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75 years of musica viva

the programme of the musica viva 2020/21 jubillee season

Dear Friends of musica viva:

“The grande dame musica viva is alive and kicking … The future of classical music is here – where else?” Thus, a few years ago, one of Germany’s great dailies opined on its arts page regarding a musica viva concert with the BRSO. This year the famous concert series, Munich’s musical answer to MOMA, will turn 75. That it exists at all is the achievement of its founder and guiding spirit Karl Amadeus Hartmann, who gave it a vision pointing far into the future. That it still exists today is due to Bavarian Radio, which took the fledgling series under its wings in 1948 and allowed it to mature into an institution of great moment on the international stage. As Igor Stravinsky noted as far back as 1958, “The importance of musica viva in the cultural life of Munich is known to the whole world.” But the fact that the series has remained “alive and kicking” to the present day is the achievement of the fabled Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, which, together with the no less magnificent Bavarian Radio Chorus, has functioned as its fountain of youth. After all, it is their performances that breathe new life into the music, time and time again, and thus into the series itself.

And yet, of course, the newness comes from the composers who write for musica viva. To quote Karl Amadeus Hartmann, “Let music be a language for people of the present!” So with musica viva, let us put our faith in the composers of our time, on the invention and discovery of musical languages in all their variety! Things about them that might at first seem incomprehensible are an added bonus: incomprehension is, after all, the springboard to aesthetic perception.

Bavarian Radio’s musica viva will present six events in the coming 2020-21 season, with works by 15 composers, including six world premières. We will hear pieces by Ondřej Adámek [world première], Luciano Berio, Minas Borboudakis [world première], Chaya Czernowin [world première], Peter Eötvös [Munich première], Heiner Goebbels [Munich première], Gérard Grisey, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann [world première], György Ligeti, Liza Lim [world première], Isabel Mundry [European première], Tristan Murail, Nicolaus Richter de Vroe [world première] and Yann Robin [Munich première].

The new season will open with a guest appearance in Prince Regent’s Theatre from the Ensemble Modern Orchestra, who will bring to Munich a new concert-length orchestral work by Heiner Goebbels entitled A House of Call: My Imaginary Notebook. It’s a sort of “song cycle” with voices that this composer-director encountered and preserved in the imaginary notebook of the title. The work owes its existence to a joint initiative of the Berlin Music Festival and Ensemble Modern for Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, an initiative funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

Luciano Berio’s Voci (Folk Songs II) is likewise an imaginary cycle of songs – work songs, lullabies, folksongs and Sicilian love songs, all of which will be “sung” in October by violist Antoine Tamestit and the BRSO.

Then, in March, Magdalena Kožená and Sir Simon Rattle will give a first hearing to a new song cycle by Ondřej Adámek. Together with the BRSO they will perform Where are you ?, a work jointly commissioned by musica viva and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Berio’s Voci will be followed in turn by other new compositions for viola or violin and orchestra: Isabel Mundry’s Gesture with Nils Mönkemeyer (November concert), Peter Eötvös’s Alhambra Concerto with Kristof Baráti, and Nicolaus Richter de Vroe’s Violin Concerto with Ilya Gringolts. Further new works for orchestra will be supplied by Minas Borboudakis, Chaya Czernowin and Liza Lim.

Helmut Lachenmann’s My Melodies, for eight horns and orchestra, was premièred at musica viva in 2018, conducted by Peter Eötvös. It then received three repeat performances in Berlin by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. Now it will return to musica viva in April. This performance, too, can be called a première: the piece will be heard in its final form, equipped with an extensive cadenza for eight solo horns and additional orchestral interpolations – a fine opportunity to augment the performance with a CD release.

There’s another revival in the new musica viva programme. Two years ago an instrumental ensemble from the BRSO played Gérard Grisey’s late masterpiece Vortex Temporum to a small audience in Studio 1 of Bavarian Radio’s broadcasting centre. The result was an unmitigated triumph, and it was decided to present the work again to a large audience in April 2021. The combination with My Melodies on a single programme is only logical: the third movement of Vortex Temporum is dedicated to Lachenmann. The German romantic novelist Jean Paul coined a nice precept for reading that applies equally to listening: “Readers always believe that what they read in a single breath was written in a single breath. […] It is only fair to demand that things written five times, and rethought 100 times, should be read not once but twice.”

We wish to thank the Friends of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for their support in commissioning works from Chaya Czernowin and Nicolaus Richter de Vroe (June concert), as well as the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation for making possible the Ensemble Modern Orchestra’s guest appearance in Munich.

Wishing you much pleasure in the musica viva events of the 2020/21 Jubillee season.


Winrich Hopp
Artistic Director of Bavarian Radio’s musica viva

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