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Tagged with 'Berlin'

Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: Das Floß der Medusa

Shipwreck at the airport: Hans Werner Henze's oratorio Das Floß der Medusa (‘The Raft of the Medusa’) opens the new season at the Komische Oper Berlin. In Hangar 1 of Tempelhof Airport, Tobias Kratzer stages the great question of humanity, which revolves around the calculated drowning of underprivileged people on the high seas. The premiere will take place on September 16, 2023 under the musical direction of Titus Engel.

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Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Prayer

With Toshio Hosokawa’s new violin concerto Prayer, the composer reflects on the passing of modern events and their overall influence on the life of the soul. The piece is dedicated to world renowned soloist Daishin Kashimoto who will perform it for the first time on 02 March 2023 with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Paavo Järvi at the Philharmonie Berlin.

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Work of the Week – Jörg Widmann: Zeitensprünge

The Staatskappelle Berlin celebrates its impressive history as it marks its 450th anniversary this year. The earliest sources mentioning the orchestra date from 1570. On 11 September, the world premiere of a new work by Jörg Widmann commissioned specially for the occasion, Zeitensprünge (Leaps in time), will be given in a concert conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera House. 

The title Zeitensprünge is a pun about musical time-travel and stylistic escapades. Widmann explores the multiple stylistic periods through which the orchestra has lived during its long history, with the opening bars featuring an off-stage ensemble playing renaissance dances. Only when the musicians enter the stage does the idea of conducting start to take form, and a concert of today’s understanding commences. 

Jörg Widmann – Zeitensprünge: A Concerto for Orchestra in a nutshell

Though Zeitensprünge is a condensed 10-minute orchestral work of only 450 bars (one for each year of the Staatskapelle´s history), it nevertheless has everything a full-scale Concerto for Orchestra needs. There are solos from nearly every section of the orchestra, ensembles such as fanfares emerge from the texture, medieval winds and consorts play next to each other, and Widmann uses a variety of musical forms to lead to a brilliant final canon that symbolises many becoming one. 
“When I sit in front of a sheet of manuscript paper, I don’t keep thinking ‘you have to invent something new’. Not at all. My head is full of harmonies, connections and combinations that have never been heard before. My problem is to find forms for them. I am now in a stage of fighting to find these new forms.” - Jörg Widmann 

Photos:Marco Borggrve, Adobe Stock / spuno

Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Concerto noir redux

2020 is the 200th anniversary of the Berlin Konzerthaus, a concert hall that started life as a theatre. In celebration of this anniversary as part of Musikfest Berlin, Christian Tetzlaff will perform the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Christian Jost on 6 September. The concerto, entitled Concerto noir redux, will be accompanied by Konzerthausorchester Berlin and conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. 

Concerto noir redux was originally intended to bear the same title as his opera Journey of Hope - Voyage of Despair. However, after the cancellation of the original premiere in March 2020, Jost chose instead to make changes to the music in response to recent events.

Christian Jost – Concerto noir redux: music from the lockdown

The result was not only a smaller orchestra, necessitated by social distancing, but a work that expresses a darker character and soundworld. Concerto noir redux is now one of two versions of the work Concerto noir, each with the same solo part.

Usually, I compose with a clear idea of the musical structure and of the sounds, and therefore of the course of the resulting work. But this time it was different. There was an initial thought for the opening in which the solo violin gradually separates from unison with the first violins. From this starting point the work should virtually compose itself. The resulting single-movement concerto with a single tempo (quarter = 76 espressivo) is driven by rhythmic ‘cells’. I completed the composition more or less simultaneously with the end of the lockdown, and since this had given rise to a work with predominantly dark shades of colour and sound, I considered Concerto noir to be a perfect title. Christian Jost

Photos: Adobe Stock / lakkot, Joe Quiao

World Premiere of Toshio Hosokawa "Texture" at the Digital Concert Hall by Berlin Philharmonic

Toshio Hosokawa’s new piece, Texture for octet will be premiered at the Digital Concert Hall by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on June 6th. The first performer is the Philharmonic Octet Berlin.

Texture was co-commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and the Japan Arts Corporation for the Philharmonic Octet Berlin, and is dedicated to the ensemble. The instrumentation of octet is the same as Octet D803 by Franz Schubert which is the ensemble’s specialty; clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin 2, viola, violoncello and double bass.

