Musikfest Berlin

From 31 August to 18 September 2017, Musikfest Berlin will open this year’s Berlin new concert season, hosted by Berliner Festspiele in cooperation with the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker. During the festival’s 19 days, there will be 27 events featuring more than 80 works of around 40 composers, performed by 20 instrumental and vocal ensembles and numerous soloists from the international music scene and the music city of Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonie and its Chamber Music Hall, the Academy of the Arts on Pariser Platz, Konzerthaus Berlin, Pierre Boulez Saal and St. Hedwig’s Cathedral will be the festival’s venues.

450 years ago, Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona; he served at the court in Mantua for many years. There he composed both his famous “Vespro della beata vergine” and the even more renowned “Favola d’Orfeo”. Finally, he was appointed Maestro di Capella della Chiesa di San Marco in Venice. The Serenissima and the Basilica di San Marco remained his domain until his death many years later. Numerous operas are believed to have been composed, but only two later stage works, “Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria” and “L’incoronazione di Poppea” have survived for posterity.

Claudio Monteverdi’s name and music stand for a new era of western music history: for the transition from Renaissance to Baroque, for a new singing style, a new treatment of language and of emotions in music, for the invention of the genre of opera – and in the eyes of some experts, even for a hopeful new departure of the entire history of western music, which was no more than 500 years old at the time.

On the occasion of the internationally observed Monteverdi Year 2017, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestra of the English Baroque Soloists have prepared a new semi-staged production of the operas which they are performing on an extended tour of Europe and America. In Germany, it will only be presented at the Philharmonie during Musikfest Berlin. “We will perform the three operas as a cycle,” says Sir John Eliot Gardiner “because we want to take our audience on a journey – from pastoral idyll to life at an urban court, from myth to political history, from innocence to corruption, from a man the gods toy with to a hero who cannot rid himself from his human passions to the double portrait of an insane couple, whose lust and ambition have gotten out of control.” These three operas at the festival’s beginning are complemented by a performance of Monteverdi’s “Vespro della beata vergine” by the RIAS Kammerchor at the new Pierre Boulez Saal at the end of Musikfest Berlin.

“Dialogo della music antica et della moderna” was the name of a much-debated polemic pamphlet during the times of Monteverdi; written by Vincenzo Galilei, father of the famous astrologer and contemporary of the composer. The programme of this year’s Musikfest Berlin, too, will unfold a broad panorama, reaching from older music history of the late Renaissance and early Baroque via classical-romantic orchestra music to Luigi Nono’s epochal “Il Canto Sospeso” and to composers of our times: Salvatore Sciarrino, Wolfgang Rihm, Harrison Birtwistle, Rebecca Saunders and Mark Andre. Several programme points are dedicated to the great Korean composer Isang Yun, who found a new home in Berlin and who would have celebrated his 100th birthday on 17 September 2017.

Apart from the Berlin-based orchestras and choirs, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, this year’s Musikfest Berlin will once again present numerous soloists, ensembles and orchestras, among them the violinists Isabelle Faust, Ilya Gringolts, Gil Shaham and Leonidas Kavakos, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam with Daniele Gatti, the choir and orchestra of MusicAeterna from Perm with Teodor Currentzis, the Ensemble Musikfabrik, the SWR Symphony Orchestra and SWR Vocal Ensemble with Peter Rundel and finally, for the first time at Musikfest Berlin, the Filarmonica della Scala from Milan, with its principal conductor Riccardo Chailly. Musikfest Berlin will be opened by Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim with the 8th Symphony by Anton Bruckner, and it will close with a concert by the orchestra of Deutsche Oper Berlin, conducted by Donald Runnicles and presenting music by Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner.