This month, contemporary music reigns supreme in over 100 venues across town. Here are some festivals and concerts not to miss.
With composers like Debussy, Dvořák and Mahler, Musikfest has lined up a fair share of classical heavyweights. It also goes back to the roots of 20th-century German avant-garde: Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays almost all of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s piano works in addition to a rendition of Inori by the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra (Sep 18). The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of upcoming Met conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin (photo) performs Sinfonie in einem Satz by Bernd Alois Zimmermann (Sep 2), whereas the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra stages Zimmermann’s final composition with German actor Josef Bierbichler giving voice to Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor (Sep 7). With Mathias Spahlinger’s passage/paysage, the Ensemble Modern dedicates one evening to a pioneering piece their conductor Enno Poppe aptly calls “our Sacre du Printemps” (Sep 3).
George Benjamin, this season’s Berlin Philharmonic composer in residence, turns to Ravel, Ligeti, Boulez and Schönberg in addition to his own compositions Palimpsests (Sep 8, 9), Shadowlines (Sep 9) and Into the Little Hill (Sep 12). The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin accompanies Abel Gance’s 2019 anti-war film J’accuse with a score composed by Philippe Schoeller (Sep 14).
For the second time, the avant-garde side of Musikfest is part of an entire Month of Contemporary Music, organized by the Initiative Neue Musik with 1500 musicians performing in over 100 venues. The Festival Imaginäre Musik features all kinds of prepared and self-made instruments (Sep 5-8) and, presenting some of the shortest pieces of the month, the International Sound Art Festival Berlin is all about fleeting moments (Sep 6-9). To round things off, the Dystopie Sound Art Festival presents a variety of sound installations tackling current political and social issues (Sep 21-30).