Philipp Lachenmann: DELPHI Rationale


Utopia for Full Symphony Orchestra with Multiple Live Electronics

17.02.2010, Berlin | UTOPIA – this title was chosen by Thomas Kessler for his first composition for orchestra for two reasons: First, because he had created a completely new acoustic sound out of the interplay of multiple live electronics and orchestra instruments and second, because he could not imagine that his piece, due to its complexity, would ever be performed. The Kunstfest Weimar and the Berliner Festspiele have not shied away from this challenge: A co-production of both institutions, the work premièred in 2009 at pèlerinages and will now be presented as part of the ninth edition of MaerzMusik in Berlin. Itself entitled UTOPIA [LOST], the 2010 MaerzMusik festival puts its thematic focus on music as a site of utopian thought. UTOPIA, Staatskapelle Weimar

Performing the work UTOPIA on March 24, 2010, the Staatskapelle Weimar under the musical direction of Heinz Holliger will bring a new sound to the audience. Spread around the room, each musician is equipped with a computer and an amplifier in order to distort the instrumental sound live and electronically. The Ernst Schering Foundation supports this performance at the Berlin Philharmonie in particular for its innovative approach to connecting technology and music. In addition to the work by Thomas Kessler, the concert will also feature compositions by Heinz Holliger and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.

Born in Zurich in 1937, Thomas Kessler for over thirty years has dedicated himself to linking traditional instrumental play with electronic devices, synthesizers and computers. In contrast to compositions that are designed for a central mixing desk, where a sound engineer controls the sound of the entire orchestra, Kessler in UTOPIA explicitly focuses on the individual musician who modulates his/her own musical interpretation at an individual live-electronic setup (synthesizer, laptop, foot pedal, etc.) – in, as it were, a “subversive way,” as Kessler puts it.

With his work, the composer hopes to create a “utopian” symphony orchestra where each musician plays a second, live-electronic instrument in addition to his actual instrument. For Thomas Kessler, this is the dawn of a “better – live-electronic – world,” musically speaking.

March 24, 2010, 8 p.m.

Berlin Philharmonie
Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 1
10785 Berlin

7 p.m. Introduction

Wolfgang Korb in conversation with Thomas Kessler

Concert Program:

Heinz Holliger
Fragments for Orchestra
In memoriam David Rokeah [1916-1985] (1985)

Bernd Alois Zimmermann
Stille und Umkehr
Sketches for Orchestra (1970)

Thomas Kessler
Utopia for Full Symphony Orchestra with Multiple Live Electronics (2009)


Staatskapelle Weimar
Conductor: Heinz Holliger

Simon Böckenhoff / Rico Graupner / Egor Poliakov / Daniel Schulz /
Thomas Seelig / Clemens Wegener, Audio Design
Markus Danne / Martin Felderhoff, Technical Services

Further information is available at

Photos: Maik Schuck

UTOPIA, Staatskapelle Weimar


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