Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Orchester Jakobsplatz – A new Jewish identity finds its expression in music

“I aim to present Jewish Music in a current context, not in its usual depiction as something just related to the Holocaust or categorized as “entartete Kunst” “, explained artistic director Daniel Grossmann, who founded Orchester Jakobsplatz in 2005.
Photo: Erol Gurian - Orchester Jakobsplatz
Growing up in Germany, as the second generation of Jews being born after World War II, there seems to be a need to find a new relationship to one’s Jewish heritage and artistic identity.

The ensemble consists of young, professional musicians from more than 20 countries, who have a strong focus on playing rarely performed works of Jewish composers , in combination with other works of the 20th and 21st century.

Since 2007, Orchester Jakobsplatz’s steady home has been Munich’s new Jewish Community Center, located at the Jacobsplatz, with its regular concert series taking place in its Hubert Burda Auditorium. The programming is varied with traditional fare being performed, alongside contemporary music that includes commissioned works for the ensemble, depicting their Jewish connections. Orchester Jakobsplatz - Photo: Erol Gurian

The remarkable success of securing a steady venue and its performance opportunities has in turn contributed to the ensemble’s distinct and continuous growth, both in its scope and dimension: “The Jewish music tradition is an ongoing theme for our ensemble and our international members, but musically everybody also brings his own personal traditions into the music making dialogue,” said Grossman, in an interview after the orchestra’s presentation at the Munich Classical: NEXT forum.

New ways of presenting classical music were a central focal point for the international music community attending Classical: NEXT. Picking up on this challenge, Orchester Jakobsplatz has certainly found an interesting niche, with the concept of continuously expanding their repertoire and venues for playing, while pursuing successful co-operative situations with other artists.

To that end, the orchestra has engaged in numerous co-productions with the Bavarian State Theatre. Examples of these are the staged performance of the chamber opera “The Kaiser of Atlantis of the Refusal of Death” by Viktor Ullman, Benjamin Fleischmann’s “Rothschild’s Violin”, combined with Sarah Nemtsov’s chamber opera “Herzland” – all of which have been staged by the Bavarian State Opera.

Other highlights that helped expand the orchestra’s reputation and reach internationally include a benefit-concert with Anne-Sophie Mutter and performances with renowned soloists such as Tanja Becker-Bender, Sergej Leiferkus, Adrian Brendel , Ann-Katrin Najdu and Kevin Conners.

In 2006, the orchestra opened the ninth Jewish Summer Festival in Budapest, where Grossmann has appeared regularly as guest-conductor, since 2000 on. Daniel Grossmann - Photo: Christine Schneider
An international tour to Israel in 2009 was followed by a tour to Moldavia, the Ukraine and Rumania, recently.

This year the Jewish community of Stockholm hosts the ensemble’s revitalization of spirited old and new Jewish music and the Orchestra has already a tour planned throughout the United States in 2013.

The young and thoughtful Daniel Grossmann, who conducts Orchester Jakobsplatz, points out the importance of the ongoing cultural exchange, in all the orchestra’s endeavors. “Everyone integrates their cultural heritage into existing institutions. We are integrating our Jewish one. The cultural exchange that develops out of that is an immense experience and quite refreshing for someone like me who grew up Jewish, after the war in Germany.”

This new Jewish generation growing up German and Jewish in Germany has managed to incorporate a lively blend of the existing diverse and rich Jewish cultural traditions within the German environment. They are looking to broaden its appeal to other countries, where there once had been an active Jewish community life and musical tradition. This important new multi-cultural focus also facilitates a fresh and vibrant breeding ground for contemporary creations that speak of a newly blossoming and self-confident Jewish spirit.

No wonder the project received great cultural and political attention and support within the Jewish Community and from the German Government, in general. With the ensemble’s solid establishment at the Jewish Community Center at Jakobsplatz, this group exemplifies the return of a much more complete Jewish heritage taking its well-deserved place in Munich’s cultural life.

Orchester Jacobsplatz has recorded two CDs for the label NEOS Music. In 2008 works of John Cage and in 2009, works of the Jewish composer Paul Ben-Haim were released by this label. NEOS Music has established an ongoing cooperation with the Orchester Jakobsplatz and will continue to bring out their work.
To get in touch with the orchestra’s manager Dr.Julia Grossmann contact info@orchester-jakobsplatz.de or their US/Canada representation Barbara Scales at bscales@lattitude45arts.com

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Classical got its own way - Classical:NEXT...and many voices.


Jennifer Dautermann of WOMEX (the World Music Expo) and project manager of Classical:NEXT, has succeeded in building a new platform for classical music professionals at Munich’s well equipped, easy to maneuver, cultural center Gasteig.

The long overdue launch of classical music’s first dedicated forum took place over May 30 to June 2, hosting live and video showcases, conference sessions and presentations by leading professionals of the press as well as music institutions, the likes of Carnegie Hall and the Bavarian State Opera.

The forum also included easily accessible trade-fair booths showcasing the recording industry, dominated by the Omni-presence of the large Naxos team.
Part of the excitement was the presence of the eminent, Hong-Kong based Naxos founder and self-made man Klaus Heymann, who chose this forum to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Naxos’s position as the largest distributor of classical music. This in itself may have contributed in part to the eager participation of many of the labels distributed by Naxos at Classical:NEXT. Regardless, Naxos has proven time and again that it is equipped with an innovative entrepreneurial approach and a foresight that has succeeded with great projects like the Naxos library. They have managed to connect culture and commerce and impressively demonstrate their development from a low-budget start-up into a world-wide classical powerhouse.

This is precisely why it would have been deemed a generous gesture to extend an invitation to their anniversary celebration as well to the rest of the attendees at Gasteig, as the majority was invited and, except for those willing to tag along, the minority got left behind taking solace at Munich’s surrounding “Gasthaus”- scene, instead of joining in what could have been a much appreciated opportunity for a social mixer for all who attended.


Thanks to a conversation with Klaus Heymann in response to my article ‘s mention of the Naxos hosted party at Classical:NEXT, it has been clarified that both the Naxos party and subsequnt Naxos-sponsored concert were open to the public. Their minimal publicity was simply an administrative oversight on the part of the event’s organizers.

“Not publicising the party and the concert was one of the issues we had with the organisers…We could have had more people at our party and the subsequent concert.We will probably back next year’s event again, provided they make improvements,” Heymann said.

After all, the intimacy of the classical world was what brought everyone to this new event, where closeness would make for better partners in a seemingly small, interdependent music world. This omission seems worth mentioning since it’s easily possible to rectify when planning future events.

Until now, classical music has had to share the stage and marketing trade with other genres at International trade shows like Canne’s Midem. (Marché International du Disque et de l'Edition Musicale)
This was talked about for years, but changed last year due to the initiative of CLASS (Association of Classical Independents in Germany) joining hands with Munich’s Department of Arts and Culture to provide financial support to enable classical music’s own forum. And it was wonderful to see how overwhelmingly positive the response by the trade was.

The forum was totally dedicated to classical music – with a strong accent on the particular challenges for this genre and its possible solutions. Who was better to address these than the trade itself which is working hard to keep classical music in the mainstream? And so all members came out strongly to the Forum, and were largely responsible for the Forum’s successful participation.

As indicated by the title of the Forum, the topics that dominated most presentations were oriented towards future prospects within classical music -- its formats, its presentation, and marketing and efforts towards increasing audience engagement.

While the significance of finding new platforms and strategies to engage new listeners was uniformly addressed, what were striking were the different approaches and attitudes about what could deliver changes to the industry. As an example:(Photo right-James Jolly)
Gramophone’s Editor in Chief, James Jolly (press photo left) wholeheartedly embraced the presence of music journalists on the Internet, who are not censored by an editorial staff and “amateurs in the best sense of the word.”
(Photo left-Oliver Condy)
Conversely, this approach was straight-out dismissed by BBC Musik Magazine Editor Oliver Condy who, in the face of shrinking numbers of employed editorial staff members within the printed press, presented quite a narrow view on the topic, while Carsten Dürer Editor in Chief of PIANOnews & ENSEMBLE, settled somewhere in between. Photo: Oliver Condy BBC Magazine

There were interesting market research presentations on how social media can be used for marketing purposes, as well as an exploration of comparatively new funding possibilities, such as the original ‘Open Goldberg Variation-project’ funded through kickstarter. While in this case the initiative amounted to a substantial sum and the project indeed benefited ingeniously from the concept of building community through the vehicle of social media, this still represents an exceptional success rather than the rule. Sadly, even though each forum permitted questions after each presentation, this could have been more dynamic with a more engaging seating arrangement and a larger time frame devoted to true interactive discussion.

