06 November 2015

SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra

I seem to attend a concert every time Musikfest Berlin happens, which is every September. This is a music festival that showcases plenty of modern music, even though old time favorites such as Beethoven still make the cut. Last year, I remember listening to Ensemblekollektiv Berlin playing pieces by Enno Poppe. This time, we listened to the SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra playing three orchestral pieces that blew my mind.

The first piece was actually just made for 6 pianos. However, it was a piece entitled Arc-en-ciel by Ivan Wyschnegradsky. This piece was about twenty minutes long, and is written for 6 pianos in twelfth tones, in 1956. It is a rather very modern sounding piece, and it was quite different, as I didn't expect the pianos to sound like that. Every piano had a different tuning, and basically, all 6 pianos functioned as one instrument.

The second piece was the one I liked the most. This was Georg Friedrich Haas' Limited Approximations for 6 pianos in twelfth tones and orchestra, written in 2010. I never imagined the orchestra would sound like that. The sound just kept evolving, getting larger and smaller and larger and smaller, changing every time, every second, every minute. It definitely showed the full possibility of the orchestra, and I was kept at the edge of my seat for the whole performance.

After the break, the orchestra performed Pelleas und Melisande by Arnold Schönberg, written in 1902. It is a symphonic poem, and is an example of one of Schönberg's tonal works. After all, he is known for the twelve-tone technique. Compared to the second piece, I didn't like it as much, but I can definitely see connections between this final piece and the two previous pieces, and the whole program definitely makes sense as a whole.

The orchestra played a sombre encore, and I unfortunately don't know the piece. It happens that the SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra is merging with another orchestra from Stuttgart, and therefore this concert was the last concert for them in the Musikfest Berlin. They happen to be a staunch supporter of this series, as evidenced by the numerous concerts they have played in the series, which was reproduced in my program. I glance at it and remark that the program is definitely heavy on the modern side, and I am a little disappointed that an orchestra that specializes in the avant-garde is going away.

Anyway, I think I have a new favorite orchestral piece. Try to listen to Limited Approximations online on YouTube for example and you'll see why.

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