The Berlin Phil Series: “Philharmonic Octet”

06 Jun 2020

Philharmonic Octet

  • Welcome (1 min.)

    Stefan Dohr

  • Hugo Kaun
    Octet in F major, op. 34 (16 min.)

  • free

    Toshio Hosokawa in conversation with Daishin Kashimoto (5 min.)

  • Toshio Hosokawa
    Texture for octet (première) – commissioned jointly by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and Japan Arts Corporation (11 min.)

  • Franz Schubert
    Octet in F major D 803 (63 min.)

The musicians of the Philharmonic Octet had originally planned to give a concert in the Chamber Music Hall in May 2020. Due to the corona pandemic, the performance was cancelled, but was fortunately able to be given after all a few weeks later in the main auditorium of the Philharmonie as part of the Berlin Phil Series. In addition to a world premiere by Toshio Hosokawa and Schubert’s immortal Octet, the programme also included a work for the same instrumentation by Hugo Kaun, a composer almost forgotten in Germany and who initially made a career for himself in the USA.

In the field of music, too, it is sometimes also the case: a prophet has no honour in his own country. This can be seen in the example of the composer Hugo Kaun, born in Berlin in 1863. After studying at the Königliche Hochschule für Musik (now Berlin University of the Arts), Kaun, who was born in 1887, the son of a textile manufacturer, settled in the United States where, after further musical studies, he worked as a university lecturer, choirmaster and conductor and, in financially difficult times, also turned his hand to composing light music. His friendship with the East Frisian conductor Theodore Thomas, who had lived in the USA since his youth, led to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which was founded by the latter in 1891, also performing symphonies by Kaun. In 1902 Kaun returned to Berlin, where he taught first at the Akademie der Künste, then at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory. After the composer’s death in 1932, the fact that Kaun’s music, which was heavily indebted to the late-Romantic aesthetic, was performed particularly frequently during the National Socialist era – Kaun had been a good friend of the president of the Reichsmusikkammer Peter Raabe – made it difficult to make an unbiased assessment after the end of the Second World War.

The Philharmonic Octet Berlin, one of the oldest and most venerable chamber music formations of the Berliner Philharmoniker presents a work from Kaun’s American period: the melodious Octet, op. 34 from 1891 which with great virtuosity draws on all the expressive registers of the instrumentation. There is also a world premiere of a new work by the composer Toshio Hosokawa, born in 1955, commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and the Japan Art Corporation. Hosokawa, who studied in Berlin and Freiburg im Breisgau among other places, was a lecturer at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in the past.

The evening concludes with the work that brought the formation of the octet into being: Franz Schubert’s Octet in F Major, written in 1824. In six movements, still formally in the tradition of the divertimento, but already penetrating symphonic realms in terms of expression, Schubert’s work explores all possibilities of the instrumentation and continues to set standards for this genre to this day.

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