Mongolian Step presents

Classic meets Steppe

20 October 2017 in the Concert Hall of UdK Berlin

“When classical music meets its traditional Mongolian counterpart, it’s as if a Lipizzaner from Vienna’s Spanish Riding School were facing a wild stallion from the steppes.”


Baritone Amartuvshin Enkhbat

The young Mongolian baritone Amartuvshin Enkhbat caused an international sensation in 2015 when he won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC’s international Cardiff Singer of the World competition and was named Mongolia’s cultural ambassador. Following performances as Rigoletto at the Arena di Verona Opera and the Teatro San Carlo, he will now be travelling to Berlin to present his phenomenal voice with its unmistakable timbre. He has arrived at this point in his life after a highly unusual personal journey. He developed his warm baritone sound as a youngster by learning overtone singing and the traditional Mongolian long song, in which every syllable is held for an extended period of time. The songs are used to calm the animals – horses and sheep – that still play an important role in the lives of the people who inhabit the Mongolian steppe.

Enkhbat was born in 1986 in the remote province of Sükhbaatar and the first audience he sang for indeed consisted not only of the grandparents who raised him, but also sheep, goats and horses. Enkhbat attended primary and secondary school…

…in Sükhbaatar. Even though he had few people to assist him and little musical training, he repeatedly won singing competitions at local festivals. Yet as a youngster he never considered a career as a singer until he visited Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, at the age of 18. While there he was encouraged to appear at a youth festival. He so impressed the jury with his highly unusual singing that one of the jury members eventually convinced him to enrol at the University of Arts and Culture in Ulaanbaatar and study opera singing. Founded in 1990, the university had only begun to develop a curriculum. Enkhbat’s formal training has thus been limited and he admits that he still only rarely relies on written music, preferring to learn his part by hearing it sung. When he prepares for a role, he listens to recordings of famous artists on YouTube from midnight to dawn before developing his own interpretation of the role. He can do so effortlessly, something he has demonstrated, along with his very special style, during numerous performances given at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls and opera houses. He has also won diverse prizes at national and international singing competitions, for example the Mongolian National Competition for Young Opera Singers (2009, 2nd Prize), the international opera competition BAIKAL in Ulan-Ude, Russia (2011, 1st Prize), the Tchaikovsky Competition in St. Petersburg (2011, 2nd Prize and Audience Prize) and the Operalia Competition in Beijing (2012, 1st Prize).

His repertoire includes, among other roles, Escamillo in Carmen and Giorgio Germont in La Traviata. This year he will give guest performances singing the title role in Verdi’s Rigoletto in Kiel, Naples and Tel Aviv.

Despite his international career, Enkhbat still likes to sing for horses. “I sing for my animals the same way I sing at the State Opera or the Ballet Theatre or, soon, at La Scala,” he says. This nostalgia for and connection to his homeland – the expansive Mongolian steppe – provides him with inspiration and his open-minded attitude, which makes it possible for him to interpret well-known roles in Western operas in his own unique way.

Pianist Odgerel Sampilnorov

The moment she touches the piano keys, everything else seems to stand still. With the incredible lightness of her playing, the young artist breathes new life, note by note, into the pieces she performs, even those that are already well known. While listening, you can almost sense the places she is drawing inspiration from for her unique performance. As she herself puts it, her main sources are nature and its landscapes, painting and, not least, the people in her life.

Odgerel Sampilnorov is one of Mongolia’s best known pianists. She grew up in Ulaanbaatar in the 1980s in a small Soviet flat typical of the era. Her mother taught sport; her father was a basketball player. She discovered her love of music early on and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven, playing on a Russian upright. The rest of the story reads like a fairy tale: As a young woman she herself gave piano lessons. The father of one of her students invited her to his summer camp so she could play for the guests there. Her playing enchanted one guest in particular: Gabriele Menegatti, Italy’s ambassador to China at the time, who helped arrange a scholarship from the Italian government.That allowed the talented young artist to begin studying at the conservatory in Perugia in 2006.

