25 February 2020

Ultraschall Berlin: Nemtsov and Widmann

For a third time in a row, we attended a concert that was part of the Ultraschall Berlin festival for contemporary music. As usual, this festival is recorded and broadcast on radio, and as such, was held in the concert hall of Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg Studios in Charlottenburg. And again, since this concert featured two works from composers that I haven't heard of before, I was looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, there was a slight change in the program: due to illness, conductor Marc Albrecht couldn't appear, but thankfully, conductor Johannes Kalitzke was able to stand in for him. However, due to the short notice, one piece that was originally on the program couldn't be performed. Nevertheless, what we heard was still quite fascinating and overall I enjoyed it.

The first piece was dropped.drowned by Sarah Nemtsov. Nemtsov is a Berlin-based composer, and this 18-minute piece explored various tone colours that the orchestra is capable of. She also worked with spatial aspects of music, as there were two groups of musicians located in the back of the audience, in addition to the traditional stage. There were times when I heard sounds that I didn't realise an orchestra could make.

After the pause, the second piece was Jörg Widmann's Violin Concerto No. 2. It was performed by his sister, Carolin Widmann. It was an amazing piece, consisting of three movements. The first movement was unmistakably contemporary, featuring very interesting violin techniques. The second and third movements were quite a ride: some passages made me think that the orchestra was playing some variations of show tunes and other popular music, only to immediately turn and have a very contemporary switch. It definitely made listening to it very interesting and exciting, since I got the feeling that I didn't know where the music was heading. Its general unpredictability was very high, and was a very positive thing for me.

Overall, I enjoyed this concert, and gives me very good reason to always put this festival on my calendar. I would definitely try to attend again next year.

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