Delving into its third full season, Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal continues its aim to promote an intimate concert setting to bring the audience closer to the artists and the music itself. With more than 140 concerts, lectures, interdisciplinary productions and events for children, Daniel Barenboim’s vision to engage audiences and encouraging them to “actively listen” is easily fulfilled. “Great music is the result of concentrated listening, every musician listening intently to the voice of the composer and to each other.” In the stunning elliptical hall designed by Frank Gehry, audiences can experience a season filled with Beethoven and Schubert, Arabic music and jazz, or evenings dedicated to György Ligeti and Galina Ustvolskaya.

Pierre Boulez Saal
© Volker Kreidler

In an article for The Telegraph, Daniel Barenboim describes Beethoven as “a freethinking person, and a courageous one”, a composer who “freed music from hitherto prevailing conventions of harmony structures”. It is also takes courage to understand, let alone perform, his works, a quality that Barenboim, without doubt, brings to the table. For the first time, he presents all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas in chronological order, culminating in a marathon recital of the last three mighty sonatas. Together with his son Michael and the cellist Kian Soltani, Barenboim devotes himself to next year’s anniversary composer’s piano trios. He further accompanies Pinchas Zukerman interpreting Beethoven’s violin sonatas. The Ensemble in Residence, the Belcea Quartet, twice performs all 16 string quartets, once stretched out over the season, and once in condensed form during the Quartet Week in May.

Daniel Barenboim
© Silvia Lelli

Since the inauguration of the hall, the Boulez Ensemble has been thrilling their audiences with 19 different programmes, and – most notably – in 19 different formations. This ever-changing and undefined international ensemble is the artistic DNA of the house, an ensemble modulable for the salle modulable. This season they continue their work to explore music of all classical genres and periods, including four concerts exclusively dedicated to one composer: Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti, Galina Ustvolskaya and Igor Stravinsky, led by François-Xavier Roth, Denis Kozhukhin and Oksana Lyniv, respectively. Two new works will be unveiled, one by the Jordanian-born German composer Saed Haddad, and Der Körper der Saite (The Body of the String) for solo cello and ensemble by Isabel Mundry.

“Liebe sei vor allen Dingen; Unser Thema, wenn wir singen; Kann sie gar das Lied durchdringen; Wird's um desto besser klingen.” (Love is, above all; the theme of our singing; if it inhabits the song; it will resonate even further). Two hundred years after the publication of Goethe’s West-östlicher Divan (West-Eastern Divan), there could be no better place than a hall which shares a building with the Barenboim-Said Akademie to celebrate this collection of lyrical poems that influenced poets and composers alike. At the end of a three-day festival dedicated to the Divan, Waltraud Meier, Dorothea Röschmann, Michael Volle and Daniel Barenboim, together with members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, perform music after Goethe’s texts. During the Schubert Week in January, Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager further explores Goethe’s West-Eastern world with Schubert’s Suleika I and Suleika II, accompanied by British pianist Julius Drake. The curator of Schubert Week, Thomas Hampson, performs the contemplative Winterreise, while South Tyrolean baritone Andrè Schuen and his pianist Daniel Heide centre their melancholic recital around excerpts from Schwanengesang.

Barenboim-Said Akademie
© Volker Kreidler

The hall lives up to its nickname of “the thinking ear”, where contemporary and intercultural music thrive, when Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma curates the Arabic Music Days in September, inspired by the legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. In February, Shamma returns for a solo recital to Berlin.

Since last year, the Pierre Boulez Saal co-presents the Baroque Days with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden. This season they stage seven concerts in November, including one with Jordi Savall and his Le Concert des Nations, the Accademia Bizantina with Ottavio Dantone and the RIAS Kammerchor with Robert Hollingworth.

Further highlights include Christian Gerhaher singing Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Kindertotenlieder in September, while Anna Prohaska and Julius Drake explore a more versatile Lieder programme, from Brahms and Wolf to Stravinsky, Britten and Rachmaninov. Jörg Widmann, a regular in every chamber music hall around the world, teams up with Dame Mitsuko Uchida for an intimate recital, including Berg’s Four pieces and Schumann’s Fantasiestücke. Emmanuel Pahud gives a solo recital with works from Bach to contemporary and Maurizio Pollini and the Hagen Quartet present an all Brahms and Schoenberg programme in December. A close friend of Barenboim, Martha Argerich returns together with Guy Braunstein in February.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim invite Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yo-Yo Ma for a breathtaking concert at the Philharmonie Berlin, including Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony – a grand celebration of a grand season.

Click here to view all events at the Pierre Boulez Saal.

This preview was sponsored by the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin.