If the City of Hamburg and the Elbphilharmonie were a couple, they would be celebrating their wooden wedding anniversary. Or their rose wedding, as we call it here in the north. Nearly five years ago, after a lengthy construction phase, the people of Hamburg finally surged through the doors of the city's new landmark.
There are certainly plenty of reasons to celebrate: the concert hall by the River Elbe has not only attracted millions of visitors with its spectacular architecture, but also with a first-rate programme of music from all genres. Since the opening in 2017, the number of people attending concerts in Hamburg has tripled.
A festival week
To mark the anniversary, the Elbphilharmonie is holding a one-week festival. The anniversary itself on 11 January 2022 features a concert given by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra – the Elbphilharmonie's orchestra in residence – under its chief conductor Alan Gilbert, playing contemporary music by John Adams, Thomas Adès and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
5 Years of the Elbphilharmonie
For a whole week, from 9 to 17 January, the Elbphilharmonie will be celebrating its birthday with a series of top-class orchestras and soloists.
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Anu Komsi soprano
Piia Komsi soprano
Kirill Gerstein piano
conductor Alan Gilbert
Tromba lontana / Fanfare für Orchester
Short Ride in a Fast Machine / Fanfare für Orchester
Konzert für Klavier und Orchester
- Pause -
Wing on Wing
Alan Gilbert – Conductor
About Alan Gilbert
Grammy Award-winning conductor Alan Gilbert has been Chief Conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra since autumn 2019 and Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera since spring 2021. After serving for more than a decade as Principal Guest Conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra, as it was formerly known, now Gilbert is set to »put Hamburg on the map as a musical center and lead the orchestra into the first rank« (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). He also holds positions as Principal Guest Conductor of Japan’s Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony and Conductor Laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic.
In 2017, he concluded an eight-year tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic that was widely regarded as transformative. The first native New Yorker to hold the post, he succeeded not only in making »an indelible mark on the orchestra’s history and that of the city itself« (New Yorker), but also in »building a legacy that matters and helping to change the template for what an American orchestra can be« (New York Times). In addition to these appointments, Gilbert maintains a major international presence, making guest appearances with top orchestras as well as operatic productions for the Metropolitan Opera, Milan’s La Scala, and Dresden Semperoper.
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
About the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
As Orchestra in Residence at the Elbphilharmonie, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra plays a major role in shaping this world-famous concert hall’s musical profile through its concert programme. Impressions of the orchestra’s home are widespread throughout Germany and internationally by NDR concert broadcastings. In addition to its various concert formats in Hamburg, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra holds its own concert series in Lübeck and Kiel and plays a leading role at the major festivals in Northern Germany.
Its international standing is reflected by regular tours throughout Europe, to North and South America, and Asia. The orchestra also engages in education and promoting young talent. The orchestra was founded in 1945 as part of the cultural and intellectual rebuilding after the Second World War. Its first Principal Conductor was Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, who shaped the orchestra’s artistic profile for more than a quarter of a century. Later on, a 20-year period of close collaboration with Günter Wand was similarly significant. After Christoph Eschenbach and Christophn von Dohnányi, Thomas Hengelbrock held the post of Principal Conductor from 2011 to 2018, including the opening of the Elbphilharmonie. With the 2019/2020 season Alan Gilbert became the new Chief Conductor.
Kirill Gerstein – piano
About Kirill Gerstein
Kirill Gerstein's curiosity and versatility have led him to make an intensive study of a wide range of repertoire and styles, from Johann Sebastian Bach to modern music. His playing is marked by clarity of expression, intelligence, virtuosity and a strong stage presence that place him at the top of his league. He appears all over the world with top orchestras such as the Chicago and Boston Symphony Orchestras, the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic , the Vienna Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra. He gives regular piano recitals in London, Berlin, Vienna, Paris and New York, and has also made several appearances at the Elbphilharmonie.
He has maintained a close artistic partnership for many years now with composer Thomas Adès, who wrote his Piano Concerto especially for Gerstein. After the 2019 premiere, where he was accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the pianist performed the concerto internationally. The live recording made in Boston has been released on CD, and was awarded a Gramophone Award in the »Contemporary« category in 2020. Born in the Russian city of Voronezh, Kirill Gerstein now lives in Berlin, where he is professor for piano at the Hanns Eisler College of Music.
Anu Komsi – soprano
About Anu Komsi
Finnish soprano Anu Komsi is widely praised for her dynamic coloratura voice and her musical versatility. She appears regularly at the leading opera houses and concert halls in Europe and the USA, focusing on contemporary repertoire in particular. In 2011 she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival in Morton Feldman's opera »Neither«, and she has also appeared at the Hamburg International Music Festival. Her recent opera engagements have included the part of Lady Sarashina in Péter Eötvös's opera of the same name, Heinz Holliger's Schneewittchen (Snow White) and the soprano part in »Into the Little Hill« by George Benjamin. She sang Eva in Karlheinz Stockhausen's »Donnerstag« from his cycle »Licht« at the Basel Theatre as well as at the Hamburg International Music Festival Hamburg at Kampnagel. Her concert repertoire includes Jean Sibelius's »Luonnotar«, Magnus Lindberg's »Accused«, Kaija Saariaho's »Leino Songs« and the »Kafka Fragments« by György Kurtág. She appears on CD in recordings of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Karol Szymanowski's »Songs of a Fairy Tale Princess«, Witold Lutosławski's »Chantefleurs et Chantefables« and Gustav Mahler's Symphonies Nos. 2, 4 and 8 conducted by Sir Roger Norrington.
