In Search of a New Modernism

Biennale for Music and Art of the 50s and 60s

The years following the Second World War are often referred to as the “leaden years”. Artistically, however, it was a fascinating period whose innovative concepts are worth rediscovering. Our Biennale gives you an opportunity to learn more about this era.

Germany 1945, a new beginning. The Berliner Philharmoniker resumed their concert activity quickly; they made their first appearance after the war ended already in late May. The circumstances were anything but good: the original hall had been destroyed, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler was banned from the stage for the time being and the financial future was uncertain. The situation of the Philharmoniker after the end of the Nazi dictatorship was characteristic of the state of German cultural life, which first had to try to find its place between yesterday and tomorrow, tradition and a new beginning, provincialism and urbanity.

The 1950s and 60s often suffer from a bad image. Politically and socially, they represent a period of restoration that did not end until the 1968 generation arrived on the scene. But the first two decades after the war were an extraordinarily productive and innovative period: the young Joseph Beuys attracted attention with his first solo exhibitions, the Gruppe (Group) 47 met between 1947 and 1967, giving German literature a new voice, and the young generation of composers also provoked audiences with unprecedented sounds.

The focus of the programming is György Ligeti, whose 100th birthday will be celebrated in 2023.

Together with chief conductor Kirill Petrenko and guests such as Sir Simon Rattle, Alan Gilbert, pianist Bertrand Chamayou, the string quartet Quatuor Diotima, cabaret singer Tim Fischer, the RIAS Kammerchor and the Rundfunkchor Berlin, the Biennale 2023 of the Berliner Philharmoniker will focus on these post-war years. The centrepiece will be the music of composer György Ligeti, whose 100th birthday will be celebrated in 2023. Ligeti and his wife fled Hungary in December of 1956, initially taking up residence in Vienna. From 1957, the composer worked at the electronic music studio of West German Radio (WDR) in Cologne, where he met important members of the avant-garde. During the following years, he composed such epochal orchestral works as Apparitions (1958/59), Atmosphères (1961) and Lontano (1967).

At that time, Ligeti’s music seemed both exciting and bewildering. Even the notation was unusual. In Atmosphères, for example, as many as 87 staves are piled on top of one another, creating a chaotic impression. When you hear the work, however, it evokes a grand orchestral sculpture. “The overall form of the piece is to be realized as a single, wide-spanning arch – the individual sections melting together and subordinate to the great arch,” the composer explained. This arch extends from the nebulous opening sounds to its magical disappearance into near inaudibility at the close.

Along with György Ligeti’s large orchestral sculptures, piano, chamber music and organ works by the composer will also be heard. Lux Aeterna, composed for a sixteen-part mixed choir in 1966, will be performed during a concert at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), which was consecrated three years before the work was written. Thus, the music and architecture of the 1960s enter into an exciting symbiosis. In addition, the Staatliche Institut für Musikforschung (State Institute for Music Research) is organizing a two-day symposium, which will scientifically measure Ligeti’s artistic cosmos. An exhibition devoted to the composer, which can be viewed in the foyer of the Philharmonie, will provide further insights. Ligeti’s oeuvre will be reflected in the works of other composers who defined the music of the post-war era, including Bernd Alois Zimmermann, whose Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu displays a sense of humour that one does not generally expect from this period.

A festival spanning genres and art forms, with performances going beyond the traditional concert format

The Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker is a festival which spans genres and art forms, expanding our view with performances that go beyond the traditional concert format. For example, in a reading at the Staatsbibliothek (State Library) we will present the moving correspondence between Ingeborg Bachmann and Hans Werner Henze, while Tim Fischer will sing about the longing for Italy during that time in a chanson concert. The important architecture of Berlin from the 1950s and 60s also provides penetrating insights, particularly the Philharmonie, an icon of post-war architecture. During the Biennale we will offer specialized tours of our building. In addition, we will arrange walking tours curated specifically for the Biennale to other architectural highlights. Last but not least, a concert from the series Werkstatt.Dialog.Musik (Workshop.Dialogue.Music), also presenting an interdisciplinary approach to this epoch, will be given at the PalaisPopulaire of the Deutsche Bank, a partner of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Whether during an orchestra concert or chamber music, a reading or a song recital, an architectural tour or a symposium, we invite you to immerse yourself in a fascinating artistic era with us.

 

Dates of the Biennale

Thursday,

09 Feb 2023,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: G – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Thu, 09 Feb 2023, 20:00
Philharmonie

Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Berliner Philharmoniker

Kirill Petrenko conductor

Works by György Ligeti, Miroslav Srnka and Claude Debussy

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Friday,

10 Feb 2023,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: F – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Fri, 10 Feb 2023, 20:00
Philharmonie

Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Berliner Philharmoniker

Kirill Petrenko conductor

Works by György Ligeti, Miroslav Srnka and Claude Debussy

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Saturday,

11 Feb 2023,
19:00

Philharmonie

Series: H – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Sat, 11 Feb 2023, 19:00
Philharmonie

Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Berliner Philharmoniker

Kirill Petrenko conductor

Works by György Ligeti, Miroslav Srnka and Claude Debussy

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Saturday,

11 Feb 2023,
22:00

Chamber Music Hall

Philharmonie »Late Night«

Sat, 11 Feb 2023, 22:00
Chamber Music Hall

Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Late Night: An Evening with the Capri Fishermen

Tim Fischer vocals

Thomas Dörschel piano

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Tuesday,

14 Feb 2023,
20:00

Chamber Music Hall

Chamber Music | Series: U – Piano

Tue, 14 Feb 2023, 20:00
Chamber Music Hall

Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Bertrand Chamayou piano

Works by John Cage, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Luciano Berio, Olivier Messiaen and György Ligeti

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Tuesday,

21 Feb 2023,
20:00

Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche

Chamber Music

Tue, 21 Feb 2023, 20:00
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche

Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Rias Kammerchor Berlin

Sofi Jeannin conductor

Works by György Ligeti

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Wednesday,

22 Feb 2023,
20:00

Chamber Music Hall

Chamber Music | Series: T – Quartet

Wed, 22 Feb 2023, 20:00
Chamber Music Hall

Biennale of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Quatuor Diotima

Yun-Peng Zhao violin

Léo Marillier violin

Franck Chevalier viola

Pierre Morlet cello

Works by Leoš Janáček and György Ligeti

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