Pierre Boulez meets Igor Stravinsky
Emmanuel Pahud, Barbara Hannigan
... explosante-fixe ... for flute with live-electronics, two flutes and ensemble (00:40:56)
Emmanuel Pahud Flute, Marion Ralincourt Flute, Mitglieder des IRCAM Paris Sound Direction, Sophie Cherrier Flute
The Nightingale concert performance (00:55:34)
Rundfunkchor Berlin (Tenants), Simon Halsey Chorus Master, Julia Faylenbogen Mezzo-Soprano (Death), Barbara Hannigan Soprano (Nightingale), Edgaras Montvidas Tenor (Fisherman), Stephanie Weiss Mezzo-Soprano (Cook), Peter Rose Bass (Bonze), Roman Trekel Baritone (Emperor of China), Jan Remmers Tenor (Japanese Ambassador), Georg Zeppenfeld Bass (Chamberlain), Wolfram Teßmer Baritone (Japanese Ambassador)
Pierre Boulez in conversation with Emmanuel Pahud (00:17:33)
Pierre Boulez has set standards as a conductor of the music of Stravinsky. But his own works were also profoundly influenced by the elder composer, who for his part, had great respect for the first compositions of his younger colleague. The interrelationships between these two doyens of modern music are revealed in this concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Boulez.
Boulez’s ... explosante fixe ... was composed as an homage to Stravinsky, following his death in April 1971. It was actually intended simply to mark out the framework for a free improvisation, but over the years, ... explosante fixe ... developed into a sophisticated composition, with electronic music playing an increasingly important role. As technology has advanced, this role has become ever more refined, culminating in this version from the 1990s. One solo flute is connected to a computer through a MIDI system, so that the electronics react almost spontaneously to the flute, played here by Emmanuel Pahud.
Just like ... explosante fixe ..., Stravinsky’s opera Le Rossignol also had a long development process. The first act of this operatic version of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale still belongs to the musical world of Rimsky-Korsakov and Debussy. Stravinsky then set the manuscript aside in order to discover his own revolutionary musical language in the ballets The Firebird and Le Sacre du printemps, which ultimately influenced the last two acts of Le Rossignol. Pierre Boulez was totally fascinated by this new idiom when he first heard a radio broadcast of the opera in 1942 – his first encounter with the works of Stravinsky and the beginning of a lifelong admiration.
Transformation and Metamorphosis
Boulez’s … explosante-fixe … and Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol
Igor Stravinsky occupies a prominent position in Pierre Boulez’s musical pantheon. In the 1940s, then still a young composer, Boulez composed his first works, which testify to the impact of Stravinsky’s ballets and the music of the Second Viennese School. Beginning with his path-breaking 1951 essay on Le Sacre du printemps, Boulez has been preoccupied as a theoretician of music with the compositional procedures out this important innovator, while as a conductor, commentator, and teacher, he remains a powerful advocate for Stravinsky’s œuvre. Conversely, Stravinsky took an interest in the compositional innovations of his French colleague, 43 years younger than himself: »He was always keenly interested in knowing what composers of my generation were up to,« recalls Boulez.
… explosante-fixe …
On 6 April 1971, Igor Stravinsky died in New York City at the age of 88. In keeping with the old tradition of the musical “tombeau” an English-language music review requested a series of brief pieces from various composers, to be published under the title Canons and Epitaphs – In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky. Among the 16 composers who responded to this request was Pierre Boulez. In its original form, his Stravinsky homage takes the form of set of instructions for improvisation. It consists of a one-page musical sketch and six pages of notations prescribing various realisations. At the center of the sheet of music, the composer notated a sequence of seven pitches, entitled Originel. From this melodic formula, Boulez then derived six different Transitoires, which are clustered in a circular arrangement around the center of the page: each takes up the material presented in Originel, expanding it progressively via additional layers. Boulez borrowed the title of his Stravinsky homage, … explosante-fixe …, from André Breton’s novel L’Amour fou.
