The Musikfest Berlin 2020 – organized by the Berliner Festspiele in cooperation with the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker – presents a total of 33 events and 9 premieres as part of the “Beethoven and the Music of Our Time” festival programme. The festival starts today with the first evening of the eight-part cycle featuring 32 piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, played by pianist Igor Levit. Just before the concert begins, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Professor Monika Grütters, will address concert visitors at the Philharmonie with opening remarks.
“The Musikfest Berlin shows that shared cultural enjoyment is possible even under the current distancing rules – and in doing so sends an important signal of hope. This is exactly what Ludwig van Beethoven’s music – the focal point for this year’s festival – stands for. The programme honouring the 250th birthday of the great composer is financed largely from my budget, and Musikfest Berlin events also receive funding from this pot. It is a good and important thing that a further focal point of the festival is contemporary music, because if there was ever a time that we needed the creative impulses and innovations that come from artists, composers, new music and also from Beethoven’s works it is now. At the Federal Government we are doing our utmost to alleviate the destructive effects of the Corona pandemic and to mobilize creative forces – in the conviction that art is essential for the survival of our democracy and that we owe to art the inspiration and frictions from which innovations arise.”
The festival’s first orchestra concert takes place on Saturday, 29 August: the Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim will perform Mozart’s final three symphonies. By performing the Beethoven symphonies the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin are participating in the festival’s Beethoven focus and presenting its music in the context of 20th century pieces – by Alban Berg, Béla Bartók, Alfred Schnittke, Arnold Schönberg, Richard Strauss and Anton Webern – through to contemporary music.
The Konzerthausorchester Berlin will premiere the new violin concerto by Christian Jost and trumpeter Marco Blaauw will play “White”, a piece by Rebecca Saunders, as part of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin concert. This year, the composer is the subject of a comprehensive portrait, with 16 of her pieces to be performed and a total of 5 premieres. Her music, and new works by Georges Aperghis and Milica Djordjević, will be interpreted by grand ensembles of contemporary music, Klangforum Wien and Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Ensemble Modern und Ensemble Musikfabrik and the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Karajan-Akademie. The festival wraps up on 23 September with the premiere of “Stabat Mater” by Wolfgang Rihm featuring Tabea Zimmermann and Christian Gerhaher.
The guest ensemble concerts, the comprehensive Rebecca Saunders portrait as well as the complete performance of the Bach Suites for Violoncello solo with Nicolas Altstaedt and the Beethoven cycle by Igor Levit – a total of 18 festival concerts – will be broadcast live or time-delayed from the Digital Concert Hall. The concerts can then be heard the following day from 4 p.m. onwards for 72 hours under “Musikfest Berlin on Demand”. In doing so, the Berliner Festspiele’s Musikfest Berlin and the Digital Concert Hall der Berliner Philharmoniker’s “Musikfest Berlin digital” initiative react to the restrictions imposed by the Corona virus and sends a confident greeting from Berlin to international music life by broadcasting the concerts from the Philharmonie.