Piia Komsi – soprano
About Piia Komsi
Like her twin sister Anu, Piia Komsi was born in Kokkola on the west coast of Finland. She started by studying the cello at Helsinki's Sibelius Academy and then at Yale University, and she was a member of the Finnish National Orchestra from 1989 to 2000. During this time, she built up a vocal career parallel to her work as a cellist.
Today she is praised worldwide as a coloratura soprano for her virtuoso technique and her exceptionally high, agile and expressive voice. Her repertoire stretches from the Baroque through the great coloratura parts in the 18th century repertoire to modern music, where she focuses on contemporary music and on especially challenging roles such as Venus in Ligeti's »Le Grand Macabre« or the Queen of the Night in Mozart's »TheMagic Flute«.
Piia Komsi made her concert debut in 2016 at London's Wigmore Hall, and the year after with the New York Philharmonic. She has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Ensemble Modern. Opera engagements have taken her to Helsinki, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires and Naples, and in 2019 she was nominated for an Opus Klassik award in the category Singer of the Year.
SPACE MUSIC :About the programme
When choosing the music for this evening’s jubilee concert, conductor Alan Gilbert instantly knew what to go for: »The Elbphilharmonie is a wonderful performance space that lends itself beautifully to spacial music. We chose this programme to celebrate the sense of wonder and experimentation that has been a hallmark of the Elbphilharmonie during its short but dazzling existence.«
JOHN ADAMS :TROMBA LONTANA & SHORT RIDE IN A FAST MACHINE
The spatial effect of John Adams’s Tromba Lontana (»Distant Trumpet«) is already built into its title. His score provides for two trumpets, tossing musical fanfares to and fro whilst grounded in a constant orchestral pulse. Composed in 1985, the piece is a classic example of minimalism, a movement that arose in the United States in the 1960s as an alternative to the European avant-garde. Minimal music is based on the repetition of tiny musical cells, or »patterns«.
»You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?« This is how Adams – never at a loss for a quick-witted remark – commented on his piece Short Ride in a Fast Machine from 1986. The motor is provided by a simple woodblock that ruthlessly propels the orchestra and listeners along at 150 beats per minute. »Part of the fun is making these large instruments – the tuba and double basses – move. They have to boogie through this resolute and inflexible pulse until the end, when the woodblock finally stops. It feels like the third stage of a rocket that has finally broken loose of earth’s gravity and is allowed to float.«
THOMAS ADÈS :KONZERT FÜR KLAVIER UND ORCHESTER
Thomas Adès is one of the most frequently performed of all presentday composers. In the autumn of 2020 the Elbphilharmonie devoted a series of concerts to the British musician, when he appeared as both conductor and pianist.
His musical language is broadly based and encompasses classical music, jazz and other historical models. What is astonishing is his ability to merge them into his very own distinctive style.
His Piano Concerto is cast in traditional threemovement concerto form (fast – slow – fast), but its stylistic language is entirely new. Its first performance in 2019 with Kirill Gerstein was a triumph, impressing even the New York Times.
»As ever, the craft is astounding, the orchestration ceaselessly brilliant. The voice is wholly his own. I can’t wait to hear it again.«
New York Times
ESA-PEKKA SALONEN :WING ON WING
Esa-Pekka Salonen composed his orchestral piece Wing on Wing for the first season of the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where he was then Principal Conductor.
Its title derives from sailing terminology: »When a sailboat opens both its foresail and mainsail to a 180° angle to produce the maximum amount of sail area, the beautiful sculptural constellation is called ›wing on wing‹.« Obviously, this association relates to the architecture of the new hall designed by Frank Gehry, to whom the piece is dedicated. Born in Helsinki in 1958, Salonen – like Adès – is equally gifted as a conductor and as a composer. His score includes two sopranos who are used instrumentally and move around the hall.
He also employs sampled sounds of Frank Gehry’s voice and sounds produced by the Plainfin Midshipman, a type of fish that lives in the waters off southern California and is able to produce loud humming courtship calls. Salonen’s decision to incorporate these into his score is also an allusion to Gehry, who has regularly designed objects and sculptures in the shape of fish. And even though Salonen may have had a different concert hall in mind when he composed this piece, it still gives the impression of having been specially written for the Elbphilharmonie here in Hamburg’s harbour.
Text: Clemens Matuschek
More from Esa-Pekka Salonen in the Elbphilharmonie
The Elbphilharmonie is giving Salonen his own »multiverse«, spread over two seasons, in order to explore all the different facets of this versatile musical personality.