23 March 2018

Ultraschall Berlin: Šenk, Mantovani, Haas, and Andre

Back in January, we had an opportunity to attend a concert that was part of Ultraschall Berlin, a modern music festival. This series of events was also broadcast live on the radio. The venue was in the concert hall that is part of the Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg studios. As this was a program featuring composers with names I haven't even encountered before, and music I have no experience with, I was looking forward to it.

There was a moderator, and since it was a live event, they did a few short interviews with the performers. It also gave some background to the music that was to be performed that night. The first piece they played was Echo II (2010) by Nina Šenk, a short 6-minute piece that was full of tension and excitement. It was followed by Bruno Mantovani's Love Songs (2015), written for flute and orchestra. This piece definitely pushed some boundaries when it comes to what types of sounds a flute can make. And it was also very dramatic, contrary to what the title might imply.

After the intermission, they played the Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (2015) by Georg Friedrich Haas. Haas is my favourite composer, and this piece definitely shows elements of his style, but I must say it is not his most typical work. The use of microtones and glissandos are reminiscent of the other works I have heard, but this piece surprisingly sounds more traditional than modern. Nevertheless I think I do like it.

The final piece was Mark Andre's woher ... wohin (2015), a collection of 7 small vignettes of very non-traditional music. This piece confused me, as it definitely pushed the boundaries of what music should be. Some sections required performers to make sounds by disturbing the papers, others had to play their violins using their credit cards, and other times the brass players had to blow through their instruments in very unconventional ways. I must say there were instances in which I didn't understand what was happening. Then again, this is contemporary music, and sometimes elements that one doesn't understand show up every now and then.

Overall we had fun. It was a very interesting evening, and it shows how varied Berlin's cultural offerings are.

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