The instrumentation is divided into the following 2 groups; a group consisting of a string quartet and another consisting of clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass. Each group plays melodies with a lively calligraphy-like shape, an unforced linear of the Eastern brushstrokes which is one of the characteristics of Hosokawa’s music. In this piece, like the Yin and Yang of the East, just as polar opposite elements, such as man and woman, high and low, strength and weakness, light and dark coexist and complete each other - become tied together without defeating the other, whilst gradually shaping the sound of the universe.

Toshio Hosokawa
Texture (2020)
for octet

World Premiere

June 6, 2020, 19:00  Philharmonie Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
June 7, 2020, 13:00  Philharmonie Berlin (Berlin, Germany) Broadcast from Digital Concert Hall by Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Philharmonic Octet Berlin (Wenzel Fuchs [clarinet], Mor Biron [bassoon], Stefan Dohr [horn], Daishin Kashimoto, Romano Tommasini [violin], Amihai Grosz [viola], Christoph Igelbrink [cello], Esko Laine [double bass])

Work of the Week – György Ligeti: Kammerkonzert

Through the myriad compositional styles György Ligeti explored between the 1940s and the 2000s, the composer’s strict focus on form and instrumentation always remained at the forefront of his work. Among the best examples of this is undoubtedly his Kammerkonzert (Chamber Concerto) from the middle period of his output. Exactly 50 years ago, on 5 April 1970, Friedrich Cerha and his ensemble ‘die reihe’ premiered the first two movements of this work in Baltimore. The third movement followed shortly after, premiering that May in Vienna, and the concerto’s final movement was first performed the following October in Berlin. 

The scoring of Kammerkonzert for thirteen players sits at the midpoint between chamber music and a more symphonic texture. The work is highly varied, encompassing passages of extreme density and contrasting sections where individual instruments emerge from the ensemble with exposed melodic lines reminiscent of Schoenberg and Berg’s expressive twelve-note writing, or of virtuosic cadenzas.

György Ligeti – Kammerkonzert: from failure to standard repertoire

The four-movement work is a concerto in the sense that all 13 players are equal and have virtuoso solo tasks. Rather than frequent changes between soli and tutti, there is constant concerto-like cooperation. The parts always flow simultaneously but use different rhythmic configurations and tempi. [...] The world premiere of the completed Chamber Concerto in 1970 was a complete failure. Critics wrote that this work massively fell behind my second string quartet, its predecessor. However, as time went by, more and more ensembles performed it multiple times. Nowadays, it is a standard repertoire work because its instrumentation is very fitting for groups like the Asko ensemble. All these things are impossible to anticipate for a composer. - György Ligeti

In advance of Ligetis centenary on 28 May 2023, we invite you to explore his music further. We’ve created an extensive playlist with detailed insights exploring Ligeti’s work follow the link below to find out more.

Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: The Bassarids

With almost every opera house and concert hall around the world closed, we focus this week on a recent production of Hans Werner Henze´s opera The Bassarids, currently available for free on the online platform OperaVision. Reviews of Barrie Kosky´s staging and Vladimir Jurowski´s musical direction were splendid so this is a fantastic opportunity to explore the depths of this opera, considered a pinnacle of not only Henze´s dramatic output but of the entire mid-century classicism in opera.

The libretto for The Bassarids, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based on Euripides’ Bacchae; it tells the story of Pentheus, the new ruler of Thebes, banning the cult of Dionysus before being unwittingly drawn into the revelry by Dionysus himself, disguised as a stranger. Pentheus is eventually killed by his own mother, who has mistaken him for a wild animal, before Dionysus reveals his true identity and demands adoration from the Thebans for his revenge against the tyrant. The one-act opera’s large instrumentation and sophisticated libretto make The Bassarids an ambitious project. With Dionysus and Pentheus embodying two extremes of human existence, there is great potential for reference to the present day.

