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Work of the Week – Carl Orff: Die Bernauerin

In celebration of Carl Orff’s 125th anniversary on 10 July 2020), Die Bernauerin was scheduled to be performed for the first time at the Orff Festival in a reduced version  by Paul Leonard Schäffer. This premiere has been postponed to 4 August 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic. What performance location could have been better suited to this ‘Bavarian piece’ than the Florian-Stadl in the Andechs monastery where Orff was buried in the
pilgrimage church?

‘I am an old Bavarian, born in Munich, and this city, this region and this landscape have given me a great deal and exerted a significant influence on my personality and works.’ (Carl Orff )

Carl Orff created a memorial for his homeland with his work Die Bernauerin which was influenced in equal parts by Friedrich Hebbel’s drama of the same name and by traditional songs. The composition presents the moving story of Agnes Bernauer who was married well above her status to Albrecht III of Bavaria in the 15th century. Orff undertook intensive studies to enable him to write his libretto in the authentic Bavarian language of that period. Text and music play an equally signifi cant role and the vernacular colouring highlights the onomatopoetic and rhythmic material of the dramatic form.

Illustration: Die Bernauerin, Staatsoper Stuttgart 1965 · Figurines by Liselotte Erler



Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Concerto noir redux

2020 is the 200th anniversary of the Berlin Konzerthaus, a concert hall that started life as a theatre. In celebration of this anniversary as part of Musikfest Berlin, Christian Tetzlaff will perform the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Christian Jost on 6 September. The concerto, entitled Concerto noir redux, will be accompanied by Konzerthausorchester Berlin and conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. 

Concerto noir redux was originally intended to bear the same title as his opera Journey of Hope – Voyage of Despair. However, after the cancellation of the original premiere in March 2020, Jost chose instead to make changes to the music in response to recent events.

Christian Jost – Concerto noir redux: music from the lockdown

The result was not only a smaller orchestra, necessitated by social distancing, but a work that expresses a darker character and soundworld. Concerto noir redux is now one of two versions of the work Concerto noir, each with the same solo part.

Usually, I compose with a clear idea of the musical structure and of the sounds, and therefore of the course of the resulting work. But this time it was different. There was an initial thought for the opening in which the solo violin gradually separates from unison with the first violins. From this starting point the work should virtually compose itself. The resulting single-movement concerto with a single tempo (quarter = 76 espressivo) is driven by rhythmic ‘cells’. I completed the composition more or less simultaneously with the end of the lockdown, and since this had given rise to a work with predominantly dark shades of colour and sound, I considered Concerto noir to be a perfect title. Christian Jost

Photos: Adobe Stock / lakkot, Joe Quiao


Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Dichterliebe

photo: Adobe Stock / Arman Zhenikeyev

These days, there is a renaissance of song recitals. Song cycles offer a welcome opportunity for concert or scenic events with a very limited number of persons involved. Either with piano accompaniment or arranged for ensemble, they gain popularity. A special project is planned to commence on 20 June at Staatstheater Darmstadt: Christian Jost’s Dichterliebe. Eight singers from the theatre will alternate in singing the vocal part of the cycle, the nine instrumentalists from the State Orchestra Darmstadt will play under the baton of Jan Croonenbroeck.  

The form of presentation is the special element of the project: It will be shown in front of a audience and online as a live concert with film, directed by Franziska Angerer, stating:

“Wir machen einen Film — was nicht heißt, dass wir das Theater damit ersetzen wollen. Ganz im Gegenteil: Ich glaube, es ist wichtig, dass wir die Leerstelle Theater auch als solche gelten lassen. Und auch wenn wir uns nun filmisch mit der „Dichterliebe“ auseinandersetzen, verwenden wir trotzdem theatrale Mittel. Gerade für dieses Projekt eignet sich das Medium Film an sich jedoch sehr gut. Der Komponist Christian Jost beschreibt seine Komposition als einen assoziativen Strom, der Schumanns und Heines Lieder wie Inseln in sich trägt und miteinander verwebt. Hierdurch entstehen viele Zwischenräume, die sich mit den Mitteln des Films wunderbar erschaffen lassen; man hat andere Möglichkeiten und Zeitlichkeiten als im Theater, was ganz wunderbar ist.”

Christian Jost – Dichterliebe: das Prinzip des Weiterdenkens

Dichterliebe was commissioned by the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Copenhagen Opera Festival, and received its world premiere at the Berlin Konzerthaus in 2017. The work is inspired by Robert Schumann’s well-known Dichterliebe op. 48 based on poems by Heinrich Heine. Jost’s reinterpretation changes and increases the cycle’s instrumentation, as well as doubling its length, effectively integrating Schumann’s romantic art song with his own modern style. The music is further supplemented by video sequences which provide a visual representation of the songs’ themes.

The 16 songs of Schumann’s cycle tell a sorrowful story of lost love. The singer’s expressions shift through pain, indifference, sorrow and joy, perhaps in a dream or perhaps reality. In Heine’s poems, the river Rhine acts as a symbol for this stream of emotions, and Jost’s songs also flow. The tenor seems to surface time and again out of the dense, wave-like instrumental accompaniment of legato ostinato, and the harmonies and melodies of Schumann’s composition are developed by Jost into a tonal stream. For example, the short motifs from Schumann’s piano accompaniment are expanded by Jost throughout the whole cycle with greater depth.

The four scheduled performances of Dichterliebe take place on 20, 27 and 28 June as well as 11 July. 

photo: Adobe Stock / Arman Zhenikeyev


Work of the week – Michael Tippett: Symphony in B-flat

On 1 February, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins presents Michael Tippett’s Symphony in B-flat at City Halls in Glasgow. The performance is the culmination of their multi-season Tippett Symphony cycle. Continue reading “Work of the week – Michael Tippett: Symphony in B-flat”


Work of the Week: Rodion Shchedrin – The Enchanted Wanderer

The Munich Philharmonic celebrates Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin’s 85th birthday with a concert performance of his opera The Enchanted Wanderer at the Philharmonie in Munich on 19 and 20 December with conductor Valery Gergiev. Continue reading “Work of the Week: Rodion Shchedrin – The Enchanted Wanderer”


Work of the Week: Aribert Reimann – Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht


With its images of spring and renewal, Aribert Reimann’s new song cycle for voice and string quartet will keep the cold at bay this winter. Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht was written for soprano Moja Erdmann and the Kuss Quartett who will give the world premiere on 14 December at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. Continue reading “Work of the Week: Aribert Reimann – Die schönen Augen der Frühlingsnacht”


Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Futari Shizuka

Toshio Hosokawa’s music straddles two cultures, with influences from traditional Japanese music and the world of European art music. This is evident in his new chamber opera, Futari Shizuka (The Two Shizukas), which will be premiered on 1 December at the Autumn Festival in Paris by Ensemble Intercontemporain with conductor Matthias Pintscher, soprano Kerstin Avemo and Nô performer Ryoko Aoki.

Continue reading “Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Futari Shizuka”