Musikfest Berlin

Save the date!

Musikfest Berlin 2024

Save the Date! Musikfest Berlin 2024 will take place from 24 August to 17 September 2024.

Musikfest Berlin 2023


Musikfest Berlin 2023

© Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin

Works by Gustav Mahler and Sergei Rachmaninoff, from Johann Sebastian Bach to Unsuk Chin

From 26 August to 18 September 2023 a new season in Berlin’s concert calendar will be launched by Musikfest Berlin, produced by the Berliner Festspiele in co-operation with the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. In 28 events, over 60 works by some 45 composers will be presented in the Philharmonie Berlin, in its Chamber Music Hall and in the Gethsemane Church, performed by 25 instrumental and vocal ensembles and over 50 soloists from Berlin and around the world.

The highlights of its broad programme ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach through Gustav Mahler and Sergei Rachmaninoff to Unsuk Chin also include a concert performance of Hector Berlioz’s monumental opera “Les Troyens” conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.

John Eliot Gardiner, the doyen of historically informed performance practice, celebrates his 80th birthday this year. With this exclusive German guest performance by his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, the Monteverdi Choir and a cast of outstanding soloists, a genuine rarity comes to the stage of the Philharmonie Berlin: Berlioz’s operatic opus summum “Les Troyens”. The opera, which the composer never saw staged in its entirety, has only ever been performed in Berlin twice before: in 1930 and in 2010. However, with John Eliot Gardiner and his ensembles, the work will be presented in Berlin for the first time as it was originally intended to be heard – in what might be called the “composer’s cut”.

This commitment to historically informed performance is shared by Collegium Vocale Gent, which – together with its orchestra and under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe – brings Johann Sebastian Bach’s opus ultimum, the Mass in B minor, to Berlin, and the RIAS Kammerchor Berlin, founded 75 years ago, which will perform Joseph Haydn’s “Missa in tempore belli” with its Chief Conductor Justin Doyle and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

2023 is also an anniversary year for the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, which was founded 100 years ago with the first “Berlin Radio Hour” which marked the birth of Germany’s first public radio station. And the Bayerisches Staatsorchester can now look back on a 500-year history. Both orchestras perform at Musikfest Berlin under the baton of the Chief Conductor they share, Vladimir Jurowski.

Sir George Benjamin has been honoured with the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 2023 by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation. The British composer and conductor will appear at Musikfest Berlin in two concerts by the Ensemble Modern that present the leading international ensemble for contemporary music in two configurations: as an ensemble in the Chamber Music Hall, and as a large-scale orchestra in the Main Hall of the Philharmonie Berlin. Its evolution into a comprehensive orchestra is one of the fruits of the International Ensemble Modern Academy that was founded twenty years ago: numerous alumni of this respected course are now working around the world and repeatedly come back together for special large-scale projects such as this.

The pianist Alexander Melnikov – as well as contributing chamber music in recognition of the Rachmaninoff Year 2023 – is joined by the B’Rock Orchestra from Ghent in Belgium that shares the enthusiasm for historically informed performances in offering a special academy aimed at visitors to Musikfest Berlin: in a matinee in the Chamber Music Hall entitled “Listener’s Academy”, the pianist and the musicians of the orchestra break down Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto into its constituent parts before the listeners’ ears, explaining and demonstrating what holds the composition together at its heart and what and how the musicians hear while they are performing the work.

Our international guest ensembles include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with Iván Fischer, the London Symphony Orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle and the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Andris Nelsons. Lahav Shani makes his first guest appearance at Musikfest Berlin as the new Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. And there are also debuts from Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, who visits with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Joana Mallwitz in her role as the new Chief Conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and finally Jörg Widmann, who is present in three different capacities in his concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker: as a conductor, clarinetist and composer.

In addition to the great classics of the repertoire and of the 20th century, among which special emphasis is given to works by the composers Gustav Mahler und Sergei Rachmaninoff, the festival programme is also open to music of our own time, presenting works by Thomas Adès, Julia Adolphe, Dieter Ammann, George Benjamin, Unsuk Chin, Donnacha Dennehy, Francesco Filidei, Saed Haddad, Márton Illés, Elizabeth Ogonek, Betty Olivero and Victoria Vita Polevá.

Lastly, the world premiere of a new work by Wolfgang von Schweinitz leads us from the world of the present into that of traditional Persian music. Von Schweinitz’s compositions have had a decisive influence on the “just intonation” movement. In “My Persia” he shows a particular interest in the special tunings of the dastgāhs (modes) of the radif – that are the cultural legacy of ancient Persian music, whose centuries-old microtonality he charts polyphonically. The world premiere of “My Persia” will be complemented in the second section of the concert on 15 September by a performance by the Berlin-based tār and setār virtuoso Majeed Qadiani, whose improvised playing will present the dastgāhs of the radif in their centuries-old beauty and artistry.

On 16 September a second concert devoted to classical Persian music features a guest performance by the Māhbānoo Ensemble, founded and directed by the tār and setār maestro Majid Derakhshāni. The name of the ensemble perfectly describes its policy: “bānoo” means “lady” and the ensemble is made up entirely of female musicians. It is forbidden to perform in public in Iran, which has not prevented its studio recordings being distributed online. After concerts in neighbouring European countries and a few private performances here, the Māhbānoo Ensemble now makes its public debut in Germany at Musikfest Berlin.

Together with our colleagues at the Berliner Festspiele and the Musikfest Berlin team, we would like to thank all the participating artists and institutions, our co-operation partner and host the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and its General Manager, Andrea Zietzschmann, our partner orchestras based in Berlin for their excellent collaboration, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation for funding the concerts with George Benjamin, Bahar Roshanai from the Körber-Stiftung for working with us on the programmes of Persian music, and finally the Minister of State for Culture and the Media, Claudia Roth, for funding Berliner Festspiele’s Musikfest Berlin.

We hope you enjoy visiting the events of Musikfest Berlin 2023.

Matthias Pees (Director of Berliner Festspiele) & Winrich Hopp (Artistic Director of Musikfest Berlin)

Musikfest Berlin in the Media Library

You can listen to some of our events this year digitally in the Berliner Festspiele Media Library after the live concerts. In addition, On Demand offers from past years are available.

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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.