Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Modern works with Matthias Pintscher

Matthias Pintscher (photo: Franck Ferville)

György Ligeti was inspired by the vivid text of the Catholic mass for the dead to write one of the great choral works of the 20th century. His apocalyptic Requiem makes use of an intense, exciting tonal idiom, which can be heard during the Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker with Matthias Pintscher as conductor, standing in for Sir Simon Rattle. There is a subtle connection with the other works on this programme. Both Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s caustically humorous Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu and Bohuslav Martinů’s neoromantic Viola Concerto, with soloist Amihai Grosz, make covert reference to requiem settings by other composers.

Berliner Philharmoniker

Matthias Pintscher conductor

Amihai Grosz viola

Makeda Monnet soprano

Virpi Räisänen mezzo-soprano (reüplacing Donatienne Michel-Donsac)

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Bernd Alois Zimmermann

Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu

Bohuslav Martinů

Rhapsody Concerto for viola and orchestra

Amihai Grosz viola

György Ligeti


Makeda Monnet soprano, Virpi Räisänen mezzo-soprano (reüplacing Donatienne Michel-Donsac), Rundfunkchor Berlin choir

Biennale packages

Put together your own individual Biennale package with three (10% discount) or five events (15% discount). You can choose from a total of twelve concert programmes of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. The Biennale packages are available exclusively online.

3 concerts / 10 % discount

5 concerts / 15 % discount

Dates and Tickets


Matthias Pintscher

Matthias Pintscher once said that he was interested in the phenomenon of timbre, the shaping of a sound. This interest predestines him for two professions: that of composer and of conductor. Born in Marl, Westphalia in 1971, he discovered his passion for orchestral sound as a violinist in a youth orchestra. He studied composition under Giselher Klebe and Manfred Trojahn. His encounters with Hans Werner Henze, Peter Eötvös and Pierre Boulez were formative and inspired him not only as a composer but also as a conductor. The international music world became aware of Matthias Pintscher’s work very early on, including Claudio Abbado, who at the time was chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. “Your music is very difficult,” he said to the then 25-year-old. “You must write something for us.” As a result, the Hérodiade-Fragmente were written for the orchestra in 1999, the violin concerto en sourdine followed in 2002, and a close collaboration also developed with the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, which premiered his celestial object I in 2009. In 2015, Matthias Pintscher, today one of the leading composers of his generation and music director of the Ensemble intercontemporain since 2013, made his debut as conductor with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Whether he performs his own works or those of others makes no difference to him: “As a conductor, I always feel like an authentic advocate for the score”.

Amihai Grosz

Amihai Grosz plays one of the rare violas from the famous school of Gasparo de Salò, which differs from the brighter tonal ideal of Vivaldi and Guaneri: "The sound”, says the long-time first principal viola of the Berliner Philharmoniker, “is more down-to-earth, woodier and of course wonderfully rich in overtones. But the timbre is a little darker. With deeper instruments like cello, viola and probably also double bass, it sounds much nicer”. Grosz, who switched from violin to viola at the age of eleven, studied under David Chen at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, under Tabea Zimmermann at the Hanns Eisler School of Music Berlin, and under Haim Taub at the Keshet Eilon Music Center. He received various scholarships and prizes early on, was a member of the Young Musicians Group of the Jerusalem Music Center, and played for many years in the famous Jerusalem Quartet. In 2010, Grosz then became a member of the Berliner Philharmoniker, which was a leap into the unknown: “I didn’t know what it would be like, I hadn’t been in any other orchestra before. And now to bring this wonderful music to life, with this strong sense of community – it’s magical. I am proud to be part of this orchestra. Because it's like an incredible force of nature.” In addition, Amihai Grosz is a sought-after soloist – not only with the Berliner Philharmoniker – and has worked with conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Tugan Sokhiev, Klaus Mäkelä, Daniel Barenboim and Sir Simon Rattle.

Makeda Monnet

Makeda Monnet studied harp at the Conservatoire à rayonnement régional de Paris before training as a singer at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris. The young soprano with French-Swiss-Cameroonian roots can be heard in the field of traditional music theatre as well as in unconventional performance projects, such as those by Marcus Borja at the Théâtre national de la Colline. The singer also works with the Parisian artist collective (LA)HORDE, which combines various art disciplines such as contemporary live art and performing arts in choreographic works, films, video installations and performances, addressing current themes and issues. Makeda Monnet appeared under the direction of Sigiswald Kuijken as Apollonia in Joseph Haydn’s opera intermezzo La Canterina and as Agathe in André Messager’s opera Véronique at the Théâtre de Bayonne as part of Bertrand Chamayou’s Festival Académie Ravel. She also sang the soprano part in Ligeti’s Requiem in performances conducted by Matthias Pintscher at the Paris Philharmonie and collaborated with DJ Crystalmess in a performance conceived by Julien Creuzet at the “Hors Pistes” festival at the Centre Pompidou. The singer is also involved in the social projects of the Paris Mozart Orchestra.

Donatienne Michel-Dansac

Donatienne Michel-Dansac, who performed Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II at the age of 21 with the Ensemble intercontemporain under the direction of Pierre Boulez, has a marked passion for contemporary music: “As a performer, I assess how well the music suits me and my voice. I only choose parts if they suit my voice as a whole, not just my vocal range”. Born in Nantes, France, she took violin and piano lessons at an early age and became a member of the children’s choir Maîtrise de l’Opéra de Nantes at the age of seven. She completed her vocal studies at the Conservatoire National Supérieur Musique et Danse de Lyon with the Prix de Chant. “In French,” she says, “the word ʻinterpretationʼ has several meanings. On the one hand, it stands for musical interpretation and, on the other, for linguistic expression. As a singer, I want to present my personal version of the notes. There is always an original version, but the interpretation ultimately determines how it sounds.” Her keen interest in this has also brought Donatienne Michel-Dansac together with representatives of the contemporary visual arts, with whom she works on unconventional forms of music, films, recordings, readings as well as performances in museums. In addition to her work as a singer, the mezzo-soprano teaches at the International Music Institute Darmstadt and at the University of California in Berkeley.

Rundfunkchors Berlin

Brilliant, flexible, transparent, versatile, precise – these are the words used by concert critics to describe the sound of the Rundfunkchor Berlin. “There is probably no other choir that does so many different things so well and that can deal with such a broad repertoire and such different formats,” says Gijs Leenaars, chief conductor and artistic director of the choir since the 2015/16 season. The Rundfunkchor Berlin, founded in 1925, is a partner of major orchestras and conductors thanks to its outstanding abilities and versatility. In “sing-along concerts”, enthusiastic amateurs are also frequently invited to make music together. The Rundfunkchor Berlin has performed regularly with the Berliner Philharmoniker since the early 1990s. Previous projects include acclaimed staged performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew and St John Passions with Sir Simon Rattle and Peter Sellars. The collaboration has continued under chief conductor Kirill Petrenko, such as in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony when he took office in August 2019, and later in concert performances of the Tchaikovsky operas Mazeppa and Iolanta. Most recently, the choir participated in Luigi Dallapiccola’s short opera The Prisoner under the direction of Kirill Petrenko.

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