She graduated summa cum laude, one of the 16 best students in her year. In 2010, she was awarded the Luigi Castellani Scholarship, one of Italy’s most prestigious music prizes. During her studies she participated in master classes with professors such as Sergio Perticaroli, Maxim Mogilevsky, Bart Van Oort, Ivary Ilia, Michele Campanella, Valerij Voskabojnikov, Stefan Boisten and Luca Monti. From 2011 to 2015 she gained further experience at the International Piano Academy “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola under the direction of Stefano Fiuzzi. Sampilnorov is now living and performing in Ulan-bator once again.


Concerts (selection)

2010, she performed as a soloist on the historical piano Erard with the Chamber Orchestra at the National Gallery of Umbria.
2011, she opened the Opening Ceremony of the Auditorium of Perugia “St.Francesco al prato” with the Symphony Orchestra of Perugia and conductor Carlo Palleschi.
2015, she played Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with the Mongolian Philharmonic Orchestra (Maestro Nyamdash Dashtseren) for the Virtuoso Gala Concert at the Opera and Ballet Theatre of Mongolia.
Odgerel gave solo recitals in Beijing, Hong Kong, Rome and other cities of Italy and held concerts in Spain and Germany as well.

Morin Khuur Player Bat-ochir Araanz

The morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) makes audible the vastness of the Mongolian steppe. Galloping horses, whinnying, the sound of wind rushing through the mountains, clouds sailing rapidly across an infinite sky – all of that is suggested by the amazing sounds produced by Araanz Bat-Ochir when he softly draws his bow across the morin khuur, widely regarded as Mongolia’s national instrument.

Born in Ulaanbaatar, Bat-Ochir began studying at the Music and Dance College of Mongolia in 1986, although he had first encountered the morin khuur – an instrument of myth and legend – much earlier. His father constructed horsehead fiddles and Bat-Ochir watched as he carefully washed and boiled the horse hairs, lengthening them for use as strings in the bow. He observed his father as he carved the horse’s head that decorates the fiddle’s neck. Yet the truly magic moment for him was when his father first played a fiddle he had just made, coaxing from it the most beautiful of melodies. That is how, even as a child, Bat-Ochir came to play the morin khuur. It was therefore no surprise…

… that he majored in this instrument at the Music and Dance College. His teachers included M. Baasankhuu and the well-known performer Ts. Batchuluun. Even before getting his degree, Bat-Ochir became director of the National Morin Khuur Ensemble. In 1993, he performed as a soloist at the State Folk Ensemble of Song and Dance. Since 2002 he has been sharing his knowledge and expertise by teaching others how to play the morin khuur at the Music and Dance College.

Bat-Ochir is one of the most renowned morin khuur players in Mongolia. His repertoire ranges from traditional Mongolian and classical compositions to soul music. He not only plays the morin khuur, he engages with it on a theoretical level, having published academic treatises on the subject in addition to having made numerous recordings of his own playing. Consequently, not only will he be performing at the UdK in Berlin, he will also give a lecture on 25 October 2017 at Humboldt University on the origins and development of the morin khuur.

Concerts (selection)

  • 1992 Concert at the Mongolian State Philharmonic
  • 2008 Concert at the Mongolian State Opera, together with Japanese harpist Takeo Junko and with Maestro Tuulaikhuu
  • More than five solo concerts in Japan to introduce the morin khuur and Mongolian throat singing
  • 2013 Solo concert at the Tokyo Art University

Solo and chamber-music concerts in Japan, Russia, China, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, the United States and Korea.

Violinist Lisa Werhahn

Playing the violin is an integral part of Lisa Werhahn’s life. This inherent connection with her instrument is reflected in her expressive style and her versatility. A native of Berlin, Werhahn is a much sought after performer of contemporary and classical chamber music. Yet her repertoire includes pieces that go far beyond these musical genres.

She began learning the violin at a young age by taking lessons from Tomasz Tomaszewski. Later she studied at the UdK Berlin with Isabelle Faust and in Bern with Benjamin Schmid. She completed her postgraduate studies with Friedemann Eichhorn at the University of Music Franz Liszt in Weimar, graduating with honours. In addition, she received a scholarship from the Alfred Töpfer Foundation for the Concerto 21 master class.

Werhahn was a member of the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, where she played under the direction of Pierre Boulez. In the 2011/2012 season, she also performed as a second violin at the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden.

Since 2015 she has been a member of the KNM string quartet, an…

… offshoot of the Neue Musik Berlin chamber ensemble. Tours with various ensembles have taken her to several countries in Europe and America, as well as Brazil, Japan, Korea and India. Werhahn is also a founding member of the Swedish ensemble o/modernt kammarorkester under the direction of Hugo Ticciati. The ensemble performs an almost adventurously diverse – and therefore decidedly interesting – range of concert programmes in Sweden and other countries. Its repertoire extends from arrangements of medieval motets and works by Bach and classical modernists to folklore, Sting, minimal music and improvisation. Renowned soloists such as Anne Sofie von Otter, Nils Landgren and Evelyn Glennie have performed with the ensemble.

As part of März Musik 2017, Werhahn joined with Theodor Flindell to perform the piece Love Song by Alvin Lucier at Radialsystem Berlin. In June, she will give Serbian composer Snezana Nesic’s violin concerto its world premiere in Hannover.

In addition to her activities as a violinist, Werhahn works in various music projects involving children and adolescents. As the initiator of the Experimentelle Musikvermittlung programme, she has realised a number of projects for young people, including the Musikfest Bern 2009 and projects at schools in Berlin.

This work is a source of inspiration for Werhahn. In view of the children’s unbiased attitudes towards music and their openness and curiosity, the violinist continually re-examines her own approach to the world of sound. Thus, the children become both learners and teachers at the same time.

Concerts (selection)

2005      huddersfield contemporary music festival, Grieghalle Bergen | BIT20 Ensemble | HK Gruber | Lasse Thoressen | Lop, Lokk og Linjer, HK Gruber Frankenstein

2005+2007 Concertmaster Sommer Oper Bamberg | Till Fabian Weser E T A Hoffmann Theater Bamberg | Puccini TOSCA, IL TABARRO, Leoncavallo IL BAJAZZO

2008      B. Bartók 6. String Quartet, Felix Mendelssohn op 80, Faure Piano Quartet op. 15 Mozart String Quartet kv. 464 | TSM 46th Chamber Music Festival Taos, New Mexico (USA)

2009      Camerata Bern | Erich Höbarth | A. Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht, A. Berg Lyrische Suite
Camerata Bern | Benjamin Schmid | HK Gruber Violinkonzert, P.Tschaikovski Streicherserenade

2009      Premiere “Leviathan” | Sebastian Themessl | Österreichisches Kulturforum Berlin Altonale Hamburg 2010 | mit Ralph Manno (Clarinet), Peter Polzer (Cello), Gottlieb Wallisch (Piano), Gero Mertens (Speaker)

2011      Saxon State Chapel Dresden | Georges Prêtre | F. Schubert Unvollendete, G. Mahler 1. Sinfonie | Semper Oper Dresden
Saxon State Chapel Dresden | Christian Thielemann | J.Brahms 1. Sinfonie, Bruckner 8. Sinfonie | Luzern (KKL), Wien Music Society, Essen Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic
Premiere Kurt Weill “Street Scene” | Jonathan Darlington | Semper Oper Dresden

2012      Premiere Alban Berg “Lulu” | Cornelius Meister | Semper Oper Dresden

2013      Chamber Orchestra Basel | Maria João Pires, Trevor Pinnock | Chopin 2. Klavierkonzert, Mozart Jupiter Sinfonie | Paris, Belgrad, Novi Sad, Zagreb, Martigny, Aix en Provence, Essen, Madrid, Zurich

Professor Bernhard Wulff, Mongolia’s cultural ambassador, will serve as the evening’s master of ceremonies.

Bernhard Wulff was born in Hamburg in 1948. He studied conducting, composition and percussion in Hamburg, Freiburg, Basel and Siena and is professor of contemporary music and percussion at the University of Music Freiburg. He worked with some of the major composers of the 20th century, including Stockhausen, Boulez, Nono, Berio and Lachenmann, and founded various contemporary music ensembles in Europe and Latin America.

