It was love at first hearsay when pianist Jennifer Hymer learned about a new piece written for toy piano: Kalimba by Karlheinz Essl. Since then, she has become addicted to this little instrument, which was originally intended for children but gained more serious recognition in the music world after it appeared in John Cage’s Suite for Toy Piano (1948).
The Non-Piano/Toy Piano Weekend has been held in Hamburg since 2014. The festival is a platform for a group of toy piano pianists to perform unusual piano repertoire as well as to sound a variety of unusual instruments and devices, including, for example, typewriters, melodicas, kalimbas, balloons, and toy instruments.
The festival has become a popular annual event in Hamburg: a weekend full of toy pianos, unique musical guests, virtuoso performances and a diverse mix of (musical) styles from pop, classical and transcriptions of classical music to performance art, the latest compositions of contemporary music and current trends from the music electronics scene.
Through an imaginative use of toy and ‘real’ instruments and our carefully planned programs, we present a weekend that is entertaining, fun, thought-provoking and horizon-expanding in equal measure.
The Non-Piano Ensemble is a Hamburg-based ensemble with 4 pianists as its core. It was founded by pianist Jennifer Hymer to coincide with the Hamburg Festival Non-Piano/Toy Piano Weekend in 2014 to have a group of outstanding solo pianists who can also perform works for toy and other small instruments such as toy pianos, melodicas, kalimbas, toy and percussion instruments, balloons, typewriters, etc. Their many collaborations include performances of ensemble pieces for up to 8 toy pianos, a Beatles-inspired program at the historic Indra, where the Beatles first performed in Hamburg, a balloon quartet by Francesco Filidei, a trio for electric typewriters by Manuel Rodriquez Valenzuela, a kalimba trio by Steven Tanoto, Simon Steen-Andersen’s paper and voice duo Difficulties Putting It into Practice, a collaboration with juggler and composer Denis Fargeton, and two projects with puppet theater: Monkey King (puppeteer Jean-Luc Penso) and As She Likes It (puppeteer Lucie Cunningham).
Their performance at the Non-Piano/Toy Piano Weekend has become a popular annual event in Hamburg, featuring a wide range of toy pianos, unique musical guests, virtuosic performances, and a diverse mix of musical styles – from pop, classical, remakes of classical music, and theatrical performances to the latest contemporary music compositions and current trends in music technology. Through imaginative use of toy and “real” instruments combined with carefully thought-out programs, the ensemble offers programs that are equally entertaining and thought-provoking.
The ensemble has been given many works written especially for them by composers such as Sergio Vasquez Carrillo, Chris Corcoran, Hector Docx, Denis Fargeton, Mauro Lanza, Sascha Lino Lemke, Benjamin Helmer, Laura Livers, Linda Marcel, Julia Mihaly, Daniel Moreira, Ewelina Nowicka, Mats O Hansson, Jeeyun Jang, Ruta Paidere, Anthony de Ritis, Catalina Rueda, Benjamin Scheuer, Sebastian Sprenger, Steven Tanoto, Steffen Wolf and Dong Zhou.
The ensemble has featured guests Huihui Cheng, Lin Chen, Lucie Cunningham, Jan Gerdes, Karlheinz Essl, Taleja Großmann, Isabel Ettenauer, Lisa Lammel, Marcia Lemke-Kern, Benjamin Lyko, Lin-Ni Liao, Cornelia Monske, Meredith Nicoll, Lilli Pätzhold, Jean-Luc Penso, Pawel Romanczuk, Jacob Sello, Manuel Rodriguez Valenzuela, Frederic Verrieres, Fanny Vicens, Anna Vishnevska & Ying-Chieh Wang.