22nd May 2013 marked the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth. A date to which the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin already completed its ten-part concertante cycle of Wagner, which has brought the orchestra considerable attention on the German and international music scenes for the last three years. The longest-standing German radio orchestra has been accepted into the ranks of
Europe’s leading concert orchestras and is developing into another outstanding cultural ambassador for the German capital.
Almost every concert played by the symphony orchestra of 103 musicians – average age ca. 43 and including an above-average quota of women – documents an electrifying level of achievement. Together with the ensemble’s striking artistic profile, since 2002 this has been in the safe hands of Marek Janowski, the musical director and chief conductor. Janowski’s maxim that even a perfect orchestral sound still leaves room for improvement has made an impact that still reverberates in every single concert. The orchestra itself, but also its audiences and the media are responding with great attentiveness to the orchestra’s cyclic programme, which covers Schumann, Mozart, Hartmann, Shostakovich, Haydn, Henze, Bartók, Ravel, Bruckner, Strauss, Beethoven and Wagner. Expectations are higher than ever for the orchestra’s future and that of the conductor, to whom the musicians offered the life-long position of chief conductor in 2008.
Since the start of the Janowski era, capable young conductors from the international music scene have been coming to Berlin to work with the RSB. After Andris Nelsons, Kristjan Järvi, Yannick Nézet- Séguin, Juraj Valčuha, Vasily Petrenko, Ludovic Morlot, Jakub Hrůša and Karel Mark Chichon in past years, those debuting with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin in the 2013/14 season include Alain Altinoglu (having already worked with the RSB in the Studio), Brandon Keith Brown, Peter Oundjian and Mark Wigglesworth. Guests including old masters such as Kurt Masur, Stanisław Skrowaczewski and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos will also contribute to the RSB’s repertoire and profile. Andrea Marcon will bring out the RSB’s skill in playing music from the Bach era, Frank Strobel will ensure that there are some exemplary concerts of film music, and Heiko Mathias Förster aims to enhance the RSB’s commitment to “Wagner for Children” with the “Ring of the Nibelungs”.
Repertoire and Travelling
As with every full-blooded symphony orchestra, the focus of work is on symphonic music of all epochs from pre-classical through to modernity. Since its foundation, the RSB has forged a particular affinity with contemporary music. Key 20th century composers have come to the conductor’s stand in person or given solo performances of their own works: Paul Hindemith, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Vogel, Kurt Weill and Alexander Zemlinsky, and more recently Krzysztof Penderecki, Peter Maxwell Davies, Friedrich Goldmann, Berthold Goldschmidt, Siegfried Matthus, Matthias Pintscher, Peter Ruzicka, Heinz Holliger, Daniel Schnyder or Jörg Widmann. The RSB’s assignments, in addition to Berlin symphonic
concerts, chamber music concerts, family concerts, radio recordings and CD productions, include guest appearances on important national and international podia. It is possible to hear the RSB there just as in Berlin – and has been for more than 50 years now. In addition to regular tours to Korea and Japan, the orchestra makes guest appearances at European festivals and other music centres in
Germany. Beyond this there are long-existing partnerships with the Festival Mecklenburg- Vorpommern and Chorin Musiksommer / Summer of Music.
The Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin dates back to the first hour of musical broadcasting by Deutscher Rundfunk in October 1923. Until 1994, its chief conductors (incl. Sergiu Celibidache, Eugen Jochum, Hermann Abendroth, Rolf Kleinert, Heinz Rögner and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos) created a body of sound to communicate the changeable history of 20th century Germany in a remarkable way. Since then the Rundfunk-Orchester und -Chöre GmbH Berlin (roc berlin), founded that same year, has guaranteed the RSB’s institutional stability. roc berlin is a union of four radio music ensembles in the capital (two choirs, the RIAS Kammerchor and the Rundfunkchor Berlin, the
RSB, and the DSO Berlin), which is upheld collaboratively by Deutschlandradio (40%), the Federal Republic of Germany (35%), the State of Berlin (20%) and Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (5%).
Radio Broadcasting and CDs
Thanks to its close links with Deutschlandradio, the major partner in roc berlin, and with Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, also a partner in roc berlin, nearly all of the RSB’s concerts are broadcast on radio. In addition, this cooperation with Deutschlandradio brings benefits with respect to CD production. After recordings of works by Brahms, Dvořák and Janáček, over the last three years much effort has been focused on media utilization of the concertante Wagner cycle in cooperation with the Dutch label PentaTone. Six of the live recordings have already been issued, immediately triggering a worldwide response. The successful release of four CD box sets with the “Ring of the Nibelungs” followed by the end of 2013.
