Musikfest Berlin

Musikfest Berlin 2024

Concept/Design: 3pc

© Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin


From 24 August to 18 September 2024 Berlin’s new concert season begins with the 20th edition of Musikfest Berlin, presented by Berliner Festspiele in co-operation with the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. In around 40 concerts in the Philharmonie, its Chamber Music Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin and St. Matthew’s Church, over 160 works by more than 80 different composers will be performed by 30 ensembles and some 60 soloists from Berlin and around the world.  

Popular music from jazz to hip-hop has characterised the faces of many different Americas. However, to a broader public or even amongst lovers of “classical” music, the art music of the USA, the American double continent or its three regions (North, Central and South America) remains largely unknown territory. The 20th edition of Musikfest Berlin is called “Amériques”: the extravagant plural  title of Edgard Varèse’s powerful orchestral piece from 1921, that used contemporary and as yet unheard sounds in an attempt to offer listeners a musical experience and sense of the utopia of endless possibilities offered by the New World. However, the luggage that this composer, who was born in Burgundy, championed during his time in Berlin by Romain Rolland, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Richard Strauss and Ferruccio Busoni and then emigrated during the First World War, took with him to the New World was filled with the accumulated tradition of old Europe.  

2024 is not only the year of a US Presidential election, it also marks the double anniversary of Charles Ives and Arnold Schönberg, who were born in the same year – 1874 – and died only a few years apart. Schönberg, who was forced to emigrate to the USA after the Nazis seized power, is still recognised by many today as the composer who fundamentally changed the “language” of European art music in order to extend its tradition. And Charles Ives, who first travelled Europe when he was no longer composing, is regarded as the no less innovative founding father and first main figure of an original art music whose identity is independent of old Europe: American – or, to be more precise, North American – modernism.

The programme of the upcoming festival goes beyond this – oft repeated – narrative of modernism to pay special attention to the works of America’s female composers, for example in the three portrait concerts with the Ensemble Modern dedicated to the complete works of Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953). Her music is programmed in combination with works by Johanna Beyer (who was born in Leipzig in 1888 and emigrated to the USA in 1923), the Cuban-born grande dame of contemporary American music Tania León (born in 1943) and the Californian Katherine Balch (born in 1991). There will also be opportunities to hear works by the American composers Allison Loggins-Hull (Cleveland Orchestra) and Missy Mazzoli (Berliner Philharmoniker), 7 and 8 September.

Above all, however, on 24 August – the opening day of Musikfest Berlin, South American and North American modernism meet with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, while the orchestra’s big band follows this with a late-night concert of “música popular brasileira.” The BigBand of Deutsche Oper Berlin – in common with the Brazilian formation, it was also founded by musicians from the symphony orchestra – responds to this at the end of the festival, on 16 September, with an evening commemorating Duke Ellington.

The so-called “discovery” of America is also a crime against humanity - one that took place in the Atlantic as well as on land: the slave trade operating in the triangle between Europe, Africa and the “Americas” has shaped the world and had an enduring influence on musical history. In the project “Un mar de músicas” the grand seigneur of historically informed performance practice and expert on global musical history across the continents Jordi Savall will be joined by his two ensembles Tembembe Ensemble Continuo and La Capella Reial de Catalunya as well as guest musicians from Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Mali, Venezuela and Mexiko for a dialogue of reciprocal influences between the European Baroque and the songs of the slaves between 1440 and 1880. They are spanning a musical net over the Black Atlantic, from the coast of Africa to the coast of America, the Caribbean and back to Europe. 

The international guest orchestras at this year’s Musikfest Berlin include the Cleveland Orchestra with Franz Welser-Möst, the Kansas City Symphony with Matthias Pintscher, the Oslo Philharmonic with Klaus Mäkelä, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Sir Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic with Christian Thielemann. The Filarmonica della Scala’s concert with its Chief Conductor Riccardo Chailly at Musikfest Berlin 2024 forms part of the programme of events “Roots in the Future” to celebrate Italy as the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2024. 

Together with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the orchestras based in Berlin, the visiting ensembles present a programme that matches our focus on America with a comprehensive panorama of European music: from the music of the Renaissance to the classics of the grand repertoire, to Gustav Mahler, Antonín Dvořák and Dmitri Shostakovich; from those with anniversaries this year – Anton Bruckner, Arnold Schönberg and Luigi Nono – to the composers of our time, to Isabel Mundry, to who features in a three-concert portrait, to Einojuhani Rautavaara and Wolfgang Rihm. And we also remember the composers who have gone from us: Kaija Saariaho, Aribert Reimann and Peter Eötvös. Finally, Anna Prohaska, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Isabelle Faust and the instrumentalists of the Berliner Philharmoniker will provide a series of chamber music delicacies.  

Together with our colleagues at Berliner Festspiele and the Musikfest Berlin team we would like to thank all the participating artists and institutions, our hosts and co-operation partners the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and its Managing Director Andrea Zietzschmann and our partner orchestras based in Berlin for their excellent teamwork, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation for sponsoring the Isabel Mundry portrait concerts, the Capital Cultural Fund for funding the guest concerts from São Paulo, by Jordi Savall and the Ruth Crawford Seeger portrait concerts with the Ensemble Modern curated by Hermann Kretschmar, and finally the Federal Governmnet Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Minister of State Claudia Roth, for funding the Berliner Festspiele’s Musikfest Berlin.

We hope you will very much enjoy Musikfest Berlin 2024

About Musikfest Berlin

Musikfest Berlin sees itself as a forum for the innovative creative work carried out by large-scale orchestras and ensembles in the genre of classical and modern music. It presents an ambitious festival programme with alternating focal points.

More Berliner Festspiele