Late Night at the Philharmonie
Orchestra Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Sir Simon Rattle
Georg Friedrich Haas set out early on to follow in the footsteps of Ivan Wyschnegradsky and Alois Hábas by grappling with microtonal music. “I became aware early,” says the composer, who was born in Graz in 1953, “that every pitch that the piano offers me, to put it in bold terms, does not constitute the totality of musically reasonable, usable pitches.”
The sensual allure of the varied sound, experimentation with overtone harmonies, and layering of acoustic beats are central moments with which Haas creates his magical worlds of sound – a kind of music about which one can hardly believe it is not produced with electronic instruments. Even the “normally” tempered beginning of his ensemble piece in vain from 2000 is almost imperceptibly overlaid by partial tones, giving rise very gradually to a fascinating counter-world to the uniform semi-tones of the usual tempered tuning system.
For the scholars of the Orchestra Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker who are being led to unfamiliar territory, performing the work amounts to a special challenge. But the audience too can no longer refer to familiar listening coordinates – particularly because Haas repeatedly creates fluctuating sound spirals which mislead you tonally. The result is music from many perspectives that in some sense resembles Maurits Escher’s lithography – one has only to think of those staircases where the upper and the lower ends are connected to each other.