Berliner Philharmoniker

To the schedule 2014/2015

Save in my calendar keep abandon print

Berliner Philharmoniker

Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Ninth

Music and space, music in space, space music – this is the point of view from which the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle illuminate Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The spatial aspect of the composition is emphasised by performing György Kurtág’s murky space and echo music “Grabstein für Stephan” and Helmut Lachenmann’s large-scale orchestral piece “Tableau”.

Berliner Philharmoniker

Sir Simon Rattle Conductor

Sally Matthews Soprano

Bernarda Fink Contralto

Christian Elsner Tenor

Hanno Müller-Brachmann Baritone

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Simon Halsey Chorus Master

György Kurtág

Grabstein für Stephan

Helmut Lachenmann

Tableau for orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 9 in D minor

Sally Matthews Soprano, Bernarda Fink Contralto, Christian Elsner Tenor, Hanno Müller-Brachmann Bariton, Rundfunkchor Berlin

Dates and Tickets

Fri, 07 Nov 2014 8 p.m.

Philharmonie

Introduction: 7:00 pm

Programme

Since Claudio Abbado conducted Grabstein für Stephan in the version for large orchestra in December 1993, the Berliner Philharmoniker has felt closely connected to György Kurtág, who together with Bartók and Ligeti constitutes the trinity of modern Hungarian music. The piece is a murky space and echo music that Kurtág dedicated to his late friend Stephan Stein, a tombeau for guitar and instrumental groups distributed around the room, one that circles around the past. At the end there is a brass tone that resonates for a long time, “the most beautiful and lowest brass sound in the ensemble, maybe a singing voice/can also come from the auditorium,” as Kurtág remarked in the score.

In this concert with Sir Simon Rattle, Kurtág’s Grabstein für Stephan precedes Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work that expresses the humanitarian concept of idealism in sound like none other in music history. (The soloists are Sally Matthews, Bernarda Fink, Christian Elsner and Hanno Müller-Brachmann; the Rundfunkchor Berlin will sing.) The spatial sound illusion composed by Beethoven in the Finale of a march that is slowly approaching – the music symbolises the purposeful development towards humanisation in Enlightenment terms – even moved Gustav Mahler to have the passage played by an off-stage orchestra.

The programme positions Helmut Lachenmann’s large-scale orchestral piece Tableau between the two works, another piece of “room music” that develops a specific “corporeality of the sound objects” (Lachenmann) so that the music assumes a more or less haptic character.

About the music

Music and Space

Music and space, music in space, space music – this is the point of view from which the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle illuminate Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in this concert. The spatial aspect of the composition is emphasized by performing György Kurtág’s Grabstein für Stephan and Helmut Lachenmann’s large-scale orchestral piece Tableau.

Since Claudio Abbado conducted Grabstein für Stephan in the version for large orchestra in December 1993, the Berliner Philharmoniker has felt closely connected to György Kurtág, who together with Bartók and Ligeti constitutes the trinity of modern Hungarian music. The piece is a murky space and echo music that Kurtág dedicated to his late friend Stephan Stein, a tombeau for guitar and instrumental groups distributed around the room, one that circles around the past. At the end there is a brass tone that resonates for a long time, “the most beautiful and lowest brass sound in the ensemble, maybe a singing voice/can also come from the auditorium,” as Kurtág remarked in the score.

Kurtág’s Grabstein für Stephan is followed by Helmut Lachenmann’s large-scale orchestral piece Tableau, another piece of “room music” that develops a specific “corporeality of the sound objects” (Lachenmann) so that the music assumes a more or less haptic character.

The spatial sound illusion of a march that is slowly approaching – composed by Beethoven in the Finale of his Ninth Symphony– even moved Gustav Mahler to have the passage played by an off-stage orchestra. The music symbolizes the purposeful development towards humanisation in Enlightenment terms.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125

Everything has been said about Beethoven’s Ninth. But have we heard everything, remembered everything? Fortunately not. The work is as complex as its reception history. Not even Goethe’s Faust has inspired so many and such contradictory interpretations, although Faust has 12,000 lines of text and the Ninth only 49 – but it also has 2,203 weighty bars of music. And music of this scale has the drawback that not only experts – musicians and musicologists – but writers, journalists, politicians and ideologues also appropriate it in order to explain to the world what to make of this exceptional work, what Beethoven intended, what it means for us today, tomorrow and in the future.

Germans and Austrians have had a great many ideas about Beethoven’s Ninth during the past 190 years; it became an affair of state for the Hohenzollerns (who unintentionally supplied its dedicatee, Friedrich Wilhelm III) and Habsburgs (who did not even subscribe to the printing), progressive Wagnerians and conservative Brahmsians saw Beethoven as their god. Other nations went to war for it, however. French cosmopolitans fought against German nationalists in its name in 1914, Catholics and Communists invoked its ideas, the Ninth was heard on Hitler’s birthday and in the concentration camps, the European Union made the melody of the choral finale its anthem, as did the racist regime in Rhodesia. The unsettling thing about it is that nearly all of them acted in good faith, out of sheer enthusiasm for this incomparable work, whose mysteries no one has managed to unravel yet. It appears to withstand every ideological and commercial exploitation and even idiotic performances unscathed. As soon as the faint open fifths are heard, with the demonically falling motif of the strings above them, every ideological skirmish loses its relevance; the most astute and most foolish things that have ever been said about the Ninth are always negated by the Ninth itself, made to look ridiculous. It tolerates neither metaphysics nor banality. Ironically, the most thoroughly abused work of art of modern times shows us the autonomy of art. The Ninth is the Ninth – and all the rest is literature ...

If Beethoven had not been able to squeeze his message – whatever it may be – into such a compelling form, there would not be much more to say about the “Ode to Joy”. Basically, Schiller’s text has only endured because of the music. As is the case with the Third and the Fifth, Beethoven also succeeds in forming an enormous symphonic arc in his last symphony, which was premiered in 1824. The large-scale form enables the listener to experience the work as a rationally structured whole, whether the relationships of the individual motifs and connections between the four movements are recognized or not. Perhaps it is even better not to recognize them and, rather than analyzing an elaborate construct, to spontaneously abandon oneself to the unfolding of a universe suddenly emerging out of nothing. History has shown that familiarity with the music and the text is not necessarily conducive to understanding the work – when Beethoven’s Choral Symphony became the subject of an especially absurd interpretation, it generally happened in Germany. In other countries, where no or little German is understood, people did not concoct such a jumble of metaphysical will and political theology. Nevertheless, the Ninth Symphony is also loved there – and no less than in Germany and Austria.

Volker Tarnow

Translation: Phyllis Anderson

Sir Simon Rattle
Sally Matthews

Email newsletter While we do not provide an English newsletter for the Berlin Philharmonie, you might be interested in the English Digital Concert Hall newsletter.

All programmes may also be found at: Berliner Bühnen Go to berlin-buehnen.de