Musikfest Berlin 2015
The Danes are coming!
From 2 to 20 September 2015, the new Berlin concert season gets underway with Musikfest Berlin, organised by the Berliner Festspiele together with the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. Over 19 days and 30 events, more than 70 works by 25 composers will be presented in the Philharmonie, its chamber music hall, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, the Passionskirche and the Martin-Gropius-Bau, performed by some 30 orchestras, instrumental and vocal ensembles and numerous soloists from the international music scene and the city of Berlin.
International orchestras and great conductors
The San Francisco Symphony from the American West Coast and the Boston Symphony Orchestra from the East Coast last played at Musikfest Berlin eight years ago. This year, they both return to the Philharmonie with their chief conductors Michael Tilson Thomas and Andris Nelsons. There are also orchestras which will be appearing at Musikfest Berlin for the first time: the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with Zubin Mehta, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Harding, and the Royal Danish Orchestra with Michael Boder. For the first time too, there is Christoph von Dohnányi with the London Philharmonia Orchestra, which he shaped for many years. The Royal Danish is incidentally the oldest orchestra in Europe with a history that goes back to 1448 and the royal court in Copenhagen. Around 440 years later, sitting among the second violins of the orchestra was a composer who was about to become the Danish star among European composers at the turn of the century: Carl Nielsen.
Carl Nielsen, Arnold Schoenberg and Gustav Mahler
The music world is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Nielson’s birth, and Musikfest Berlin is presenting a musical portrait in six concerts. After the acclaimed Viking Exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau last year, the Danes are now also making their musical presence known in Berlin. Daniel Barenboim and his Staatskapelle open Musikfest Berlin with a demonstration of their commitment to the music of Arnold Schoenberg. The composer’s oeuvre is featured in a series of 15 concerts, programmed together with works by Gustav Mahler. Another definite highlight of the festival will be the performance of Schoenberg’s unfinished oratorio Die Jakobsleiter by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. The ethereal music of Jakobsleiter, involving more than 200 performers, is combined with Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder and Shaar by Iannis Xenakis, which was commissioned by Recha Freier, founder of the Israel Composers Fund, for the Testonium Festival in Jerusalem which she started in 1966. Recha Freier lived in Berlin from 1926 to 1940, and during the National Socialist period, she managed to save thousands of Jewish children and take them to Palestine. Also co-commissioned by Recha Freier was the opera Donnerstag aus “Licht” by Karlheinz Stockhausen whose full-length Act 2, Michaels Reise um die Erde, will be presented at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele in its quasi-concertante version. Just as the Archangel Gabriel is the protagonist in Schoenberg’s Jakobsleiter, the central figure of Michael in the 2nd act of the opera – a highly virtuoso instrumental live electronic Trumpet Concerto – is inspired by the figure of the Archangel Michael. Performers are the trumpeter Marco Blaauw and the 35-member ensemble Musikfabrik which gave the acclaimed America première of Michaels Reise um die Erde at New York’s Lincoln Center Festival.
Festival prelude with Steve Reich
With the title “Tehillim”, Musikfest Berlin begins with a prelude to the opening concert with Steve Reich’s psalm setting of the same name, performed by the Ensemble Modern and Synergy Vocals in the chamber music hall of the Philharmonie. And it ends with a programme by the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle, which partners Schoenberg’s Die Glückliche Hand with Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony “The Inextinguishable”, preceded by Bernard Herrmann’s music for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Also from the same date (18 September) in the Martin-Gropius-Bau, the Berliner Festspiele present another founding figure of Western music history in Susanne Kennedy’s performative installation on Monteverdi and his Orfeo, first performed in 1607. At which time, the Royal Danish Orchestra was already almost 160 years old.