Mathias Rüegg is a European musician, composer, and bandleader best known as founder and director of the Vienna Art Orchestra from 1977 to 2010.
By composing Le tombeau de Poulenc
beside two other great french composers Alban Darche
et Jean-Christophe Cholet
Mathias Rüegg appears for the first time on Yolk in 2018.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland, son of linguist Robert Rüegg, Mathias Rüegg began playing jazz in secondary school. Trained as a schoolteacher, he taught for a while in special needs schools. From 1973 to 1975 he attended the Musikhochschule in Graz, Austria,
studying classical composition and jazz piano. In Vienna he performed in a nightclub as a solo jazz pianist, joined later by saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig. The duo formed the core of an ensemble that in 1977 became the Vienna Art Orchestra.
Rüegg's distinctive, often humorous compositions have drawn on a range of influences from traditional folk music to classics. He has also led the VAO to explore the big band repertory of American jazz composers such as Duke Ellington. Besides the traditional big band complement, his orchestrations have prominently featured such instruments as the tuba, piccolo, bass clarinet, alphorn, exotic percussion, and wordless vocals. Rüegg has composed hundreds of pieces for the Vienna Art Orchestra, other European big bands, and classical orchestras, as well as theatre music and film music. Since 1994 he has composed several works for soloist and chamber orchestra.
Besides managing the VAO, Rüegg has conducted workshops in Europe, worked as artistic director for music festivals, and headed multimedia and music-related projects. From 1983 to 1987 he directed the Vienna Art Choir. In 1991 he produced the film Mozart's Balls, commissioned by the BBC for the 1991 Mozart Year.
Rüegg founded the Porgy & Bess music club in Vienna and the Hans Koller Prize for Austrian jazz.