Progress has been made in the complete performance of all Hans Werner Henze’s symphonies in conjunction with WERGO, now having reached Symphony Number 10. The orchestra also continues to produce along with labels such as Capriccio and Sony/BMG.
Paris, Monte-Carlo, Dresden, Geneva, Berlin
Marek Janowski has been committed to his developing collaboration with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin since 2002, an artistic union achieved through enduring hard work and manifest in the life-long musical directorship offered to him by the orchestra in 2008. He has found his professional centre in Berlin. From 2005 to 2012, Janowski was musical director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and previously, from 2000 to 2005, he was chief conductor of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. In addition, he held the chief function at the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra from 2001 to 2003. Marek Janowski had gained an international reputation between 1984 and 2000 as musical director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, reaching the pinnacle of the French orchestral landscape. From 1986 to 1990, parallel to his work in France, he also held the position of chief conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne; from 1997 to 1999 he was an important guest conductor at the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin.
A Modern Orchestra Leader
Now professionally at home in Berlin and privately in Paris, the conductor “with the Polish roots, the Rhineland humour and the stern expression” (MDR Figaro) is regarded as one of the most successful and acclaimed orchestra leaders of our day. He enjoys an outstanding reputation wherever he appears, whether as a guest conductor e.g. in the USA with the Boston Symphony, the San Francisco, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, or in Europe with the Orchestre de Paris or the Orchester der Tonhalle Zurich. This is based to his professional achievements, which are in turn founded on precise ideas of interpretation. Young generation ensembles also profit from his experience. Marek Janowski led the National Youth Orchestra in France, the Orchestre Français des Jeunes, from 1992 to 1997. He is a welcome guest conductor with the Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie / German Strings Philharmonic, the young orchestra mentored by the RSB, and also works together with the symphony orchestra of the Hochschule für Musik “Franz Liszt” in Weimar, where he was appointed honorary conductor in 2011.
Marek Janowski’s consistent demand for vertical orchestral precision, his precise knowledge of the score, unerring ear and succinct sign-giving go hand in hand with intelligent programme ideas, often based on a lean approach to apparently old familiar and unjustly underestimated repertoires.
Training and Career
He was born in Warsaw in 1939 and spent his childhood in Wuppertal; after violin and piano training, Marek Janowski completed studies as a choral director with teachers including Wolfgang Sawallisch at the Musikhochschule Cologne. His artistic path led him via work as a choral director and repetiteur – schooling his operatic and concert repertoire – in Aachen, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Hamburg to engagements as a general music director in Freiburg i. Br. (1973–75) and Dortmund (1975–79). The period in Dortmund was followed by a busy schedule on the international opera and concert scene. There is no opera house of international repute, from the Metropolitan Opera New York and the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, to Chicago, San Francisco and Hamburg, Vienna, Berlin and Paris where he was not a regular guest from the late 1970s onwards.
In the 1990s Marek Janowski withdrew from the opera scene. In the concert business, on which he has focused exclusively since then, he continues the great German conducting tradition, regarded all over the world as an outstanding conductor of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner and Strauss, but also as an expert in the French repertoire. His farewell to opera has only been institutional and by no means musical. That is why, today more than ever, Marek Janowski is considered one of the world’s best-informed specialists in the music of Richard Wagner.
Wagner and More
Together with the RSB, the Rundfunkchor Berlin, and a phalanx of international Wagner singers, he has realised all ten of the great operas and musical dramas from Richard Wagner’s Bayreuth canon in separate concertante performances at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall during the years 2010 to 2013. All the concerts were recorded live by PentaTone in cooperation with Deutschlandradio and appeared successively on CD by the end of 2013.
More than 50 records, most receiving international awards – including several complete opera recordings and complete symphonic cycles – have evidenced Marek Janowski’s remarkable talents as a conductor over the last 35 years. To date, his live recording of Richard Wagner’s tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibelungs” with the Staatskapelle Dresden (1980–83) is considered one of the most musically interesting ever to be recorded. In 2008 Marek Janowski recorded all Johannes Brahms’ symphonies for the label PentaTone in Pittsburgh. In Geneva, a CD series was produced together with the same label, covering the symphonies and masses composed by Anton Bruckner. In Berlin, a recording of the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms was made in 2009, and one of the original versions of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, also for PentaTone, in 2010. A complete recording of Hans Werner Henze’s symphonies for WERGO, already well advanced, is expected to reach completion in the near future.
Get further information under: www.rsb-online.de
As of: January 2014