MaerzMusik – Festival of Contemporary Music 2014

To Berlin! To Berlin!
Berlin – Magnet for Musical Immigration

Directed by Matthias Osterwold for the final time, MaerzMusik – the Berliner Festspiele’s festival for contemporary music – chose the local music scene as its theme for its 13th edition in 2014. For the first time, Berlin was thematically at the centre of the festival – as a globalized city with an innovative musical life. Berlin has – especially since the fall of the Wall – always been a powerful magnet for artists of all genres and directions, who have moved to Berlin temporarily or for longer to live and work in the city. This artistic “immigration” – from abroad as well as from other parts of Germany – has transformed Berlin into a cosmopolitan city of art and music. Especially the field of new, contemporary music has, in the past 20 years, experienced a boom, being energetically recharged and renewed by the influx of musical talent of all kinds.

MaerzMusik 2014 presented a special selection of works by younger musical “immigrants” in concerts, staged forms, performances and sound installations, with a main presence in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, but otherwise – similar to the nomadic lives of the artists themselves – in alternating inner-city locations that were utilised in a wide-ranging and sporadic way.

From 3 to 23 March 2014 a total of approximately 15,000 visitors – including the “MaerzMusik Extended” programme – attended the almost 40 sold-out or very well-visited events at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele and 13 further venues. In addition to the established performance venues – Berliner Festspiele, Konzerthaus, Kammermusiksaal at the Philharmonie, Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Radialsystem V, Sophiensæle and Club Berghain – new and unusual venues were discovered: the “Fahrbereitschaft” in Lichtenberg, the Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche in Schöneberg, the Museum für Naturkunde and the Langenbeck-Virchow-Saal, the former seat of the Volkskammer (People’s Chamber) in the GDR.

The highlight of the “MaerzMusik Extended” programme involved the five sold-out and acclaimed performances of the legendary opera “Einstein on the Beach” by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. Notable as well was “Schau lange in den dunklen Himmel”, a music theatre piece based on Robert Schumann and Robert Walser, which was premiered by East Tyrolean band Franui in the Sophiensaele. Among the other music theatre productions – a focal point at this year’s festival – “IQ – Testbatterie in acht Akten” by Enno Poppe, Marcel Beyer and Anna Viebrock opened MaerzMusik at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele on 14 March to critical acclaim. Equally celebrated was the “Inszenierte Nacht” by Simon Steen-Andersen, a lovingly ironic homage to nocturnal works by Bach, Mozart, Schumann and Ravel which was performed by Ensemble ascolta on the side stage. “Anschlag” by Michael Wertmüller and Lukas Bärfuss at the Academy of the Arts provided a powerful and convincing challenge for the audience in terms of content, music and performance. Highlights of the concerts included the evening with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin that saw the premiere of Friedrich Goldmann’s final work which had yet to be been performed, frenetic applause for sheng player Wu Wei as soloist in the work “Šu” by Unsuk Chin and the literally “staving” premiere of the reworked version of Michael Wertmüller’s “Zeitkugel”. Impressive, too, was the premiere of Boris Filanovsky’s “Scompositio” by KNM Berlin at the Radialsystem as well as the debut concert of the Ensemblekollektiv at the Volksbühne with a convincing, dense programme with works by Hanna Eimermacher, Ondřej Adámek, Sergej Newski, among others. Particularly noteworthy at the Berlin PianoPercussion concert were premieres of works by Arthur Kampela and Hugues Dufourt. Great moments took place at the nocturnal Sonic Arts Lounges with Denseland in the upper foyer of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, The Necks and Arnold Dreyblatt & The Orchestra of Excited Strings at Berghain.

The large-scale 24-channel sound installation “Part File Score − Twelve Ways to Describe Hanns Eisler” by Berlin-based Scottish artist Susan Philipsz opened a little early, at the end of January 2014. Tens of thousands of visitors enjoyed Eisler’s disjointed and spatial music in the Nationalgalerie’s empty historic hall at the Hamburger Bahnhof over the course of the following weeks. Benoît Maubrey invited the audience to make their spoken words and music contributions audible by phoning his interactive installation, “Gateway”, which was made of hundreds of old, used loudspeakers that altered the entrance to the foyer of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele.

The always very lively “Querklang − Experimental Composing at School” project – a co-production between MaerzMusik together with the University of the Arts and k&k kultkom / Kulturkontakte e.V. – celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

Matthias Osterwold launched MaerzMusik as a festival to follow the Musik-Biennale in 2002 and has until now directed it. The new artistic director of the Berliner Festspiele’s Festival of Contemporary Music is Berno Odo Polzer.

Matthias Osterwold
Artistic Director MaerzMusik