Reformation summit

National Youth Orchestra of Germany and German National Youth Ballet at the Philharmonie

(Photo: Peter Adamik)

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation – The National Youth Orchestra of Germany and German National Youth Ballet have taken this occasion for a special arts project: In music and dance, this collaboration shows how the events of Luther’s Reformation five hundred years ago still inspire young artists today.

Reformation references

The National Youth Orchestra of Germany opens the programme with Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphonie No. 5, the so-called Reformation Symphony, in which the composer sets Luther’s chorale Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God). This is followed by two works by contemporary composers: Michel van der Aa’s Reversal deals with the fundamental change in direction triggered by Luther, while Enjott Schneider’s symphonic poem for orchestra Ein feste Burg makes reference not only to the Reformation, but also to Mendelssohn. In these two pieces, guest choreographers Zhang Disha and Andrey Kaydanovskiy bring the musical heritage of Luther and Protestantism into the present day. The crown of the concert is a premiere: Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3, choreographed by John Neumeier. The work, by the founding director of the National Youth Ballet, will be presented both in full and accompanied by a live orchestra for the first time.

Artistic crucible

The German National Youth Ballet, founded by John Neumeier in 2011, gives eight dancers the opportunity over two years to realise unconventional artistic projects. From the world of classical dance and supervised by experienced choreographers, the young dancers appear not only in theatres and festivals with their programmes, but also at out of the ordinary locations such as nursing homes, swimming pools and prisons. While the members of the National Youth Ballet have already completed their studies, the members of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany are still musicians in training. Since 1969, the National Youth Orchestra of Germany has enabled talented instrumentalists between 14 and 19 years of age to gain experience in a symphony orchestra – at a professional level. Even the admission process is like major orchestras: only those who pass the audition can become a member.

Musical ambassadors for Germany

Three times a year, the young people come together for three weeks to rehearse a concert programme under the guidance of experienced orchestral musicians and conductors which is subsequently performed on a tour. For Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel and Kirill Petrenko, working with young musicians is a labour of love. The National Youth Orchestra of Germany performed in the Philharmonie for the first time as guests of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation in 2008. Since then, the orchestra has come to Berlin every year and on more than one occasion to the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden. In 2013, the Berliner Philharmoniker took over the sponsorship of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany which gives around 25 concerts per year, not only in Germany, but – as a musical ambassador of its home country – all around the world.

2014 Easter Festival Baden-Baden: Rehearsal with Sir Simon Rattle
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)
Former members of the National Youth Orchestra: the philharmonic musicians Nikolaus Römisch and Ulrich Knörzer
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)