Karajan-Akademie der Berliner Philharmoniker
Susanna Mälkki, conductor
For the first time at the Musikfest Berlin
The strength of this programme lies in its polarities: Grisey’s “Vier Gesänge, um die Schwelle zu überschreiten” moves both along the threshold of hearing and the existential threshold of death. Neuwirth’s “Aello”, in contrast, embodies a piece of vitality and beauty.
Touch down. The thread of French music (and music that it inspired) continued from the opening concert throughout the whole festival programme. With Gérard Grisey’s final work, completed only a few weeks before his death, it reaches its finale. Grisey, who explored the inner life of tones with the help of a computer and went on to apply the knowledge he gained this way in a creative manner, insisted that he composed not with notes but with tones, not with written but with aural shapes. “He viewed sound as a living creature, and time as its territory and atmosphere.” (Carsten Fastner) On the one hand, his “Vier Gesänge, um die Schwelle zu überschreiten” deal with the threshold (German: Schwelle) of hearing, because they retreat to the silent level of the concert hall (which is significantly higher than zero) in their interludes. But they also mean the existential threshold. As text-inspired musical meditations, they talk about notions of death and its inevitability. The music ends with a delicate lullaby “for the awakening of humankind, finally freed from its nightmare” (Grisey).
Before Grisey, the programme features the total opposite, the dissolution of boundaries towards history, to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, above all the Fourth with its concertising flutes. At times, the mythical, whirlwind-footed Aello, friend of humankind, resounds in Olga Neuwirth’s dialogue with and about Bach, at others, the typewriter in the ensemble sounds like the “divine sewing-machine” that the French writer Collette was occasionally reminded of when listening to Bach. “Aello” is a piece about vitality and beauty.