Cantata Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht mit deinem Knecht BWV 105
Hamburg Concerto for solo horn and chamber orchestra
Symphony No. 1 in D major
A event Konzerthaus Berlin in co-operation with Berliner Festspiele/Musikfest Berlin
Johann Sebastian Bach (a baroque music icon), György Ligeti (one of the most important composers and driving forces of the 20th century), and Gustav Mahler (creator of an overwhelming body of work on the cusp of the late Romantic period and the Modern age) represent three very different composers on the concert programme of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin under its chief conductor Iván Fischer. Yet it is exactly in this constellation that the different musical threads of this year’s Musikfest Berlin come together once again to form a harmonious whole.
There is Bach, who was rediscovered in the 19th century and continued to be a point of reference for many 20th century composers. Ligeti alludes to the baroque practice of dedications by honouring the city of Hamburg with his own work as Bach once did the margrave of Brandenburg with his 6 concerti grossi. And then there is the fascination inspired by the horn. In the 19th century the introduction of valves altered the instrument radically and the instrument takes centre stage in Ligeti’s Hamburg Concert. The horn is an icon of Romantic music – it reflects a yearning for nature typical of that time, as well as the restructuring of the orchestra to the modern instrumental machine we are familiar with today.
With his symphonies, Gustav Mahler composed virtuoso works for this new instrument, “the orchestra”. His Symphony No.1, whose first movement starts “Slowly, dragging. Like a sound of nature …”, moves between symphonic poem and absolute music, in which avant-garde composition techniques such as the collage can already be heard – a process whereby “fallen cultural possessions are lifted up again and cleaned a little, installed in another context” (Ligeti).