The festival's opening concert features vocalist/bandleader Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester, Germany's leading exponents of big-band-style popular song.
There's more popular song as the festival's "Berlin Cabaret" series gets underway at the Neue Galerie at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street. Kicking off the series is cabaret goddess Ute Lemper, with two performances each tonight and tomorrow. Other singers taking part in "Berlin Cabaret" over the course of the festival include two young Berlin vocalists called Isengart and Meow Meow, bass-baritone Robert Osborne, jazz great Cassandra Wilson, downtown new-music mainstay Theo Bleckmann, and opera star Patricia Racette (who just finished an acclaimed run as Madama Butterfly at the Met).
Carnegie presents a special music-and-cinema event in Zankel Hall tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:30 p.m.: screenings of Walther Ruttmann's 1927 masterpiece Berlin: Symphony of a City, showing a day in the life of the capital during the Weimar Republic era. Four musicians will perform live Edmund Meisel's original score for the film in an arrangement for two pianos and percussion.
The core of the festival is an eight-day residency (November 11 _18) by the Berlin Philharmonic and its music director, Simon Rattle. They will perform three full-scale concerts featuring Mahler's last three major works and the U.S. premiere of Thomas Ads's Tevot. In addition, various chamber ensembles made up of Philharmonic musicians — the 12 Cellists of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, the Berliner Barock Solisten, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin (specializing in contemporary music) and ensembles of four and eight horns — will play programs at Carnegie's Zankel Hall and Weill Recital Hall as well as "Neighborhood Concerts" in various locations around the five boroughs of New York City.
The other featured orchestra taking part in "Berlin in Lights" may be a bit of a surprise: the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, which is currently on its first U.S. tour. The South American ensemble's presence seems less unlikely when you realize that its music director is one of Rattle's most famous protégés: Gustavo Dudamel, the 26-year-old conducting phenomenon who made headlines earlier this year when he was named the next music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The SBYO gives two full-orchestra programs — featuring, among other works, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Emanuel Ax), Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and (with Rattle on the podium) Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony — on November 11 and 12. Chamber ensembles from the group will play three Neighborhood Concerts as well, all on November 10.
Other ensembles participating in "Berlin in Lights" include the Nevzat Akpinar Ensemble, made of up traditional musicians from the German capital's large Turkish and Kurdish communities, and KNM Berlin, part of the city's thriving avant-garde music scene. Composer/conductor/chansonnier (as he's invariably described) HK Gruber will lead a group of New York musicians in songs by two stars of Communist-era East Berlin, Hanns Eisler and Kurt Weill.
The grand finale of the festival comes with "The Rite of Spring Project," performed on November 17 and 18 at the United Palace Theater in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Co-produced by Carnegie Hall and the Berlin Philharmonic's education program, Zukunft@BPhil, the Project will feature 120 New York City public school students dancing to Stravinsky's Sacre du printemps, performed live by the Berlin Philharmonic under Rattle's baton. The dance has been developed by the students themselves over two months of workshops and rehearsals with choreographer Royston Maldoom. Opening the program will be a new musical work, titled Songs: Ritual Rhythms, based on themes from Stravinsky's score and developed by 80 more City public school students (60 singers and 20 percussionists) in similar workshops with Berlin Philharmonic educators and musicians.
On top of the music programming, "Berlin in Lights" includes an entire film series at the Museum of Modern Art; photography exhibitions at Zankel Hall, the German Consulate, the Goethe-Institut and P.S. 1; and symposia and panel discussions on architecture, literature and politics at Weill Recital Hall, the German Consulate and the Center for Architecture.
Complete information on the "Berlin in Lights" festival can be found at www.carnegiehall.org/berlininlights.Z