Today I consider The Bassarids, which I now understand to a far greater degree and hold much dearer than when I was composing the work, to be my most important music theatre work. It is […] still relevant for us, but specifically addresses questions associated with the years around 1968: what is freedom and what is bondage? What is repression, what is revolt and what is revolution? This is all in fact demonstrated, insinuated and suggested by Euripides. The multiplicity and richness of relationships, the tangible sensual relationships between the ancient civilisation of this Archaic period and our time are captured in Auden’s text; Euripides is transposed into our time in a manner which could not have been better achieved with the best possible stage production of the original Greek play, as we are constantly reminded of our distance from a different, long-gone civilisation. – Hans Werner Henze

The video will be available to stream on demand until 13 April and a final performance of the Komische Oper Berlin production is scheduled for 26 June.

photo: © Komische Oper Berlin / Monika Rittershaus

Work of the Week – Kurt Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins (Die sieben Todsünden) is one of Kurt Weill’s best-known and most frequently performed works. On 21 September, a new orchestration of the ballet chanté for 15 players will receive its premiere at Beethovenfest Bonn with Ensemble Modern and soloist Sarah Maria Sun conducted by HK Gruber. The new version has been created by Gruber and Christian Muthspiel in collaboration with the Kurt Weill Foundation and Schott Music.

The Brecht text is not a period piece. It is absolutely contemporary. In our day The Seven Deadly Sins is a manifesto against capitalism run amok, and it's a dangerous piece - for the capitalists. Because it lays bare how the world works: if you are honest, you have to pay the price, here, during this life. It is even more timely than it was twenty or thirty years ago.  (HK Gruber)

The Seven Deadly Sins: An Iconic Work in a New Orchestration

Initiated by the Kurt Weill Foundation, the new orchestration of The Seven Deadly Sins will for the first time enable fully staged performances by smaller ensembles, theatres and dance companies. The work has received innumerable successful interpretations and the new version will open up further possibilities for creative productions in even more varied settings. The soprano soloist in Gruber and Muthspiel’s version is accompanied by a male vocal quartet and the following ensemble: 1(pic).0.2.1-

HK Gruber is regarded as a leading Weill expert, having frequently conducted, performed and recorded The Seven Deadly Sins and other works throughout his career. This new orchestration is characterised by its high level of fidelity to the original work, retaining Weill's original keys and using the ensemble in innovative ways to match the characteristic timbres of the orchestral version.

Playing on double-standards that are placed on the sisters, Anna 1 and Anna 2, as they make their seven-year journey through different US cities, the highly ironic and satirical work features some of Weill’s most recognisable music. It incorporates numerous popular American musical styles including foxtrot, polka, and barbershop. Despite being sung in German, the work was a success at its premiere performance in 1933 in Paris where Weill was living in exile, and it received a UK premiere at the Savoy Theatre that same year.

photo: Staatstheater Stuttgart / Bernhard Weis

Work of the Week: Aribert Reimann – Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht


With its images of spring and renewal, Aribert Reimann's new song cycle for voice and string quartet will keep the cold at bay this winter. Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht was written for soprano Moja Erdmann and the Kuss Quartett who will give the world premiere on 14 December at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam.

Commissioned jointly by the Muziekgebouw and Musik 21 Niedersachsen, Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht is based on songs by the Romantic composer Theodor Kirchner setting six poems by Heinrich Heine. The images of sprouting and growing plants in spring are perfect for lyrical expressions of love, however two of the poems also touch on loneliness and the winter cold of a snowy landscape.

Aribert Reimann – Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht: a connection to the Romantics

Having never been published, Kirchner’s song cycle for voice and piano remains relatively unknown. Reimann intersperses his arrangements of the songs with seven instrumental interludes. This is not the first time Reimann has worked in this way: in his cycle “…oder soll es Tod bedeuten”, he intersperses songs by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy for voice and string quartet with his own six Intermezzi. There are also plans for the seven instrumental sections from Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht to be available as a stand-alone work entitled 7 Bagatelle.
While composing I always have a sound in mind, which I cannot express in words because there are no words for it. Of course I can describe the sound, but it is not the same. For me it is the most complicated and the most important to be able to grasp and organise this sound that I hear within me. – Aribert Reimann

Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht will be given its German premiere on 16 December in Hannover as part of the concert series Musik 21 at NDR, and further performances with Mojca Erdmann and the Kuss Quartett will take place on 18 December in Berlin and 13 May 2018 in Zurich.