Berlin Diary: Community Music-Making on a Huge Scale
The scene this last weekend in downtown Berlin at the old Tempelhof airfield was as wild and chaotic, and as musically joyous as one could imagine — and as Lisa Bielawa had hoped.
Bielawa is a composer, singer, choral director, and, under still other fedoras, a Christo-like impresario, who alights here and there around the world to experiment with music in public spaces. Last weekend, she drew 230 musicians from to play out an idea for a series of three 60-minute concerts on the grass and runways of this former US Air Force base, now a 900-acre park, a few minutes from “Checkpoint Charlie.”
The music used in the event was based on Bielawa’s Tempelhof Etude, a 20-minute piece she wrote and then, as she put it, “learned from, messed with, and expanded into a one hour concert piece.” The piece was designed to articulate sound over long distances and so includes “utterances and silences.”
The performance began with all the musicians gathered at a central point on the field and then slowly dispersing, in a big bang effect. By the end of the concert, the mass had divided into two groups about a kilometer apart. The choreography is complex and closely tied to wind. “It gets very geeky,” said Bielawa.
“I’m all blissed out,” she said. “Just stunned. I think everyone felt an enormous amount of just magical energy.
Mark MacNamara, San Francisco Classical Voice, May 15 2013
The Presence of the Unconventional
The Ensemble work in progress - Berlin
work in Progress - Berlin consistently ensures that the unconventional and the exceptional are given their due in the realm of new music. By including works of well-known composers alongside those which are less well known, the ensemble’s concert performances reflect, critically, on the relationship between performance practice and musical repertoire.
Vera Emter, Positionen, August 2011
The best “Butterfahrt” yet
work in progress - Berlin not only ranks among the most experimental and adventurous of ensembles in Germany, it is also among the best-known ensembles of its kind. … This evening’s performance is the most successful of the “Butterfahrt” concert series. … Gabriel Pareyon’s “Mokhäh” is even more compelling. The interweaving of the French horn and the clarinet, and the manner in which the strings feel out the musical structure, repeatedly coaxed forward by clear piano passages, is entirely mesmerizing.
Steffen Georgi, Leipziger Volkszeitung, 24 June 2011
Silvia Fómina’s commissioned works for work in progress – Berlin
Premiere at the Berlinische Galerie, 28 November 2010
Silvia Fómina developed her notion of a “multidimensional continuity” created by polyrhythmic superimpositions based on her research in musical ethnology and her travels, including her visits to the pygmy peoples of the central African rainforest and to south-east Asia. This concept was also evident in the two premieres by the ensemble work in progress – Berlin, performed under the direction of Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom. Segments of folkloric material from central Asia shimmered as though being viewed through a kaleidoscope in the short piece titled “Seidenstrasse.” In “Angehaltene Zeit,” a piece for voice, trumpet, trombone, cello, accordion, and percussion, and in “Zuspielung” (2010), Fómina incorporated elements of flamenco as well as music from the Arabic and Sephardic Jewish traditions. The vocal work was composed for the Spanish flamenco singer José Parrondo, and captures the spirit of the 1980s: “We must walk barefoot / naked as we flee / a refugee without a destination / so that we may never be lost.”
Walter-Wolfgang Sparrer, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, January 2011
Deep Blue comes out on top
The victory of artificial intelligence over human reason: Mark Andre’s musical theater “22, 13” at Berlin’s Radialsystem
Although a technically-demanding work, the Berlin-based ensemble work in progress, headed by Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom in cooperation with the staff of the Freiburg Experimentalstudio, succeeded in delivering a fabulous performance that surpassed the premiere in terms of both musical precision and emotional acuity.