But regardless, most of the presentations (and there were many) ranged from informative to inspiring, especially when they embraced some of the really new developments at the core of our industry, like the classical club culture, presented by Universal Music Classics &Jazz’ Christian Kellerman, whose initiative of addressing younger audiences within their preferred music club environment dates back to as early as 2001. (Polygram- Jazz label in Hamburg) He promoted Universal’s Yellow Lounge that has recently gained more followers throughout Europe, with its New York franchise to be launched this month. Akin to this and inspired by the contemporary music scene, Classical:NEXT’s Dautermann herself initiated C3, a contemporary festival in 2009, taking classical contemporary music into nightclubs.

It was interesting to note that in a field that has often been seen as stodgy, it was the innovative concepts which gained tremendous momentum, rather than the traditional classical genre of live and video showcases.

There was a large range of new music to select from and its representatives were there. The selection which presented “a wide spectrum of repertoire and approaches,” according to Dautermann (International artsmanager), were selected from around 100 applicants by a jury, in order to facilitate young artists’ engagement with potential artistic managers, presenters and journalists. Upon conversing in German and English with Rebecca Schmidt, one of the jury's members and currently Musical America's  Berlin - correspondent, I fully trust those choices were in capable hands.

The fact that some of the showcase’s timing partly overlapped with other sessions on the schedule made it difficult to attend as much as one wanted, which was disappointing.
Photo: Seda Röder by Dana Tarr

The ones I was able to catch and liked included the young pianist and composer Seda Röder (http://www.sedaroeder.com/) who performed John Cage and one of her own compositions (a follow up with the artist is intended); as well as pianist and composer Moritz Eggert, (Photo by Mara Eggert), who impressed with more John Cage at the closing session, acknowledging the master’s centennial. The young Orchester Jakobsplatz München , whose conceptual presentation of Jewish composers in an “alive” context, quite oppositional to their usual focus on Holocaust or so called “entartete Kunst” seemed to me a refreshing way of embracing New Music and new Jewish life in Germany.

Photo: Erol Gurian- Orchester Jakobsplatz München
A wide perspective of informational flow was also provided by participating institutions like the IAMIC (International Association of Music Information Centers), a worldwide network of organizations that document and promote music, whom I had never heard of before.

Last but not least, some of the latest improvements in sound technology were introduced at Classical:NEXT, as well as new ways to collect data and re-organize music libraries geared to the classical genre specifically.
Former Wall Street IT expert Phillippe Watel is the man behind MusiCHI. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/MusiCHI-Suite-Music-software-organizer-jukebox-for-classical-and-jazz)
While not available for Apple users yet, the innovative software package offers PC users a gigantic quality storage-system that organizes collected files (including self-imported CDs of one’s own collection) into an easily, retrievable music collection of superior scope with differentiated categories and retrieval options than are currently available through the iTunes library. As an alternative to iTunes and for folks familiar with the specific problem of transforming shelves full of discs into a file format that makes sense and where each file can be found easily (in other words almost every classical music nerd who is trying to catch up with the progress of technology) - the trip was already well worth its while.

Photo: Jessica Duchen
A personal perk for me was finally meeting over coffee with my favorite Blogger, the Independent’s music journalist and author Jessica Duchen, who co-presented as an important voice of the press and shares her own impressions of the forum with you at http://jessicamusic.blogspot.com/2012/06/classicalnext-takes-wing-with-whoosh.html

Altogether, Classical:NEXT paved the way for forming and renewing relationships and staying up to date with the many different voices that define the classical music scene today with some food for thought of new concepts . My only problem is I am addicted now to those wonderful Butter- Bretzeln, a main staple within that hospitable Bavarian cuisine.

By Ilona Oltuski http://GetClassical.org