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Musikfest Berlin

The festival 2012

Around 36,000 people attended the 25 events of the 2012 Musikfest Berlin, organised by the Berliner Festspiele in collaboration with the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. This year the spotlight was on American music, and audiences and the press were unanimous that the Musikfest Berlin 2012 succeeded brilliantly in presenting the country’s rich and diverse musical heritage. At the beginning of the festival Wolfgang Schreiber of the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote: “The fact that the programme has a logic does not prevent it from being imaginative. Which means that this year the Musikfest Berlin can hold its own alongside Salzburg, Lucerne and Weimar. Compositions by American greats such as Ives, Gershwin, Copland, Barber and Bernstein are confronted with rarities by the US avant-garde: Cage, Feldman and Antheil. Elliott Carter features as prominently as John Adams … The programme also includes works by American immigrant composers Varèse, Schönberg, Stravinsky, Eisler.”

The festival opened with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Kent Nagano. The London Symphony Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas and the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam with Mariss Jansons performed at the Philharmonie along with Berlin’s major orchestras. The St. Louis Symphony, the second-oldest orchestra in the USA, performed for the first time at the Musikfest Berlin under David Robertson. The Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, together with the Ensemble Modern under Peter Rundel, devoted an entire evening to John Cage. The Ensemble Musikfabrik with Peter Eötvös and Benjamin Kobler presented the “American” part of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Hymnen.

Soloists included Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Emanuel Ax, Isabelle Faust, Franz Grundheber, Sergei Leiferkus, Nikolai Lugansky, Robert Orth, Christian Tetzlaff and Sir Willard White, while understudies Sasha Cooke and Latonia Moore, who jumped in for sick colleagues, enjoyed great success.

Highlights of the Musikfest Berlin included the concertante performances of three opera rarities at the Philharmonie. The Berlin premiere of John Adams’ Nixon in China, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer, as well as the Schönberg opera fragment Moses and Aron with the SWR Symphony Orchestra under Sylvain Cambreling, were a resounding success. George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation Chorus under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle, a coproduction with the Berliner Festspiele, was one of the biggest hits of the festival finale.