Musikfest Berlin, organised by the Berliner Festspiele in association with the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation starts on 29 August. In 34 events in the Philharmonie, the Chamber Music Hall and the Zoo Palast cinema, 100 works by around 30 composers will be presented, performed by 23 instrumental and vocal ensembles and 45 soloists from the international and Berlin music scene.
Homage to Beethoven
Beethoven originally wanted to dedicate his “Eroica” to Napoleon – until his decision to have himself crowned emperor aroused the composer’s republican anger. From then on, the name was erased and the title of the symphony remained general: Sinfonia Eroica ... composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand Uomo. Around 150 years later, this was still too much for Arturo Toscanini. He decided brusquely: “For some it is Napoleon; for others it is Alexander the Great; yet others say it is a philosophical discourse. For me it’s simple: Allegro con brio.” In this Beethoven anniversary year, Musikfest Berlin celebrates no heroes, titans or other mythological figures. But it is a welcome occasion to make the Philharmonie a place where Ludwig van Beethoven’s music can be heard together with works by composers of our time: the opening concert itself with the Concertgebouw Orchestra links the Eroica with the music of Rebecca Saunders and Wolfgang Rihm.
In focus: Rebecca Saunders
We are presenting a portrait of Rebecca Saunders, winner of the 2019 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize: 14 of her works will be performed in seven concerts at Musikfest Berlin. The programme also includes world premieres and recent works by Georges Aperghis, Milica Djordjević, Heiner Goebbels, Sofia Gubaidulina, Arnulf Herrmann, Christian Jost, Olga Neuwirth, Enno Poppe and Wolfgang Rihm.
Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with John Eliot Gardiner's Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir will be performed on period instruments, as will the Pastoral with François-Xavier Roth’s ensemble, Les Siècles. The Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Symphonies will be performed on modern instruments. The choir and orchestra of Deutsche Oper Berlin present Leonore, the original version of the opera Fidelio, and Igor Levit plays the complete catalogue of the 32 piano sonatas in eight performances. In addition to the orchestras from Amsterdam, London and Paris, guest performers at Musikfest Berlin 2020 include the orchestra and choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia from Rome with its music director Sir Antonio Pappano, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig with Andris Nelsons and the Bamberg Symphony with Jakub Hrůša.