In subsequent years, … explosante-fixe ... served Boulez as the germinal cell for a series of works. In 1972, in addition to a version for three instruments, he realised another for eight instruments and live electronics. Before long, the level of technological development prevailing at that time prompted the composer to withdraw this version. In 1985, still exploiting … explosante-fixe … as a musical seedling, Boulez composed Mémoriale for flute and eight instruments. Here, he does without live electronics, but by the early 1990s, the time seemed ripe for this project – whose inception now lay two decades in the past – to be realised on a larger scale.
The current version of … explosante-fixe ... for solo flute, live electronics, two additional flutes, and ensemble, was composed between 1991 and 1993. It is based on three segments from the original sketch: Transitoire VII, Transitoire V, and Originel, elaborated now by Boulez into a work lasting approximately 35 minutes. Functioning as connective links between the individual parts are short, purely electronic interludes (Interstitiels). The instrumentation corresponds to the forces of Ensemble intercontemporain, founded by Boulez in 1976. The solo flute – supported by two additional flutes which also have soloistic functions – is juxtaposed against an ensemble of 22 instruments (consisting of seven woodwinds, seven brass instruments, and seven strings).
Electronic resources have allowed Boulez to cautiously expand and enrich the sonic world of … explosante-fixe … : »I can, for example, employ microintervals which cannot be produced by conventional instruments, and can modify the sound spectrum in ways that would be impossible without the deployment of electronics. … In this way, one can exceed the limits of an instrument, yet without replacing its gestural quality. For me, the gestural quality of an instrumentalist is absolutely necessary. … What interests me about live electronics is the interaction between player and technology – the modification of gesture through non-gestural processes.«
This interaction is facilitated by so-called »score follower« technology: processes of electronic sound transformation are guided by the solo flute, which is connected to a computer via the MIDI system. The instrumentalist, then, is master of the shaping of musical time, and need not subordinate his or her performance to the constraints of the technology.
Le Rossignol (The Nightingale) occupies an exceptional place within Igor Stravinsky’s œuvre. Not unlike Boulez’s… explosante fixe … , this work resulted from an extraordinarily involved, multiphase compositional process. The origins of Le Rossignol can be traced all the way back to Stravinsky’s St. Petersburg years. In autumn of 1908, having proven himself through a series of orchestral works, the 26-year-old composer turned toward the genre of opera. A fairy tale by the Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen provided him with an ideal subject: the tale of a nightingale whose song had the power to soften even Death himself seemed virtually predestined for a musical realisation. One year later, Stravinsky received a commission to compose the music for a new work by the Ballets russes. The Nightingale – which existed up until this point only as a first act – was pushed aside in favor of the Firebird …
After the spectacular premiere of the Firebird in June 1910, Stravinsky underwent a far-reaching stylistic development, becoming a seminal leader of European modernism. Given his growing aversion toward opera in its traditional forms, no one would have been surprised had Stravinsky laid aside the Nightingale project indefinitely. As it happens, a lucrative commission from the Free Theater in Moscow succeeded in changing his mind, and the two missing acts were composed between summer of 1913 and spring of 1914.
»As there is no action until the second act, I told myself that it would not be unreasonable if the music of the prologue bore a somewhat different character from that of the rest«, Stravinsky wrote later in his Autobiography. »The forest, with its nightingale … could not be expressed in the same way as the baroque luxury of the Chinese court, with its bizarre etiquette, its palace fetes, its thousands of little bells and lanterns, and the grotesque humming of the mechanical nightingale … in short, all this exotic fantasy, obviously demanded a different musical idiom.«
And in fact, Act One does inhabit a different sound world from the remainder of the piece, composed four years later. The expressive tonal language, pointillist textures, and virtuosic orchestration of the first act betray the unmistakable influence of Rimsky-Korsakov and Debussy. The musical language of the second and third acts, in contrast, extend the achievements of Le Sacre: the world of the imperial court is set to music that is characterised by bizarre instrumentation and an ingenious play with pentatonic structures as a sort of »fausse chinoiserie.«
Boulez has characterised Stravinsky’s piece as follows: »Musically, Chinese automatically means pentatonic. This is essentially a cliché. … Stravinsky exploits this cliché in a sophisticated fashion. … In order to make it really interesting, he structures it for his own purposes, incorporating elements that do not belong to the language, treating everything allusively. This has nothing to do with real Chinese music, pentatonicism is simply a symbol for China, and he uses it just like the Russian elements found in Petrushka.«
A musical bridge between the disparate sections of the Nightingale score is formed by the Fisherman’s Song: heard at the beginning and end of Act One, it resurfaces as well in modified form at the close of Acts Two and Three. Both at the level of the action as well as musically, the herald of the nightingale – a figure who exists in close proximity to nature – provides a larger sense of coherency and continuity.
