Balloons and misty avenues

Darkness and fog left its mark on the Magma opening. It was in itself a grand sight: the long misty avenues surrounding the concert venue and the daylight of the following day highlighting the festival’s unique contour. Magma’s second day featured among many concerts the Ole Bull of the balloons: Rolf Wallin performing his legendary piece for red balloon…Nicholas H. Møllerhaug reports from the Magma 2002 Festival in Berlin.

Rolf Wallin på ballong- Magma 2002

Despite the presence of massive avenues and buildings, the Magma Festival has a concentrated appearance as the concerts take place in venues situated close together. Not only the legendary Berliner Philharmonie is situated on this venue of circuits; in particular the Staatsbibliothek with its Otto Braun Saal is a well-suited concert hall. Late on the opening night, the Arditti Quartet performed a completely Nordic programme at this venue, featuring among others the Parisian/Norwegian composer Sven Lyder Kahrs.

The stringent “Arditti-sound” left its imprint on this concert. This sound, which some love and some hate, has a strong influence on the pieces that are interpreted. One could argue that the “Arditti-sound” appeared a bit dry in this library hall. Kahrs’ piece is complex, and contains several intense near-melodic outbursts which were barely given enough space to unfold. Atli Ingolfson’s work, HZH, showcased an innovative instrumental and motivistic approach to the string quartet. The repetitive and minimalist sequences were particularly pleasing - at last some minimalism not reminiscent of Salinen or Reich. The punctual-musical periods were resolved into larger unities following shorter or longer lapses. Bent Sørensen’s work needs only one motto: Angel’s Music.

While the opening concert took place at the grand concert hall, The Berliner Philharmonie’s big-band performed Sunday at the smaller concert hall. The Scharoun ensemble had chosen a completely different Nordic programme and performed in a different venue with less media attendance but still with a listening Norwegian Crown Prince present. In many ways, this was as much of an aural experience as it was enjoyment of brilliant acoustics.

The octagon- or hexagon-shaped room features a strange terrace construction and in addition to this the acoustic dampers hanging from the ceiling are distinctly shaped as devilfish. All in all, this results in a room that has a weird appearance. This appearance was particularly underlined by the bright and soft golden colour which also adorns the buildings exterior. Musically speaking, one could quickly establish that the Scharoun ensemble is made up of musicians knowing this room better than their own violin case. The ensemble had put in lots of effort in studying the pieces that were performed, among which we could enjoy works by Nordheim and Wallin. Artistic leader of the Magma Festival, Rolf Gupta, was the night’s skilful conductor.

Gupta deserves credit for the very existence of the Magma Festival. Together with accomplices at the Music Information Centre Norway and the Norwegian Society of Composers, Gupta has put in a lot of effort to make this festival a reality. Duly expressed gratitude towards the Norwegian Crown Prince has already been voiced. According to sources within Berlin’s cultural sphere, the German press coverage has apparently been very positive. The weekend’s well-filled venues bear mark of the same positive coverage. The weekend’s audience was also a young one – Crown Prince Haakon was not the only twentysomething.

The walls of the Berliner Philharmonie’s foyer were adorned by portraits of the foremost Nordic composers as the Nordic Music Information Centres, and the Norwegian in particular, had produced an informative and well-designed exhibition. Crown Prince Haakon officially opened the exhibition followed by an in-form Rolf Wallin equipped with inflated balloons and clean hands. The Ole Bull of the balloons treated the audience to his legendary Piece For Red Balloon – warming all Norwegian hearts present at the Berliner Philharmonie.

Nicholas H. Møllerhaug is MIC/Ballade’s very own Magma 2002 reporter. Nicholas will report on a daily basis during Magma, and returns tomorrow with another dispatch from the German capital.

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