Magazine – Contemporary Music

Musica viva: From Hartmann to Hopp

BR / Angelika ZettlHelmut Oehring’s “Quixote” (March 3, 2010) at the Muffathalle in Munich, foto by BR / Astrid AckermannMusica viva has a new director. In the 2011/12 season Winrich Hopp replaces his predecessor Udo Zimmermann and inherits an important legacy. A look at the past and the present of an internationally renowned concert series for contemporary music.

One alternative was called “inner migration”. After 1933, going into exile was the only way in which the majority of artists that were discriminated against by the Nazi rulers could continue their opposition to the regime. To remain in Germany without supporting the prevailing ideology ultimately meant entering into a state of “invisibility”. This was the path chosen by the Munich composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann. For the staunch anti-fascist, no form of currying favor came into question; the consequence was artistic isolation. After the end of the war, Hartmann became one of the most important promoters of the formerly outlawed music of the avant-garde. In 1945 the Allies appointed him music dramaturge at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. In the same year he founded a concert series for New Music, which still exists today under the name of musica viva.

Karl Amadeus Hartmann (l), foto by BR / Hans GrimmMusica viva was born on October 7, 1945: five months after the end of World War II, Hartmann organized a matinee concert at the Prinzregententheater in Munich where the Bavarian State Orchestra performed the music that had previously been denounced as “degenerate”. Hartmann recognized the need to present the formerly withheld cultural heritage: “The task of this series”, he said, “is to provide the audience with a survey of the intellectual and cultural development of the present and the recent past”.

Hartmann ran the series independently for three year before, in 1948, the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation joined in, made its orchestra and choir available, and put things on a secure financial basis. Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud and Paul Hindemith, who made guest appearances with musica viva as conductors and composers, are only a few of the names that spoke for the early reputation of the Munich concerts.

Continuity and innovation

Mauricio Kagel on the occasion of the musica viva composer portrait at the Muffathalle in Munich (May 28, 2005), foto by BR / Astrid AckermannAfter Hartmann’s unexpected death in 1963, the composer Wolfgang Fortner took over the management of the concert series and found himself confronted by changes in cultural life. The need to catch up on contemporary music seemed in the meantime to have been satisfied. A mere making up for ground lost through historical deficits was now obsolete. Fortner met the changed needs by turning to the most vehement themes of the time: he documented the results of serialism and aleatoric music, electronic music and improvisation.

In 1978 he was succeeded as artistic director of musica viva by the music journalist Jürgen Meyer-Josten. With the ethos of a journalist, Meyer-Josten set the series under the banner of a broad diversity: one emphasis was national traditions; another gave special consideration to regional composers from the Bavarian area. In 1997 Udo Zimmermann took over as artistic director and, with recourse to the founding its idea, succeeded in making the series a forum for the new in all its forms. He gave commissions to young artists and established musica viva as a research site and meeting place for internationally budding artists and ensembles. In addition to the orchestra concerts, which Zimmermann organized together with Josef Anton Riedl, there were special events of a multi-media character and border-crossing studio concerts that especially emphasized the inclusion of electronic media.

Looking forward and looking back

Score of John Cage’s “Four6” on the occasion of the musica viva concert at the Allerheiligenhofkirche in Munich (October 29, 2011), foto by BR / Astrid AckermannAt the end of the 2010/11 season, the “Zimmermann era” came to an end and Winrich Hopp, head of the musikfest berlin of the Berlin Festival, became the new artistic director. The musicologist (born in 1961) had already been associated for many years with musica viva. From 1997 to 2002 he had been charged with its artistic production and dramaturgy; now he is responsible for its program.

Dr. Winrich Hopp, foto by BR / Heike Steinweg“You have to introduce the new on the basis of traditions”, says Hopp, who has organized for his first season a combination of modern classics and new works of contemporary music. A French and an American strand runs through the season, with the initial focus on Pierre Boulez and John Cage. At the end of September, musica viva presented Boulez’s Pli selon pli, a work that Hopp calls a “milestone in music history”. Then in the October concert there was the posthumous premier of a composition by Cage: the orchestra work Eighty in its original setting, written in 1992.

These strands will be pursued in the rest of the season: in the French tradition, there will be works by Olivier Messiaen and Tristan Murail; in the American, works by Charles Ives and Elliot Carter. “And there will be more and more names”, says Hopp about the further program. “The strands will dissolve into a multi-dimensional mesh of musical contemporaneity: a process that Adorno described as ‘fraying’”. Part of this process will be ten premiers commissioned by the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation, including works by Georg Friedrich Haas, Helmut Lachenmann, Eduardo Moguillansky and Enno Poppe.

Maestro Pierre Boulez at the rehearsal for the musica viva concert of September 30, 2011, foto by BR / Astrid AckermannThe program reflects the central idea that Karl Amadeus Hartmann already formulated and that Winrich Hopp has expressly adopted: “The task of musica viva”, says Hopp “is to be a forum for the music of the immediate present – and at the same time a forum for the important works of contemporary musical history”.

Dr. Michael Rebhahn
lives as freelance music journalist and curator in Frankfurt/Main and works for Deutschlandradio Kultur, hr2-kultur und WDR3 among others.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
October 2011

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