Sir George Benjamin, conductor
Benjamin | Rihm
The Ensemble Modern is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. At Musikfest Berlin, it will present a concert evening with two familiar figures: the composer George Benjamin, with whom the ensemble has enjoyed a long collaboration for decades, and Wolfgang Rihm, whose work in progress “Jagden und Formen” premiered 12 years ago. At that time, “Jagden und Formen” was still a manageable score, which over the years has developed into a gigantic work landscape lasting one hour.
The for decades internationally renowned Ensemble Modern is based in Frankfurt and was founded exactly 40 years ago by a group of students of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie who followed the ideal of grassroots democratic cooperation without a conductor. Today, the ensemble unites 18 soloists of the most diverse origins and hosts an academy for the promotion of young artists. The musicians’ repertoire comprises numerous works from the fields of music theatre, chamber music, orchestral music, dance and video projects, which they have performed in front of audiences internationally. This is also true for the works of this concert evening, with which they have repeatedly dealt with in various collaborations and constellations. “At First Light” by George Benjamin, with whom the ensemble has enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration in terms of composition and conducting, was composed when the ensemble was still on its way to international fame. Inspired by a late painting by William Turner, George Benjamin was interested in “melting firmly defined objects – musical phrases, for example” and transforming them into a flow of sound with all its wonders and pitfalls.
This project comes very close to Wolfgang Rihm’s ideal of a “musique fleuve”. His “Jagden und Formen”, a work in progress, whose first phase of creation took place between 1995 and 2001, was premiered by Ensemble Modern in 2001, which also performed the premiere of the final version in 2008. “I keep opening up sluices and digging valleys so that all this can flow together; I am, so to speak, the gardener of this work landscape. Composing is an organic process for me. It is based on the idea that something is always being pushed forward and thereby generates something new.” (Wolfgang Rihm) Just as the composer wrote, rewrote and overwrote the hour-long piece in several stages and layers, the ensemble continues to develop the auditory form through new experiences and insights. In this “journey through work landscapes” (Barbara Zuber), which at times escalates into frenzy, but also knows ways of quiet sensitivity, the Concerto for Orchestra is transformed into a great dance, which becomes vivid and remains imaginary at the same time.