Berlin-based Orchestras

Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Ing Metzmacher

Past Dates

Jonchaies is French for bulrushes, reed beds of high grass that grow at the crossing point between the elements; that thrive on the borders between water and land. Seen in a mass, they seem all alike. Looked at individually, each stem and stalk appears different. Synchronically they bend in the wind; the only things they cannot withstand are individualised forces and stormy torsions. Bulrushes can serve as a type for musical structures, as well as for the synthesis and antithesis of All and One. They are an image of the human collective. Before Jonchaies, mass structures predominated in Xenakis’ music. In this orchestra piece, written in 1977, melodic contours, the signs of individualisation within the sound, gain a higher meaning.

Arnold Böcklin was of the opinion that his painting Isle of the Dead ought to radiate such a sense of calm that one would be startled were anyone to knock. Reger turns the contemplation into sonic shape – through a focused, inwardly directed music.

On different paths, both works lead to the centre-piece of the programme: Hanns Eisler’s Deutsche Sinfonie. This has the greatness of Brucknerian orchestral works without aspiring to their monumentality, the diversity of Shostakovich’s Fourteenth and consists, like Gustav Mahler’s work, of instrumental movements, vocal pieces and integrated cantatas. The Deutsche Sinfonie is an accompaniment to the historic events of the time of its creation (1935 to 1947, with an epilogue from 1957), which it projects onto the transparency of human history; it is a symphony in the emphatic sense of the classical tradition: as a universal musical genre – a reminder of the legacy of Beethoven, who conceived his symphonies as »public addresses to humanity« (Adorno). In the confrontation between person and power, it takes the side of the oppressed, those who are forced to adapt to mass conformity. What Eisler has to say, he does not only delegate to the texts, however important they are for the whole. The central places of reflection lie within the wordless passages – in particular the Allegro which, before the epilogue was composed later, was initially conceived as the final movement. The belated postscript documents the destiny of the work: it was not performed in the time, to which it responds. Today it seems like a burning-lens of history.

Concert Programme

Iannis Xenakis [1922–2001]
for large orchestra [1977]

Max Reger [1873–1916]
Die Toteninsel
from Vier Tondichtungen nach Arnold Böcklin op. 128
for orchestra [1913]

Hanns Eisler [1898–1962]
Deutsche Sinfonie
for solos, speakers, choir and orchestra op. 50 [1935–58]


Isabelle Voßkühler soprano
Christa Mayer mezzo soprano
Matthias Goerne baritone
Thorsten Grümbel bass
Sascha Glintenkamp, Axel Scheidig speakers

Rundfunkchor Berlin
Simon Halsey coach

Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Ingo Metzmacher conductor

An event of the DSO Berlin in cooperation with musikfest berlin | Berliner Festspiele