From 2 to 22 September 2014, the 2014/2015 Berlin concert season gets underway with Musikfest Berlin, organised by the Berliner Festspiele in cooperation with the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. It is the 10th year of the orchestral festival, founded in 2005, and the succesor to what was formerly the Berliner Festwochen. Over 21 days, 31 events with 75 works by 24 composers will be presented in the Philharmonie and its chamber music hall, performed by around 25 orchestras, instrumental and vocal ensembles and by numerous soloists from Berlin and the international music scene.
Schumann and Brahms
It was time, “finally, to prepare for and facilitate the advent of a new poetic age,” noted the fledging chief editor Robert Schumann in the newly founded Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik in 1835. Some 20 years later, Schumann set his hopes on Johannes Brahms, who “turned the piano into an orchestra of lamenting and loudly rejoicing voices.” The point of departure for the Musikfest programme is formed by Brahms and Schumann, as well as the development of the modern orchestra, which was decisively shaped by the production and development of new instruments. One revolutionary technical innovation which Johannes Brahms still considered artistically inadequate was fitting valves to the “natural horn” which finally enabled the horn to play a three and a half octave chromatic scale. In Brahms' opinion, they damaged the character of the natural tone so much that he disparagingly referred to the then modern valve horn as a “brass viola”. A piece of musically authentic nature seemed lost, and nostalgia appears in a birthday greeting Brahms sent to Clara from the Swiss Alps on 12 September1868, with the salutation Also blus das Alphorn heut (Thus blew the Alpine horn to-day), the alphorn motif that he was later to use in the finale of his First Symphony, “Hoch aufm Berg, tief im Thal, grüß ich dich viel tausendmal” (high on the mountain, deep in the valley, I send you greetings a thousandfold). Robert Schumann, who had died twelve years before, had, incidentally, very different thoughts regarding the valve horn. The newly invented brass instrument with its new possibilities were a welcome opportunity for him to compose his concert piece for four horns and orchestra. Both Robert Schumann's Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orchestra and Georg Friedrich Haas' recently composed concerto grosso Nr. 1 für vier Alphörner und großes Orchester will be performed at Musikfest Berlin. For Robert Schumann, the horn was the “soul of the orchestra”, and the instrument's presence can be felt throughout the Musikfest Berlin programme.
Another strand of the festival programme involves a further demand the 20-year-old editor Robert Schumann deemed necessary for the “new poetic age”: “To acknowledge the bygone age and its creations and to draw attention to the fact that new artistic beauties can only be strengtened by such a pure source.” For Schumann and Brahms, this bygone age meant in particular the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose works have shaped the programme of Musikfest Berlin not only in the form of independent presentations, but also through their influence, informing the works of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Anton Bruckner, Max Reger, Webern and others. Finally, the “new poetic age” is represented – as the third strand – in the works of composers of our own present and recent past, in the music of Aribert Reimann, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Georg Friedrich Haas, Jörg Widmann, Enno Poppe, Sofia Gubaidulina, Alfred Schnittke and György Ligeti.