Berlin-based Orchestras

Berliner Philharmoniker / Harding / Boder / Rattle

Tempelhof I

Past Dates

Flight paths

musikfest berlin 08 at Tempelhof Airport

The finale of musikfest berlin 08, presented by Berliner Festspiele. The Berlin Philharmonic, under its chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle – and colleagues Daniel Harding and Michael Boder – move to Hangar 2 at Tempelhof Airport, in the city centre. In Hangar 2, this giant 4200 m square, 18 m high, workshop for the Ars volandi, the old human dream of flying and the means of its realisation – the art of engineering – meet. Musicians too are visionaries and engineers. The medium of their art is that of flight: air. It is music that opens out the space between heaven and earth, that occupies it with sounds like flying objects, that sonically strides through it.

Just a few years after his studies in Paris, Messiaen’s former student Karlheinz Stockhausen composed Gruppen für drei Orchester – his epochal masterpiece, to which even Igor Stravinsky paid tribute. Beneath the last note of the score the then 30 year-old composer wrote »Deo gratias«, acknowledging, that he could only have accomplished this unique work with the help of another force. Gruppen cannot be performed in a concert hall of ordinary dimensions. For the world premiere – exactly 50 years ago – the three young composer-conductors Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna und Stockhausen opted for the Cologne exhibition halls. This change of venue would prove worth the making. All the people who experienced the world premiere back then agreed they had witnessed a music-historical event of the first rank. György Kurtág declared that »If Dostoevski said all literature comes from The Overcoat by Gogol, then all 20th-century music after 1950 comes from Gruppen by Stockhausen.«

Three orchestras are located on separate sides of the space, surrounding the audience in a semi-circle. Each, conducted by its own conductor, follows separate tempi. They connect and take their separate paths again; they accelerate and decelerate; they increase and decrease in intensity. The drama of the three orchestras in Stockhausen’s Gruppen takes »flight«, as a critic stated, like dynamic architecture, towards the sky; the to and fro sound events seeming to criss-cross on countless bridges of air.

Stockhausen composed Gruppen für drei Orchester in a Swiss village. The daily view on to the soaring panorama of the Alps imprinted itself in the architectonic shape of the piece. Olivier Messiaen also recalls in his score Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum that he had composed it in the high Alps – in the sight of »the great and solemn landscapes, that are my true home.« The work is designed for large spaces: churches, cathedrals, even open-air, surrounded by the alpine mountain masses. Like Stockhausen’s Gruppen, it pushes beyond the concert hall, transcending the majesty of the mountains, taking high flight. De profundis – from the depths, it rises and with a heavenly hymn, a cosmic chorale, it concludes.

Everything flies – ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

Concert Programme

Olivier Messiaen [1908–1992]
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum [1964]
for wind instruments, brass instruments and percussion

Karlheinz Stockhausen [1928–2007]
Gruppen für drei Orchester [1955–57] [1st performance]

Karlheinz Stockhausen
Gruppen für drei Orchester [2nd performance]


Berliner Philharmoniker
Daniel Harding Leitung [orchestra no. 3 at Gruppen]
Michael Boder Leitung [orchestra no. 1 at Gruppen]
Sir Simon Rattle Leitung

An event of musikfest berlin | Berliner Festspiele in cooperation with the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker.
With the support of the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung