Arts Listings

Akademie Ensemble Presents Bach, Beethoven, Strauss

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 18, 2007

Berkeley Akademie Ensemble, Berkeley Symphony’s new program jointly directed by conductor Kent Nagano and violinist Stuart Canin to present music in “a multifaceted structure,” a tradition of Akademies which “trace their origin all the way back to what one might call the democratization of music,” will perform their debut concert 8 p.m. Wednesday at the First Congregational Church with renditions of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 2 and 3, Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue and Richard Strauss’ “Metamorphosen.”  

The Berkeley Symphony musicians will be joined by six string players, guest artists from the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, in a first-time partnership. 

“The Akademies were founded to share music with the community at large ... around the time of Beethoven,” said Nagano. “[It] had primarily been reserved for the aristocracy ... They had an enormous following ... very much music of the times and for people of the times. That was the spirit in which we wanted to launch the Akademie here in Berkeley.” 

Some pieces on the Akademie program will be performed as chamber music, some led by concertmaster Canin, others conducted by Nagano.  

“The hope is to try to blur those lines,” Nagano said, “so that what we share with the audience is simply music making. The template we are using is really very close to those original concerts presented by Peter von Winter 200 years ago.” 

With a first season emphasis on detailed string ensembles, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 features three groups of three string instruments each, with support from a basso continou group; Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue—meant originally as a finale for one of his later string quartets—is performed by string orchestra; and Strauss’ “Metamorphosen” is subtitled “A Study for 23 Solo Strings.” 

An early sketch of Strauss’ piece was titled “Mourning for Munich,” written the day the Munich Court Theater was bombed in 1943. 

The Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, which will conclude the debut concert, will feature Canin, violin; Emma Moon, flute; Laura Griffiths, oboe and DavidWashburn, piccolo trumpet.  

The Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, from which the six guest string players come, was founded in 1974, drawing its musicians from top conservatory students in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  

“Germany’s great youth orchestra,” Nagano called them, “which represents tomorrow’s talent, already performing at a high professional level today.” 

Nagano—who as general music director of the Bavarian State Opera presides over von Winter’s Akademie concert tradition since 1811, one of the oldest—will continue as co-artistic director of Berkeley Akademie with his departure as Berkeley Symphony’s music director following the 2008-09 season.  

Canin, his co-director, has served as concert master of the San Francisco Symphony and the New Century Chamber Orchestra, which he co-founded as a conductorless orchestra. In 2001, Nagano appointed him concertmaster of the Los Angeles Opera, a position he continues to hold. 



8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19 at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Durant Avene and Dana Street. $60.