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Monday, September 25, 2023

Final concert at the music festival: Just save the world for a moment

It is clear that “business as usual” will no longer get you anywhere. There has to be a change, even in the concert hall. They tried it at the Berlin Music Festival.

The musicians of the Stegreif Orchestra in a circle on the stage of the chamber music hall

The Improvised Orchestra in the Chamber Music Hall Photo: Navina Neuschl

They just wanted to briefly save the world at the beginning of this week in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic, which is an honorable undertaking. After all, you still need the world.

As the hall slowly filled, the loudspeakers could be heard as if in a speech rehearsal: “What kind of future awaits us?” An adult voice asked the question, a child’s voice repeated clumsily: “What kind of future awaits us?” It went back and forth like this, and by now the hall was full except for just a few empty seats. Including the older people in the audience, and others too at the music festival concerts could be seen – the evening with the Stegreif Orchestra was the conclusion of the event Berlin festivals. But there are also a lot of younger people, young people, styled in smaller black clothes or casual in a polo shirt.

In other words, the young talent that the classical music industry urgently needs. “Future,” it blared from the loudspeakers, or actually “Kufunft,” the musicians of the Stegreif orchestra spread across the stands let the first groping tones drip into the hall, there was a creaking and clicking noise on the strings, a cello that was destroyed in the process was paraded around like a monstrance, the music swelled into a maelstrom from which medieval singing finally emerged. The singers walked in a procession through the rows of chairs onto the stage, led by a woman with a potted plant.

This probably had to serve for nature in general, which was also to be discussed that evening by the Stegreif Orchestra in its “Symphony of Change” alongside the works of four female composers – Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), Wilhelmine of Bayreuth (1709 -1758), Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) and Clara Schumann (1819-1896) – which the ensemble once again crunched through compositionally and garnished with plenty of other musical material.

Interfering noises in between

There was also a lot of disruptive noise at times, and everyone was running wildly around in the chamber music hall, only the audience, of course, remained seated; And the young musicians of the orchestra were already forming a new image, in a new game, for example when pleasant baroque music was collaged with normal, present-day horror reports coming from the loudspeakers.

And later the audience who had remained seated got their turn to join in and were allowed to pass large empty cardboard boxes through the rows, which – of course – turned into a percussive interlude. Something was always happening in this theatrical production, with music as a resource, passed around as a show value. There was classical music with an easy-listening touch, there was klezmer, there was a lot of rocking and there was jazz.

So much conviviality aimed at the poor, it tasted like a confirmation camp: youthful community and a lot of good will, the unconditional will to believe and also the megalomania of measuring the whole big world in terms of oneself.

So, musically, people staggered through time away from the Middle Ages

The music was ultimately pumped up with a lot of programming. The big questions of our time. The evening was advertised with the fact that in this “Symphony of Change” “the 17 global goals for sustainable development of the United Nations are prominently woven into the events on and off the stage. And the aim of the Stegreif Orchestra is also to “show new ways of what an orchestra can look like today”. Kufuft? Oh yes.

So musically we staggered through the ages away from the Middle Ages and somehow it always sounded the same smoothed out way. There was no question of it being an improvised impromptu move, as everything was rehearsed in the process. There was cheering applause and a standing ovation. But they also really tried hard with the Orchestra Impromptu. But that may not be enough to save the world.

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