As the BBC Proms at last flicker into life, in Germany the Musikfest Berlin gets under way.. Over 19 days, 27 events featuring 70 works of around 35 composers, performed by 20 orchestras, instrumental and vocal ensembles and soloists. Full programme here, reflecting the concept that audiences are mature enough to handle real music, as Sir Henry Wood believed a hundred years ago, instead of the Potato Fudge the Proms have descended into this year (bar a few outstanding performances). But those of us who can't get to Berlin (largely sold out, in any case), some concerts will be broadcast via the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall (List here)
Listen live, because the broadcasts may be available for only 24 hours. On Saturday I caught Wolfgang Rihm's Tutuguri with Daniel Harding and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. This piece is legend, but not easy to pull off because it requires a huge orchestra, a whole row of percussion desks and elaborate off-stage effects Rihm's model for Tutuguri was a piece by by Antonin Artaud, the actor and theatre theorist whose ideas have great influence on modern theatre, film, dance and music. Artaud believed that communication could exist on multiple levels. Texts don't have to be spoken, nor even rational. In Tutuguri, the soloist and invisible choir (on tape) utter sounds in single syllable bursts of staccato, which don't have meaning in themselves: it's up to the audience to intuit the connections themselves. If, of course, there "is" any meaning we can deduce. Artaud was fascinated by primal states of experience that cannot be articulated - hence the animalistic grunts and piercing screams. Orchestra and singers all on the same communal level. Rihm's use of percussion is absolutely deliberate. because percussion reflects the rhythms of the human body, heartbeats, breathing, movement. This performance was exceptionally muscular and physical, yet mesmerizing just as the rite it (sort of) describes would have been. Savage as the subject may be, performance needs to be accurate and extremely tightly focussed or the whole point is missed. This performance was so powerful that it far eclipsed Kent Nagano and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican last year (read my piece here). The narrator, Graham Forbes Valentine, who bore a disconcerting resemblance to Artaud, was so forceful that he seemed possessed, the tightness of his articulation like an elemental force oif nature. Luckily I was able to watch it through before Digital Concert Hall pulled it. Explains why I'm too tired to write about Rossini Semiramide at the Proms, which I loved.
So don't miss the next livestream on Tuesday 6/9 when Valery Gergiev conducts the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Shostakovich Symphony no 4 and Galina Ustvolskaya's Symphony no 3 "Jesus Messiah, save us", which I wrote about in July HERE. A striking piece I can't wait to hear again.
Ivan Fischer and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin on 8/9 with Hans Werner Henze I vitalino raddoppiato for violin (Julia Fischer) and chamber orchestra. A beautifully expressive piece which could easily stand up to Bruckner 7, which I heard last week with Haitink and RCOA livestreamed from Amsterdam.
Andris Nelsons conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker on Saturday 10th in Debussy Prélude à lʼaprès-midi dʼun faune, Edgard Varèse Arcana and Berlioz Symphonie fantastique. An intelligent programme presented, no doubt, with flair and extremely high musical standards.
More Varèse (Déserts) and Ligeti (Violin Concerto, Pekka Kuuisto) the next day with Jonathan Nott and the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie , followed by Beethoven 3 Eroica.
Then Dudamel Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie. I heard this a few months back, but it's really for fans of the conductor rather than fans of the music.
Kirill Petrenko conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester on 14/9 in Ligeti Lontano, Bartók Violin Concero no 1 (Frank Peter Zimmermann) and Richard Strauss Sinfonia domestica. Good combination, should be good.
Then John Adams conducts an all John Adams concert on 17/9.