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Music

Organized delirium in a stunning new hall

This performance from last spring shows everything that can come to vivid life in Berlin's new Pierre Boulez Hall - from a duo to a riot of instrumental color by Boulez himself.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Pierre Boulez Hall opening, part two

At the historic site of the State Opera at Unter den Linden in the heart of Berlin, the Barenboim-Said Academy houses a brand new concert hall named after the great French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez.

It was built at a total cost of 32 million euros ($36.7 million). Two-thirds of the expense was borne by the German government, which also subsidizes the operating costs of the Barenboim-Said Academy: 5.5 million euros annually ($6.3 million), and beginning in 2019, 9 million euros ($10.3 milion). The remainder of the building costs, about 13 million euros ($14.9 milion), was raised from donations from private individuals and companies. 

The hall is the brainchild of conductor Daniel Barenboim, who sees his academy as an example of how individuals from hostile countries can learn to understand each other, for example, by performing together: "We share something from the very beginning - and that's a passion," said Barenboim. "I don't need to explain why a passion connects people so quickly and so strongly. But that passion is called music. That's the point of departure."

Passageway in the Pierre Boulez Hall in Berlin (Pierre Boulez Saal)

A sleek passageway to the hall inside

Part of the point of this opening concert of the Pierre Boulez Hall was to demonstrate what it can do acoustically, so there are a variety of instruments and ensembles showcased. 

This hour of music begins with two soloists - a Jew and a Palestinian, musicians and friends. On the violin, Daniel Barenboim's 32-year-old son Michael Barenboim and, at the piano, Karim Said, a young pianist and a relative of Edward Said. Together with Barenboim, the Palestinian-American literature critic was a co-founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - itself uniting Israelis and Arabs.  

Afterwards, composer and clarinetist Jörg Widmann walks up to one of the upper balconies and performs his own fantasy for solo clarinet from that position. 

Pierre Boulez conducting (picture-alliance/dpa)

Pierre Boulez was an active conductor well into his old age. Here he leads the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden Baden und Freiburg in 2008

The final work on the program, titled "Sur incises" (On Interpolations), premiered in 1998 and was set by composer Pierre Boulez for three pianos, three harps and three percussion sections. In this performance, these groups are spread across the stage of the Pierre Boulez Hall.

One music critic described the piece as a "sheer riot of color," sustained dreaminess alternating abruptly with pulsating outbursts, with the overall effect being a kind of "organized delirium" - which is how Boulez once described the state of consciousness he sought to produce with his works. 

Alban Berg
Chamber concerto for piano and violin with 13 wind instruments 

Jörg Widmann
Fantasy for solo clarinet 

Pianos and percussion instrumnents on the stage of the Pierre Boulez Hall in Berlin (DW/G. Schließ)

Boulez' work "Sur incises" has a unique combination of instruments

Pierre Boulez
Sur incises (On Interpolations; excerpt) 

Performed by:
Michael Barenboim, violin
Karim Said, piano
Jörg Widmann, clarinet
Boulez Ensemble

Recorded by Radio Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) in the Pierre Boulez Hall of the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin on March 4, 2017. 

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