Julia Spinola, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 19 January 2010
Bold images of the tragedies of listening
A concert by the ensemble “work in progress – Berlin” illuminates the fruitful collaboration of Luigi Nonos and Emilio Vedova
SPainters and musicians have only rarely engaged in such direct collaboration as have Emilio Vedova and Luigi Nono. Now Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom and his ensemble “work in progress” have illuminated important aspects of their long friendship and fruitful collaboration. They have done so in a retrospective at the Berlinische Galerie that pays tribute to the Venetian painter and sculpture one year after his death. … The fragmentary and ambiguous aesthetic of “Guai ai gelidi mostri” (“Woe Betide the Cold Monsters”), a work for two altos, an instrumental ensemble, and live electronics composed shortly before “Prometeo” … reveals itself as a restrained, fragile and elusive entity: the voices of Dorothe Ingenfeld and Ulrike Bartsch are virtually imperceptible, audible only by means of their tonal contrast, elevated to a chorus of the imagination through the live electronic music — embedded, rather, in the overall effect — the voices are a delicate diffusion punctuated by a piercing trumpet, a grinding bow of the strings, a stertorous tuba and a darkly luminous bass clarinet. The snarled river of sound is lent structure by fierce accents and exclamations, by the fourths and fifths, the sounds of breathing and of nature, which together imbue the work an element of the archaic. The result is a work of unparalleled sensitivity and nuance.
In between these “auditory visions”, whose complexity could only be grasped on the most elemental of levels, Müller-Goldboom inserted Nono’s “Sarà dolce tacere” for eight solo vocalists (1960), again in tribute to the two artists. … The austere beauty of these superimposed voices, masterfully captured by Vocalconsort Berlin, served to further highlight the passionate, and at times almost overwhelming, gesture.
Isabel Herzfeld, Neue Musikzeitung, May 2008
…rediscovering Bussotti, as we said, is an accomplishment. … We were treated to a range of instrumental pieces, featuring various moods and instrumentation, competently performed by the ensemble work in progress – Berlin under the direction of Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom.
Klaus Georg Koch (Berliner Zeitung)
… at the Wiener Seccession, the ensemble work in progress – Berlin , under the direction of the pianist, composer and conductor Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom … with transparency, multilayered dynamics, and a keen sense for exciting entries ... succeeded in creating a masterful character study of musical tempi, while lending the composition an unusually light and spontaneous spirit … As a means of raising awareness about the music of the present-day, this was an eminently important evening — one which succeeded in its effort to call attention to the music of our day.
Laszlo Molnar (Der Standard, Vienna)
It is a genuine stroke of luck ... Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom conducting Boulez’s “Marteau sans maître.” Our intellectual appreciation for Boulez’ stern and yet emotionally powerful 1977 work was measurably increased …
Das Orchester, Mainz
“NAHT (yo no pido a la noche explicaciones)” by Philipp Maintz is a truly fascinating piece, featuring trembling and fragmentary lines encircling a single pitch. The melodic cohesion remains ever at the brink of fragmentation, but is always skillfully brought back by the reappearance of a rough-edged and seemingly disconnected voice, a contrast that is particularly illuminated when counter-posed with Cage’s pointillism. The final installment was Tristan Murail’s “La barque mystique,” a richly ornamental and restless piece … the ensemble is well-worthy of support for its rigorous and ongoing artistic engagement.
Wolfgang Fuhrmann (Berliner Zeitung)
Two restropective performances on the second evening rank among the musical highlights of the festival. “work in progress – Berlin,” an ensemble under the direction of Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom, presented a portrait dedicated to Morton Feldman that featured several works dating from the early 1960s — a masterful performance marked by immense focus, tonal instinct, and an exceptional interpretive ethos.
Carsten Häcker (Positionen)
This live recording by the Berlin-based work in progress ensemble is already six years old – but, better late than never. Jakob Ullmann’s half-hour “Komposition à 9 – Palimpsest” ... is a substantive example of new ensemble music: largely monotone (in the literal sense of the word) in its treatment of the vocal line …, extremely edgy, with the instrumentation often clinging to the brink of the tonal spectrum, yet linked by an over-arching cohesive tension despite its wealth of detail. The early Hespos work is unexpectedly light and delicate … with an interplay of solo interventions that, taken together, elicit a collective response; Bruno Maderna’s “Serenata per un satellite” is delicately appealing with its dry and sparkling timbres …
Similar to Cy Twombly’s mysterious, obliterated objects on a canvas of white, this music likewise generates a space in which the purity of sound comes into its own … In the Feldman, the listener is called to remain on the surface of the sound, rather than descend into its depths, deriving the utmost enjoyment from the interplay of instrumental color while achieving an intensity of appreciation otherwise impossible to gleen. It is listening at its most elemental, with a simplicity and beauty capable of moving one to tears.
Bernd Feuchtner (Der Tagesspiegel)