Translation: Ian Pepper
Pierre Boulez, the French composer, pianist, conductor and theorist, was born in Montbrison, Loire on 26 March 1925. First studying science in Paris, he decided in 1943 to study composition. His teachers included Olivier Messiaen, René Leibowitz and Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger, the wife of Arthur Honegger. After starting his career as a conductor in the mid-1940s, he founded the ensemble Domaine Musical in 1955 and also began teaching at the International Summer Course for New Music Darmstadt in the same year. This was followed by further periods as a conductor with, among others, the Südwestfunkorchester Baden-Baden, the Bayreuth Festival (where his Parsifal won him world-wide acclaim in 1966), and the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1971 he became principal conductor of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In the mid-70s he founded the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris and became president of the Ensemble intercontemporain which was formed at the same time. Pierre Boulez is an author of many books and essays on music. He has received many awards including the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize (1977), the French National Award of Merit (1980), the Swedish Polar Music Prize (1996) and the Kyoto Prize (2009). Boulez has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker many times since his debut in 1961; in 2005 the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker honoured him on the occasion of his 80th bithday with a performance of his work Répons in the Kammermusiksaal of the Philharmonie with the composer as sound director. He most recently conducted the orchestra in July 2009 at their guest appearances in Aix-en-Provence.
Emmanuel Pahud, born in Geneva, received his first flute lessons in Rome when he was six years old. He later studied in Brussels, then in Paris under Michel Debost and also in Basel under Aurèle Nicolet. Pahud has been the winner of many important international competitions. He gained his orchestral experience as principal flautist with the Basel Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic before coming to the Berliner Philharmoniker as principal flautist in 1993. After a period teaching at the Geneva Conservatoire, Emmanuel Pahud returned to the Philharmoniker in 2002. As a soloist he has performed with the world’s leading orchestras – he was to be heard most recently with the Berliner Philharmoniker performing Elliot Carter’s flute concerto in June 2009 – as well as a performer of chamber music in various duos and larger chamber ensembles. Emmanuel Pahud has won major prizes for his many recordings and was awarded the “Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Minister of Culture in June 2009.
Sophie Cherrier studied under Jacques Mule at the Conservatoire in Nancy and at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse in Paris, where she graduated with honours in flute, which she studied under Alain Marion, and in chamber music, under Christian Lardé. She has been a member of the Ensemble intercontemporain since 1979. Sophie Cherrier has participated in many premieres including Mémoriale by Pierre Boulez and Esprit rude/Esprit doux by Elliott Carter; she has also made recordings of many contemporary pieces, including works by Berio, Boulez and Adès. The winner of the Jean-Pierre Rampal Flute Competition in 1981, she performs as a soloist with orchestras such as the Hallé Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the London Sinfonietta. She has been teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris since 1998 and holds masterclasses all over the world. In January 2007, as a guest of the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker, she was to be heard in a concert of chamber music with Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
Marion Ralincourt began studying flute at the Conservatoire de Paris under Sophie Cherrier and Vincent Lucas in 2000, and graduated in 2007. In 2009 she completed her musical education attending chamber music classes by David Walter. She also attended these classes with her harp duo “Harpeole” which she founded together with the harpist Lucie Marical. Her awards include winning first prize in 2004 at the “Festival d’Automne des Jeunes Interprètes” and also a first prize in 2005 at the International Competition in Krakow for her interpretation of Penderecki’s Flute Concerto. As a soloist, she has performed with the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra and at major music festivals in France. She has also played in the Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Tours, the chamber orchestra Les Siècles and in the Ensemble Court-Circuit. She has worked with conductors such as Jacques Mercier, Michael Gielen, Yutaka Sado and Jonathan Nott. This will be her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
The IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) was founded by Pierre Boulez in Paris in 1970 and opened in 1977. Under the authority of the French Ministry of Culture, it is part of the Pompidou Centre and brings together both scientists and composers dedicated to the research and production of music, all under one roof. The IRCAM carries out research into how mathematics, acoustics and technology can contribute to music production. Scientists and composers regularly work together in the institute’s studios; many of the musical productions that result from this collaboration are presented to the public at IRCAM’s own events and on international tours. The IRCAM also offers a variety of courses, including a Masters degree in science and technology and a one-year course in composition and technology. Every June the institute organises its own festival Agora – Résonances which places music in relation to other artistic disciplines and offers the scientific community a platform for the exchange of ideas. Frank Madlener has directed the institute since 2006.
Andrew Gerzso, born in Mexico City, studied flute and composition in Boston, Los Angeles and The Hague. He has been a permanent member of staff at IRCAM since 1977. In this time, he has held the positions of, among others, Technical Director, Director of Musical Research, Director of the Production Department as well as founder and manager of the IRCAM Forum, the institute’s software user group. Since 1980, he has worked closely together with Pierre Boulez: not only at the IRCAM, where he was responsible for the electro-acoustic realisation in performances of Boulez’ works Repons (1981), Dialogue de l’Ombre Double (1985), ... explosante-fixe ... (1991) and Anthèmes 2 (1997), but also until 1995 at the annual seminars at the Collège de France. Andrew Gerzso has also written many articles about computer music for renowned publications. He has already performed with the Berliner Philharmoniker, in October 2005, when he took part in the concert celebrating the 80th birthday of Pierre Boulez.
Gilbert Nouno, cellist and composer, has made a name for himself as a musician and interpreter in performances of works from the classical repertoire as well as jazz and improvised music. His scientific training took him to the IRCAM in Paris where he wrote and produced the electronic music parts for a series of works together with artists, musicians and composers. Among the artists he has already worked with are Michael Obst, Kaija Saariaho, Philippe Schoeller, Michael Jarrell, Sandeep Bhagwati, Marc Monnet, Brian Ferneyhough, Steve Coleman and Jonathan Harvey. As a guest at the Villa Kujoyama in 2007, he received an award for his music project. His most recent works for orchestra and solo instruments were given premieres in Paris and Tel Aviv. Together with the Arditti Quartet, he took part in the performance of Harvey’s String Quartet No. 4 with live electronics in a concert of the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker in September 2006.
Ian Bostridge decided on a career in singing after studying history and philosophy at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Following his debut recital in the Wigmore Hall, London, in 1995, he has become a much celebrated lieder and concert performer on the international music scene. He made his operatic debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994, singing the role of Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; further stage roles in the works of Britten, Strauss, Monteverdi, Mozart and Smetana as well as in staged performances of Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared soon followed. He premiered Hans Werner Henze’s song cycle Sechs Gesänge aus dem Arabischen in the Cologne Philharmonie in 1999, a work which was dedicated to him; in January 2010 he performed in the world premiere of Henze’s Opfergang with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome (conductor: Antonio Pappano). His many awards include being elected an honorary fellow of Corpus Christi College and St. John’s College in Oxford, and was created a “Commander of the British Empire” in 2004. Since December 2000, Ian Bostridge has made many appearances with the Berliner Philharmoniker, most recently in November 2006 when he gave a lieder recital in the Kammermusiksaal, accompanied by pianist Julius Drake, with works by Mahler and Henze.
Julia Faylenbogen, born in Ukraine, studied singing and piano at the Odessa State A.V. Nezhdanova Music Academy under Galina Polivanova. In 2003, she moved to Berlin where she completed her studies at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin under Brenda Mitchell and Semjon Skigin. She became a member of the Junges Ensemble of Düsseldorf Opera in the 2005/2006 season. An award winner of several competitions, including the national competition “New Names” in Kiev and the international competition at Chamber Opera Rheinsberg Castle, she moved to the Staatsoper Hannover where she appeared as Niklausse in Tales of Hoffmann, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, the title role in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortileges and, in November 2009, as Wellgunde in Rheingold. Guest appearances have taken her to many opera houses, including the Norske Opera in Oslo and also to Spain (Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Saragossa). In May 2008 she made her debut at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam in the role of Krobyle in a concert performance of Strauss’ uncompleted opera Des Esels Schatten, conducted by HK Gruber. The concert this evening will be Julia Faylenbogen’s debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Barbara Hannigan comes originally from Canada. She first studied at the University of Toronto under Mary Morrison, then at the Banff Centre for the Arts and under Meinard Kraak at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Her repertoire focuses on the music of the 17th and 18th centuries (Charpentier, Händel, Gluck, Mozart) and of 20th century composers (Britten, Strawinsky, Janáček) as well as contemporary works: She performed in the premieres of Louis Andriessen’s Writing to Vermeer, Jan van de Putte’s Wet Snow and Gerald Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Composers with whom Barbara Hannigan has had the opportunity of preparing performances of their music include György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Henri Dutilleux. The soprano has sung with major orchestras and ensembles specialising in early and comtemporary music, and with conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Gielen, Peter Eötvös and Reinbert de Leeuw. De Leeuw is also her accompanist for her many lieder recitals. She first appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 2006 when she replaced an indisposed Dawn Upshaw in Henri Dutilleux’ Correspondances. Her most recent Berlin concert with the orchestra was in February 2010 as the soloist in György Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre.
Jan Remmers was born in Wilhelmshaven in 1978 and grew up in Friesland. After finishing school he first studied school music in Oldenburg, then at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin from 1999 to 2006. While still a student, he performed the role of Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Wiener Festwochen in 2004 and the tenor solo in Kurt Weill’s Berliner Requiem as part of the Lucerne Festival in 2006. He has been a permanent member of the Rundfunkchor Berlin since 2005. This will be his first performance as a soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Peter Rose was born in Canterbury and studied at the University of East Anglia and at the Guildhall School in London. The winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship and the Glyndebourne John Christie Award made his debut as the Commendatore in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Hong Kong in 1986, after which he sang with Welsh National Opera; his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in Anna Bolena with Joan Sutherland followed shortly afterwards. The repertoire of Peter Rose includes the great bass roles ranging from Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Mussorgsky and Wagner to Britten. He has taken part in productions at the Metropolitan Opera New York, Seattle Opera, English National Opera, the Barbican Centre in London and the Wiener Staatsoper. On the concert platform, he has performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Missa solemnis as well as the requiems of Mozart and Verdi. The singer, who has worked with conductors such as Carlo Maria Giulini, Sir Charles Mackerras, Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, is making his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker with these concerts.
Wolfram Teßmer, born in Neustrelitz, initially studied sacred music in Greifswald. He then studied singing under Wolfgang Hellmich at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin, completing his vocal studies with lieder classes and masterclasses with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Wolfram Rieger, Peter Schreier and Max von Egmond. Wolfgang Teßmer has been a permanent member of the Rundfunkchor Berlin since 2004. He is particularly interested in early music and performs in Burkhard Wehner’s medieval ensemble Vox Nostra and in the Ensemble Archaica. He also sings with the Amalien-Ensemble, which was formed by members of the Rundfunkchor. Among other appearances,Wolfram Teßmer participated in the seven-hour long performance of Taverner’s The Veil of the Temple at the Hamburger Bahnhof in 2007. He regularly performs his own programmes as part of the chamber music series of the Rundfunkchor and also appears abroad. As a soloist, this will be his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Roman Trekel studied at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin from 1980 to 1986 under Heinz Reeh. Following his time at the International Opera Studio of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, he joined the main house where he has been a permanent member of the soloist ensemble since 1988. A winner of many awards, he regularly performs in the works of Mozart, Strauss, Debussy and Ullmann. His interpretation of the male lead in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in the production by Ruth Berghaus (conductor: Michael Gielen) won him world-wide acclaim. His current roles at the Staatsoper include the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte and Wolfram in Tannhäuser. He made his debut at La Scala Milan in March 2010, also in the role of Wolfram. Roman Trekel has performed at many famous festivals (e.g. the Salzburg and Bayreuth Festivals) and on the stages of the major opera and concert houses – not to forget his many lieder recitals – in Europe and beyond. He has been a teacher at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin since 1989. His first solo appearance with the Berliner Philharmoniker was as part of the Mozart Festival under the direction of Daniel Barenboim in June 2001.