He has worked as a conductor and guest professor in Europe, South America, the United States (Julliard and Manhattan School, New York), Japan (Geidai University, Tokyo), Ulaanbaatar, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Hanoi, Bangkok, Beijing, Oslo and Lugano, among other locations. As a composer he has created compositions for various ensembles, along with sound installations and bio-signal projects.


As a musicologist he discovered and reconstructed the symphonic works of Viktor Ullmann from the composer’s time in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Since then, these pieces have been performed by and become part of the repertoire of the world’s major orchestras. Wulff is founder and artistic director of various international music festivals and one of the leading international cultural managers. He was appointed Mongolia’s cultural envoy and was awarded Mongolia’s highly esteemed Nairamdal Medal. Since 1999 has served as artistic director for the well-known Roaring Hooves Music Festival in Mongolia, including concerts for nomads in the Gobi Desert. In 2007, he founded Europe’s first Mongolia Centre in Freiburg. His name has been associated with countless Mongolia-related cultural projects, both in Mongolia and around the world. He was made an honorary citizen of the city of Odessa. He served as a DAAD jury member for 20 years and as vice-rector of his university for 10.


His current activities include:

Professor at the University of Music, Freiburg, Germany

Professor at the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland

President of numerous international music festivals, including in

Odessa, Ukraine (Two Days and Two Nights – since 1995)

Mongolia (Roaring Hooves – since 1999)

Vietnam (Cracking Bamboo – since 2008)

Myanmar (Gongs & Skins – since 2015)

Guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Member of the Board of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra (German Music Council)

Concert Programs

  1. Calls of 4 Oirad (4 Oirdiin Uria)
    Bat-Ochir Araanz, Morin khuur Solo
  2. Zundui Khangal (1948 – 1996) – Concerto for Morin Khuur
    Bat-Ochir Araanz, Morin khuur und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano
  3. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847) – Violin sonata f-dur first movement
    Lisa Werhahn,Violine und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano
  4. J. Chuluun (1928 – 1996) – Variation of 2 traditional song
    Lisa Werhahn,Violine und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano
  5. Kh. Bilegjargal (1954 – 2008) – Lama tears “Lodon’s Area”
    Amartuvshin Enkhbat, Baritono und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano
  6. Byambasuren  Sharav (*1952) – Dear my Parents (Aav Eej 2 mini)
    Amartuvshin Enkhbat, Baritono und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano



  1. Zundui Khangal (1948 – 1996) – “Variation on a theme of Mongolian folk song”
    Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano Solo
  2. Byambasuren Sharav (*1952) – “Awakened Steppe”
    Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano Solo
  3. Umberto Giordano (1867 – 1948) – Andrea Chénier “Nemico della Patria”
    Amartuvshin Enkhbat, Baritono und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano
  4. Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901) – Rigoletto “Cortigiani, vi razza dannata”
    Amartuvshin Enkhbat, Baritono und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano
  5. Sembe Gonchigsumlaa (1915 – 1991) – Trio
    Lisa Werhahn, Violin; Bat-Ochir Araanz, Morin khuur und Odgerel Sampilnorov, Piano


Starting at 6 pm, the Mongolian painter Zazaa will present an exhibition of her works in the Concert Hall foyer, setting the mood for the extraordinary musical experience to come.

Zazaa is a young, modern freelance artist. She lives in Berlin and Ulaanbaatar. She completed her studies in the fine arts at the State University of Art in Ulaanbaatar, receiving her degree in 1999. She then took a number of extended educational trips through several Asian countries, including Korea, Japan and India. In 2002, she decided to experience another side of the international art scene and moved to Berlin, one of Europe’s leading art centres and the home of a highly diverse range of cultural institutions. Since then she has lived in Berlin, alternating with regular stays in her homeland to which she still has a vital connection.

Through her cultural roots, she retains an affinity for the beauty of the human body, which she associates with various elements of Asian mythology. In her pictures, Zazaa reveals her deep conviction that life is eternal movement interpenetrated by time and space.

For Zazaa, the entire cosmos is swathed in an all-encompassing female beauty, in which myriad minute forms converge to create a harmonic whole.




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