The Berlin Philharmonic on Monday announced a New York residency for October 2014 that will span six concerts and three of the city’s biggest cultural institutions: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Park Avenue Armory.
The Philharmonic, led by its chief conductor Simon Rattle, will give four concerts at Carnegie Hall, starting with its season opener on Oct. 1. The ensemble will then travel to the Park Avenue Armory, where it will give two staged performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, on Oct. 7 and 8. The latter concerts will be co-presented with Lincoln Center, and directed by Peter Sellars, the experimental stage director.
The orchestra's visit marks a rare collaboration between Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, two usually competitive halls, and allows them to pool resources and share travel costs along with the Armory.
The St. Matthew Passion performances, which will feature the Berlin Radio Choir and several vocal soloists, will kick off Lincoln Center’s annual White Light Festival of spiritual music, beginning its fifth year. As with many Armory performances, it will feature a striking production concept: a 1750-seat stage installation modeled on the configuration of the Berlin Philharmonie concert hall will be constructed inside the Armory's 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall.
“It’s very asymmetrical,” said Lincoln Center artistic director Jane Moss of the Philharmonie's in-the-round seating. "Each seating bank comes in at an unusual angle and nothing is a mirror image of the other side." Sellars’s production premiered at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 2010 and came to the Philharmonie in 2012. It will be staged at the BBC Proms next summer.
“It doesn’t feel like a concert really," Moss added. "None of the singers are on book, the choir moves all over the place, the orchestra members move. The whole thing is staged."
While the Passion may claim much of the public attention based on sheer novelty, the Carnegie Hall performances come with the star power of violinist Anne Sophie Mutter, the opening night soloist, as well as the U.S. premiere of a new work by Georg Friedrich Haas, a Carnegie co-commission. Music by Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Schumann rounds out the cycle.
Plans for the collaboration with Carnegie Hall began about three years ago when the two venues were working on parallel tracks to bring the Berlin Philharmonic to New York. The Philharmonic is a frequent guest at Carnegie but has never before appeared at Lincoln Center. After the German orchestra agreed to the deal, Moss then approached the Armory about joining in as a co-presenter.
Moss declined to cite a cost for the residency but said the three institutions aren’t concerned about siphoning off one another's audiences. “[Our event] is a nice complement to what Carnegie does," she said. "We’re not tripping over each other.”
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Below: Watch an excerpt of the Sellars St. Matthew Passion, taped at the Philharmonie in Berlin: