The Dawn of the Modern Age

Musikfest 2013 - a preview

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The Dawn of the Modern Age

Musikfest 2013 - a preview

von Nancy Chapple


Emerson String Quartet
Bartók / Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie
Fr 30.08.2013, 20:00

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Janáček / Lutosławski / Strauss
Sa 31.08.2013, 20:00

Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Bartók / Janáček / Ligeti / Mozart
So 01.09.2013, 20:00

Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Britten / Schostakowitsch
Mo 02.09.2013, 20:00

Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Britten / Schostakowitsch
Di 03.09.2013, 20:00

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Lutosławski / Bartók / Prokofjew
Mi 04.09.2013, 20:00

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Bartók / Hartmann / Schostakowitsch
Do 05.09.2013, 20:00

„Quartett der Kritiker“
des Preises der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
Ausstellungsfoyer Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie
Fr 06.09.2013, 17:30

Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Lutosławski / Bartók
Fr 06.09.2013, 20:00

Berliner Philharmoniker
Lutosławski / Mahler / Janáček
Sa 07. & So 08.09.2013, 20:00

Konzerthausorchester Berlin
Lutosławski / Britten / Janáček
Konzerthaus Berlin, Großer Saal
So 08.09.2013, 20:00

Philharmonia Orchestra London
Debussy / Lutosławski / Ravel
Mo 09.09.2013, 20:00

Quatuor Diotima
Bartók / Janáček
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie
Di 10.09.2013, 20:00

Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Janáček / Martinů / Bartók
Mi 11.09.2013, 20:00

Berliner Philharmoniker
Lutosławski / Janáček / Bartók
DO 12., FR 13. & SA 14.09.2013, 20:00

RIAS Kammerchor / Ensemble musikFabrik
Kagel / Janáček / Strawinsky
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie
Sa 14.09.2013, 20:00

Philharmonia Quartett Berlin
Bartók / Beethoven
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie
So 15.09.2013, 11:00

Staatskapelle Berlin
Lutosławski / Beethoven / Verdi
Philharmonie (15.09.) / Konzerthaus Berlin (16.09.)
SO 15. & MO 16.09.2013, 20:00

Carolin Widmann
Werke für Violine solo
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie
Di 17.09.2013, 20:00

Bartók / Doráti / Janáček / Mussorgsky
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie
Mi 18.09.2013, 20:00

This year's Musikfest program - developed in close coordination between the Berliner Festspiele and the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation - focuses on an unusual axis of composers: Béla Bartók, Leoš Janáček, and Witald Lutosławski. 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Lutosławski's birth (and Benjamin Britten's - so in typical classical music marketing style, works of his will be performed as well).

Winfried Hopp, artistic director of the Musikfest, spoke about the link between the composers: "Each of them was an established outsider, and not really part of a European music history tradition - if such a concept is at all valid any more." Janáček, Bartók and Lutosławski represent three consecutive generations of - as stressed in the program notes - Eastern European composers, politically speaking, but geographically speaking from the center of Europe: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Hopp mentioned that he would have loved to pair Lutosławski with Mozart - but that the composer himself would probably have been less than pleased.

The concerts will be held between August 30th and September 18th. Thomas Oberender, artistic director of the Festspiele, described the "integrative concept" of creating a balance between the uniquely rich orchestral landscape of Berlin itself and top guest orchestras, and the opportunity to listen to and even compare great orchestras and great conductors (Mariss Jansons, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Daniel Barenboim, Daniele Gatti, Manfred Honeck, and Alan Gilbert, to name just some).

Though the Berlin Philharmoniker do perform at the Musikfest - traditionally that's how they kick off their concert season, this time the festival is itself a guest in the Philharmonie, and will be presenting concerts there (the hall celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013-14), and at the Chamber Music Hall and the Konzerthaus on Gendarmenmarkt.

Both Bartók and Janáček put folklore to a unique artistic use. We'd always been impressed by Bartók's folk song collecting activities at the beginning of the century, and the harmonic and rhythmic elements he incorporated in his "classical" works. And we'd heard that Janáček's operas really need to be sung in their original Czech to get all the nuances across. At the press conference we learned for the first time about his chronometer: dividing a minute into 20,000 parts, he could measure the timing of speech more precisely; the inflections of everyday speech helped him infuse his music with drama.

Let us briefly describe several of the highlights the Musikfest is proudest of:

  • Sept. 1st with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Pierre-Laurent Aimard with an expanding group on stage: 3 musicians for Bartók's Contrasts, 7 for Janáček's Concertino, 15 for Ligeti's Chamber Concerto and then Aimard will conduct and play Mozart's concerto KV 453.
  • a rare performance of the version of Stravinsky's Les noces, his composition about a peasant wedding, which includes pianola, completed by Dutch composer Theo Verbey in 2007. James Wood, who will direct the RIAS Kammerchor at the performance on Sept. 14th, said, "One reason the idea was ultimately put to the side, besides Pleyel's delay in producing the new instruments required and Diaghilev's general impatience, was that Stravinsky found it a big challenge to synchronize the mechanical and live instruments."
  • instead of wrapping up with a bang, "the big noise is at the beginning, and we're wrapping up more quietly" (two intimate concerts: Carolin Widmann on solo violin with Bartók, Bach, Haas and Zimmermann; a special benefit concert for the Hungarian office of Human Rights Watch with Hanno Müller-Brachmann and András Schiff (to learn more about his Schiff's political engagement, see for instance))

You needn't even be in Berlin to catch the concerts: ten will be broadcast subsequently on the radio, three even live (Britten and Mahler on Sept. 3rd on RBB; Bartók and Mendelssohn string quartets with the Emerson on Aug. 30th and Bartók and Shostakovich on Sept. 5th on Deutschlandradio Kultur). Two of the Berlin Philharmonic's own concerts will be broadcast on their Digital Concert Hall: Sept. 8th and Sept. 14th, featuring works of the three composers in focus plus Mahler.

Klassik-in-Berlin will report on many of the orchestral highlights and place a special focus on the 6 Bartók string quartets spread across three ensembles.