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Reflektor Nils Frahm

A genius on the piano keys and electronic buttons: Nils Frahm was in charge of the Elbphilharmonie programme for three days.

Nils Frahm is one of the most interesting sound inventors among the piano nerds that today's pop scene has to offer. He dovetails elements from ambient, classical and minimal music to produce downright orgies of sound. The centre of attention at all times is the piano. The piano prepared with felt, with the microphones extremely close to the strings, Frahm shapes his own, unmistakable hi-fi sound on the keys, and strives radically to achieve perfection. A highly sensitive sound constructor who has very precise ideas of how he wants something to sound.

Reason enough for the Elbphilharmonie to give Frahm a free hand in both concert halls: for three days, he curated the entire programme in the Grand Hall and the Recital Hall, in the Kaistudios, the foyers and on the Plaza.

Reflektor Nils Frahm

The »Reflektor« series gives selected artists the symbolic key to the Elbphilharmonie. In other words, they get to choose the programme!

None © Daniel Dittus
None
None © Daniel Dittus

Reflektor Nils Frahm

For his »Reflektor« weekend at the Elbphilharmonie, Nils Frahm also had exact plans. He only wanted to make one stage appearance in person, alone with his instruments. For the rest of the time, he invited musicians to appear that he knew personally in some cases, while others he had just heard about; in all cases, he found their music so interesting that he wanted to give them the chance to perform on a big stage.

»I hope things will be exciting and inspiring for me as well. And perhaps some completely new connections will come out of it too.«

Nils Frahm

Did Frahm's wish come true? With such a full and varied programme, that's not really a question question that needs asking.

Reflektor Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm at the Elbphilharmonie

The Headliner: Nils Frahm

On his own on stage with eleven keyboard instruments, electronic decks and countless buttons to press: on Saturday evening, the Grand Hall belonged to Nils Frahm. In between outbursts of techno that got under the audience's skin, so that next to no-one could sit still in their seats, the sound artist played one emotionally intense classic after another from his albums »Felt« and »Screw«. The audience rewarded a stellar performance with standing ovations and applause that lasted several minutes.

 

»With his technical inventory, Frahm superimposes different rhythms on one another, playing virtuoso melodies to accompany them and creating mountains or flat landscapes of sound. He jumps from keyboard to keyboard, turning and pressing buttons, moving to the rhythm or sometimes stamping it out with his foot like a blues musician. At the end of this unique and truly staggering concert, Nils Frahm jumped down from the stage to thunderous applause. His music continued to radiate its special magic for a long time.«

Heinrich Oehmsen (Hamburger Abendblatt)

Nils Frahm: All Melody
Nils Frahm Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Nils Frahm: All Melody
Nils Frahm Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Nils Frahm: All Melody
Nils Frahm Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Nils Frahm
Reflektor Nils Frahm Reflektor Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Nils Frahm: All Melody
Nils Frahm Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Nils Frahm: All Melody
Nils Frahm Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Nils Frahm: All Melody
Nils Frahm Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus

Ear-Openers and Eye-Catchers: The Guest Artists

Instead of spending three days on stage non-stop, Nils Frahm stuck to the »Reflektor« tradition and invited artists of widely varying musical origin to appear – a weekend that really opened people's eyes and ears.

The band Penguin Cafe really rocked the Grand Hall on Sunday afternoon with brilliant and eccentric songs, with instruments ranging from the violin to a loop station, and a boundless delight in making music. Their mission: to uphold the legacy of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, the celebrated ensemble of the deceased father of today's bandleader Arthur Jeffes. This evening, there was no mistaking how much pleasure this gave the musicians.

Penguin Cafe
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Penguin Cafe Reflektor Nils Frahm: Penguin Cafe © Daniel Dittus
Penguin Cafe
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Penguin Cafe Reflektor Nils Frahm: Penguin Cafe © Daniel Dittus
Penguin Cafe
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Penguin Cafe Reflektor Nils Frahm: Penguin Cafe © Daniel Dittus

Another of Frahm's guests was the singer, composer and painter Devendra Banhart, whose concert appearances are so rare that they are an event in their own right. Together with the ensemble Stargaze,  he performed not only his most popular songs, but also new, hitherto unpublished material – and revealed to the audience that Nils Frahm texts him nearly every day.

Devendra Banhart
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Devendra Banhart Reflektor Nils Frahm: Devendra Banhart © Daniel Dittus
Devendra Banhart
Devendra Banhart Devendra Banhart © Daniel Dittus

In double concerts in the afternoon, two bands or solo artists in each case presented themselves in the Recital Hall. First up, the taciturn Finnish brothers known as The Gentleman Losers used their atmospheric music to accompany amateur videos from the past, distorted and then projected on to a huge screen. With sounds both smooth and unpredictable, Martyn Heyne and Tatu Rönkkö demonstrated that you do not need much more than a drum kit and a guitar to produce good music.

