The Sound and the Fury
The Musiktage proper began with something of an unexpected bang this year with a protest work from Johannes Kreidler. Just before the (spectacularly bearded) conductor walked out to perform a new piece by Martin Smolka, Kreidler snatched a microphone and rushed onto the stage. He took a cello and a violin from the orchestra and restrung them so that they became one.
‘Composing is to build new instruments (quote from Lachenmann). This is what the fusion of two Klangkörper (can mean instrument or ensemble), looks like. This is no work of art. Some of the people responsible for this are in this room, they wrote this requiem.’
With that, he smashed his new hybrid into the ground, jumping on it for good measure.
To understand this, one has to be aware of the recent decision to merge the two South West Radio Orchestras in Germany – those of Freiburg-Baden Baden and Stuttgart. Although no members of the orchestra can be legally fired, the decision is naturally controversial and will without doubt damage the musical life of Baden-Württemberg.
The protest was quite effective in itself but many have questioned Kreidler’s motives. He is a renowned self-publicist and lover of the limelight. Moreover it is not clear that he is the most suitable candidate for such action considering his belief that the orchestra will become an obsolete cultural entity.
After the protest, the chief of the SWR stood up and asked that protests take place outside of the concerts, only to be shouted off the stage by a handful of audience members. The orchestra knew that some kind of protest was going to happen, but a few were still very shaken by the experience and found it difficult to concentrate on the first piece of the programme. The instruments taken were – thankfully – replacements and not the usual Klangkörper of the players.
The composer Helmut Oehring had described earlier in the day how he is interested in the ‘death’ of sounds: that when a sound begins it is already fighting its inevitable demise. The point is more pronounced when the orchestra one sees on the stage is terminal, the musicians’ professionalism fighting to the last.