commitment to music. "And it's good to know that this is appreciated," she concludes, with regard to the recognition award.