A Seminal Festival by the Lake

Attended the Detect Classic Festival in Neubrandenburg, a three-day event developed and curated by Konstantin Udert and Joseph Varschen. Beautifully situated at the edge of the Tollense lake, the festival sported a versatile line-up with classical and electronic music, live performed in industrial halls formerly used for military purposes. Despite the stylistic diversity (which I appreciated very much, even though contemporary classical music was absent), my impression was that the classical and EDM audiences did not really join together. The main orchestral concerts, appearances of the Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie, Ensemble Reflektor, and the fabulous Stegreif.Orchester, attracted far more and different people than most other performances, probably due to the advertisements by Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern who provided the framework for the festival. This raises the question if traditional classical music marketing is the best way to promote an event that aims to transcend the borders of genres and audiences. A successful transition between concert hall and club culture seems unlikely to be achieved by music management, but depends on the efforts and open-mindedness of the artists themselves. In this regard, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Alexej Gerassimez, Deep Strings, and AFAR. Regardless of my slight doubts, the festival has been a rewarding experience as a whole, widening my perspective of what can—and should—be done in today’s music programming.

Medtner Collective Volume

I’m excited to announce that I will be editing a collective volume named Nikolai Medtner: Music, Aesthetics, and Contexts in collaboration with Christoph Flamm, which will be published with Olms Verlag during 2020. Funding is provided by the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts. The volume is designed to discuss Medtner’s music and artistic thought from different perspectives, aiming to cover multiple aspects of the composer’s work and life. Contributions from various musical and scholarly backgrounds are welcome. If you are involved with Medtner and wish to submit an article, please send your abstract and academic bio by September 30, 2019. Full texts in English language, ranging between 25,000 and 40,000 characters, should be submitted by January 31, 2020. — Here is the official Call for Contributions.

A Choiryphaeus Ends His Career

After Christian Grube has stepped back as conductor of Kammerchor der UdK Berlin, an era has come to its end. It may seem melodramatic to say so, but is nonetheless true. Since he retired from his professorship in choral direction at Universität der Künste Berlin, Christian still sticked to his ideals and kept on leading the ensemble he had founded back in 1978, and has been shaping as its sole conductor during the past four decades. Now, at 84 years of age, he finally decided to no longer run in front. Heaven knows whether and how his work can be continued. At any rate, I am deeply grateful to have witnessed the final stage of his activity in Berlin. It’s been fourteen years of extraordinary artistic and personal influence that helped me sharpen my ear, brain, and musical understanding by singing and performing under Christian’s charismatic guidance. Thank you so much!

Poor Advocacy for Freelance Musicians

It amazes and puzzles me how freelance musicianship is talked down in two articles from this month’s neue musikzeitung. In his title page column, editor Theo Geißler reports from the recent conference of Verband deutscher Musikschulen in Berlin, denigrating a group of protesters from DTKV Saxonia who had complained about their working conditions. Geißler basically blames them to suffer from self-chosen misery—an unworldly and rather impudent claim. In another article, the VdM administration issues a statement in objection to an initiative of TKV Baden-Württemberg which had denounced competitive distortion and unequal treatment of employees and freelance music educators. It is hard to understand how one can disagree with the legitimate demand for a balanced rate of public funding for both groups.

These positions construe an artificial antagonism between music education taking place in public responsibility and in private institutions, disregarding the fact that the two parties for the most part operate with near-to-identical teaching staff, offering the same services with the same qualifications. We need to think these two sectors as one functional unit and not as competitors. In Berlin’s municipal music schools, still more than 80% of instrumental and vocal teachers are unwillingly working as entrepreneurs. It is just insane to bash this considerably large group of colleagues as »mercantilists« striving for profit—an offensive and entirely inappropriate description of people working hardly above the subsistence level. I feel ashamed that courageous initatives, carried out in favour of the majority of musicians and music educators, are denied any support by those who are supposed to be their allies. Once more, VdM and the federal parent organisation of Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband form an unproductive opposition against their freelance colleagues, and it is hard to imagine how professional lobby work could succeed in the face of these ongoing quarrels.