Stephanie Weiss, born in America, initially trained as a soprano. She studied at the New England Conservatory and at Mannes College of Music in New York. In the 2004/2005 season she was a stipendiary of the American Berlin Opera Foundation at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. After concert and opera performances both in Germany and the USA (which included her debut at Carnegie Hall) as a soprano, she changed to mezzo roles. Since the 2006/2007 season, she has made regular guest appearances at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, in the roles of Schlafittchen in Hiller’s Das Traumfresserchen, the inkeeper’s wife in Zemlinsky’s Der Traumgörge and as the Overseer in Strauss’ Elektra. In spring 2008 she had a great success in the role of Marianne Leitmetzerin in Der Rosenkavalier, which she also sang in China and at the Theater Bern in 2009. Stephanie Weiss made her debut at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden as Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro and as Marthe in Faust in the 2009/2010 season. These concerts will be the first time she has worked with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Georg Zeppenfeld studied with Hans Sotin at the Cologne University of Music. Following engagements at the Städtischen Bühnen Münster and the Oper der Stadt Bonn, he became a permanent member of the ensemble at the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden. Many guest appearances have taken him to the stages of major opera houses and festivals all over Europe. Under the direction of conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Kent Nagano and Christian Thielemann as well as in concerts with the Munich Philharmonic, the Concentus Musicus Wien and the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, he has developed a broad repertoire of roles in music from different periods and musical styles. These include Mozart’s Sarastro, Figaro and Don Alfonso as well as Mussorgsky’s Pimen (Boris Godunov) and Wagner roles such as Fasolt (Das Rheingold) and Gurnemanz (Parsifal). At his debut with San Francisco Opera in 2007, conducted by Claudio Abbado, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2009, he had a great success in Mozart’s Zauberflöte. On the concert platform, Georg Zeppenfeld has focused in particular on the works of Bach, Handel, Haydn and the great late-Romantic oratorios. This will be the first time he has sung with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Holger Marks studied with Marga Schiml and James Wagner at the music academies in Karlsruhe and Hamburg. Since then he has been engaged as opera singer on the stages in Hamburg, Lugano, Paris and Prague. On the concert platform he sang in Germany, Norway, Italy, France, the USA and Brasil. Recently, he worked with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in Caracas, Venezuela, under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. His repertoire focuses on the tenor roles in the works of Mozart, Handel, Schubert, Schumann and Bach. Since 2008 a permanent member of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, Holger Marks will make his debut as a soloist in concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker.
The Rundfunkchor Berlin, founded in 1925, produced great musical moments of the 1920s and 30s under the direction of conductors such as George Szell, Hermann Scherchen, Otto Klemperer and Erich Kleiber. After the Second World War, the choir and its principal conductor Helmut Koch made the oratorios of Handel internationally known in their original versions. Dietrich Knothe (1982 – 1993) formed the choir into a precision instrument for the most difficult of works; Robin Gritton (1994 – 2001) both enriched and refined the ensemble’s palette of colours. Since 2001, the Rundfunkchor Berlin has been led by Simon Halsey, who places particular emphasis on stylistic and linguistic perfection, resulting in lively and exciting performances of works from all periods and in all styles. Their frequent recordings document this work: the recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms conducted by Sir Simon Rattle won a Grammy in 2009 for best choral recording. Simon Halsey has also initiated many of the choir’s education and outreach projects, the interdisciplinary event series Broadening the Scope of Choral Music as well as the annual Sing-along Concert. At the beginning of October 2010, for the first time, the Rundfunkchor Berlin is hosting an international masterclass for young professional choir conductors. The choir has been a partner of leading orchestras and conductors all over the world, including long-standing partnerships with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and the Berliner Philharmoniker. The Rundfunkchor Berlin appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the leadership of Sir Simon Rattle just a few days ago in performances of Luciano Berio’s Coro.