The Gentleman Losers
The Gentleman Losers The Gentleman Losers © Daniel Dittus
Martyn Heyne
Martyn Heyne beim Reflektor Nils Frahm Martyn Heyne beim Reflektor Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Martyn Heyne
Martyn Heyne beim Reflektor Nils Frahm Martyn Heyne beim Reflektor Nils Frahm © Daniel Dittus
Schneider Kacirek
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Schneider Kacirek Reflektor Nils Frahm: Schneider Kacirek © Daniel Dittus
Schneider Kacirek
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Schneider Kacirek Reflektor Nils Frahm: Schneider Kacirek © Daniel Dittus
Szun Waves
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Szun Waves Reflektor Nils Frahm: Szun Waves © Daniel Dittus

Heated and uninhibited sax playing could be heard from London artist Nubya Garcia, who is currently stirring up the international jazz scene with music that has an African tinge to it. And Stockholm bass player Björn Meyer enticed sounds from his instrument that blurred the supposed boundaries between electronic and acoustic music, between modernity and tradition.

Nubya Garcia
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Nubya Garcia Reflektor Nils Frahm: Nubya Garcia © Daniel Dittus
Nubya Garcia
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Nubya Garcia Reflektor Nils Frahm: Nubya Garcia © Daniel Dittus
Nubya Garcia
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Nubya Garcia Reflektor Nils Frahm: Nubya Garcia © Daniel Dittus
Björn Meyer
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Björn Meyer Reflektor Nils Frahm: Björn Meyer © Daniel Dittus

Monday saw an appearance from acclaimed musician Erlend Øye, who has already sold millions of records as part of the duo Kings of Convenience and of Whitest Boy Alive. With his Sicilian band La Comitiva and the ensemble Stargaze, the Norwegian, who is now living on Sicily himself, performed his heart-warming and danceable arrangements until all 2,100 audience members in the sold-out Grand Hall leapt up from their seats. And at the end, Nils Frahm joined them unexpectedly and accompanied the band up to the last encore at the piano. What a great evening!

Erlend Øye
Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
Erlend Øye
Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
Erlend Øye
Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
Erlend Øye
Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
Erlend Øye
Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
Nils Frahm bei Erlend Øye
Nils Frahm bei Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Nils Frahm bei Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
Erlend Øye
Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Erlend Øye, Stargaze & La Comitiva (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus

Photography, Films, Workshops: The Supporting Programme

Those people who wanted to take part and not just listen had the chance to try their hand in various workshops where several of the »Reflektor« artists offered an insight into their musical world. Percussionist Sven Kacirek and his workshop participants explored the world of polyrhythms, while producer and guitarist Martyn Heyne explained in »The Architecture of Music« why some pieces need to be fast and others slow if they're going to have full effect. And Arthur Jeffes, the creative talent behind the collective Penguin Cafe, broke his music down into its individual parts.

»Polyrhythmus verstehen und umsetzen«

Workshop Sven Kacirek

Workshop: Sven Kacirek (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Workshop: Sven Kacirek (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
»Polyrhythmus verstehen und umsetzen«

Workshop Sven Kacirek

Workshop: Sven Kacirek (Reflektor Nils Frahm) Workshop: Sven Kacirek (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
»Die Architektur der Musik«

Workshop Martyn Heyne

Workshop Martyn Heyne: Die Architektur der Musik Workshop Martyn Heyne: Die Architektur der Musik © Daniel Dittus
»Die Architektur der Musik«

Workshop Martyn Heyne

»Die Architektur der Musik«: Workshop Marty Heyne (Reflektor Nils Frahm) »Die Architektur der Musik«: Workshop Marty Heyne (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus
»Die Architektur der Musik«

Workshop Martyn Heyne

»Die Architektur der Musik«: Workshop Marty Heyne (Reflektor Nils Frahm) »Die Architektur der Musik«: Workshop Marty Heyne (Reflektor Nils Frahm) © Daniel Dittus

A photography exhibition in the corridors of the Kaistudios familiarised the audience with the work of Nils Frahm's father. Klaus Frahm has been taking photos for nearly forty years, and has already supplied the prestigious jazz label ECM with quite a few album covers. For the series on show during the »Reflektor«, he photographed the auditoriums of famous theatres from the stage – a clever trick to break through the often-mentioned »fourth wall«.

Vlaamse Opera Gent
Vlaamse Opera Gent © Klaus Frahm

Festivalgoers were able to enjoy an exquisite film programme on all three days. The connection with Frahm was that he wrote the soundtrack for each of the films. The movies were shown in the exclusive Astor Film Lounge close to the Elbphilharmonie, and in the emigration museum BallinStadt, which can be reached by boat.

The festival featured plenty of party fun as well: there was an after-show party on both Saturday and Sunday with various DJ sets on the boat MS Stubnitz, and on the Sunday Nils Frahm even made a brief farewell appearance on the stage.

Text: Renske Steen, 14 June 2019

Aftershow Party MS Stubnitz
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Aftershow MS Stubnitz Reflektor Nils Frahm: Aftershow MS Stubnitz © Daniel Dittus
Aftershow Party MS Stubnitz
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Aftershow MS Stubnitz Reflektor Nils Frahm: Aftershow MS Stubnitz © Daniel Dittus
Aftershow Party MS Stubnitz
Reflektor Nils Frahm: Aftershow MS Stubnitz Reflektor Nils Frahm: Aftershow MS Stubnitz © Daniel Dittus

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