Musikfest Berlin: Abduction into the Light

Sir George Benjamin is in town. Better late than never! Because the Berliner Philharmoniker have called the smart, British tone conjurer to the Composer in Residence , the Musikfest Berlin also sets a Benjamin focus and invited, among others, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to perform its first opera, concertante in the chamber music hall, conducted by Benjamin himself.

The hall is more than half full, so fuller than usual. Also, an unusually young mixed audience has found, which speaks for a certain event character. “Into the Little Hill”, premiered in 2006 at the Festival of Aix-en-Provence, is a quaint-magical thriller based on the saga of the Pied Piper of Hamelin; a piece so effectively linearly composed, so easy to understand, popular and well-played that there are already two CD recordings. It is, timelessly current, a cynical-corrupt government and an unleashed mob, but also about the power of music, what Benjamin acknowledged with a very special cast, the victory of the evil (because it goes out) quasi in cotton candy grabs. Or is it, when the children disappear in the end – in lament and light, seduced by the iridescent murmur of instruments – but rather a victory of the new music?

The centerpiece of the soloistically conducted orchestra is a string sextet, as Arnold Schoenberg had used it in the “Verklärte Nacht”, only that two of the strings in between, haggling over the dear money between the minister and the foreign musician, still some treacherous banjo – and deliver mandolin sounds. There are also some brass (trombone and cornet, stuffed) and double bass clarinet and cimbalom, and right at the front of the listening ramp are two softly melting basset horns, Mozart’s mild and darkly timbred favorite instruments, along with an extraordinarily hollow and high-pitched bass flute, which plays the part. to paraphrase the Piper sounds of the Pied Piper.

Schönberg’s “Verklärte Nacht”, a hymn to tenderness

Two women’s voices share the chronicle of events and roles: Susanna Andersson with a glittering soprano, Krisztina Szabó with an expressive alto. They represent both the folk choir, the hysterical “Kill! Kill! “, As well as the voices in the head of the Minister, the children, the woman, so captivating and strong in gestures that you never miss props and costumes. The elegance and refinement of the fifteen musicians of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra are hard to beat anyway.