Christian Filips: Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, Bach archive and Ukrainian music Olha Phykhodko

For 15 years, Christian Filips, the artistic director of The Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, is in charge of programming and management. The Sing-Akademie has three heads: two choir conductors and Christian, and a head of organization staff. His job is not very common in Germany because normally the choirs don’t have a program director, orchestras do. 

Ukrainian conductor and researcher Olha Prykhodko asked a musician questions connected with the history and organization of the Sing-Akademie, the concerts with Ukrainian music, and the so-called Bach archive.

Photo credit: Gezett, Gerald Zoerner

Sing-Akademie in the beginning

Olha: Ukrainians know this organization first like a choir who were the first performers of Bach Passions and remember how many years it was laying just in some archive, and then with Felix Mendelsohn, it was performed. Let’s talk a bit about the history of the Sing-Akademie, its organization, and what is the first reason for existing and arising.

Christian: The choir was founded in 1791. There are two versions of the origin of our Academy. One is a bit mythological, the other one more sociological and political. Let me start with the second version. At that time Berlin was the capital of Prussia, known for its liberal laws in terms of religion. Berlin was not a very religious city then, it used to be mainly protestant, but even Protestantism was not very influential. Frederick II, the King of Prussia, was allowing Jews and Catholics from France, the Huguenots, to move to the city. He even allowed the Catholics to build a church in the city centre, the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral. Background to such projects were the ideals of the French Enlightenment, the toleration theories of Voltaire, a philosopher who also lived and worked in Berlin.

The beginnings of Sing-Akademie also had to do with a new form of bourgeoisie that aimed for participation in society. Many early members of the choir were Jewish women. They could not be part of the social life that was influenced by the court or by church. So a new form of cultural life needed to be invented. Concerts or opera performances took only place at court or church institutions, so many people of the arising civil society were excluded. That’s one of the reasons why out of this new civil society, consisting of proud liberal citizens, philosophers, scientists, musicians and Jewish salonnières, a new institution like Sing-Akademie appeared and celebrated the art of music as their new religion. 

The Sing-Akademie in 1843. Painting by Eduard Gaertner

The first, more mythological version tells a story that is deeply linked to a certain family of musicians.  The baroque composer Johann Friedrich Fasch lived in Zerbst, a small city (today in Saxony-Anhalt). He wrote court music and church music for Sunday services. He was quite famous in his time, even Johann Sebastian Bach performed his cantatas in Leipzig, in the Thomaskirche. Some of his symphonies are still played and rediscovered in recent years. His son, Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch, was also a composer, and a harpsichord player. It occurred that King Frederick II, who was known for playing the flute, needed someone to accompany him. This was the job of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but they needed another musician, so Carl Fasch was asked to join the court as a second-court harpsichord player.

He moved to Berlin but came in a situation where the whole cultural life was down again, even at the court. The so-called Seven YearsWar against Saxony and Austria was going on, so the King didn’t have time to play the flute anymore, and Carl Fasch had a lot of time. He was a gifted mathematician and started to compose canons and polyphonic a cappella music, which was completely unknown at that time. Furthermore, Fasch started to study the music of Renaissance, Italian mainly, asking other musicians to bring him scores from their journeys. One of the scores was a mass composition for 16 voices from Orazio Benevoli, written for San Marco in Venice. Fasch had never seen such a composition for 16 voices before. He wanted to perform this piece and gathered opera singers, but they couldn’t sing such music.

Portrait of Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch by Anton Graff

They were taught in the gallant opera style with coloratura and rococo elements and so they weren’t able to sing complex polyphonic structures. To make it easier for them, Fasch started composing music for 16 voices in the style of bis own time, combining it opera elements the Berlin singers were familiar with. That’s how Fasch wrote his own 16-voice mass, combining opera and polyphonic style.

And again he tried to rehearse his own piece, but it was still a problem. So he asked Jewish ladies of the city to support him; and for that purpose, they gathered first in private spaces and then in the corridors of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. And because of this rehearsing space, people started calling the choir Sing-Akademie. Which actually was, in the beginning, a bit of a joke, because inside in the university halls the men were having discussions on scientific aspects, and outside in some corridors, the women and some strange enthusiasts were rehearsing with the cembalo player Carl Fasch, unknown, a cappella music.

So, this choir started as a women’s choir?

No, the music was sung by men and women from the beginning. And this mixed singing was one of the sensations and attractions: women up to then had to remain silent in churches and were not allowed to sing there at all. So the foundation of Sing-Akademie was strongly influenced by emancipated women of several religions and beliefs.  Especially important was Sara Levy,was the great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. She was also a harpsichord player, had lessons with Carl Fasch and even gave him commissions. She also collected music by Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, had a huge collection of scores and was giving all her time and money to the Sing-Academie. Of course Sara Levy was not a Christian, she was not interested in the religious aspect of the mass Fasch wanted to rehearse.

The main reason to do it was to study the beauty of the music itself.  Studying and performing the art of former times was the main aspect that connected the early participants of Sing-Akademie. This is also the reason why philosophers like Friedrich Schleiermacher took part in the choir. They were interested in music as an art form with a long history. And they tried to find a way to write and interpret this history in a new hermeneutic way.

Program book for the concert held in Milan, accompanied by Berlin Philharmonic, 1913

So these were the two ways of starting this Sing-Akademie, first this performing and second researching?

In the beginning, it was not so much about performing. Even the rehearsals, in the beginning, were a sort of research and self-education. The program was to research and study the music of former times for the art’s sake. Art was the new religion of an enlightened civil society.

And this created a new choral society. Nobody before had studied the music of former times in such an intense way. Up to 1800, there was no tradition of performing music from former times. Only contemporary music was performed. For every church service, every court evenе composers wrote new pieces that most of the time were never performed again.  But then Fasch and his society suddenly started to look back and find out how musical history developed.  It was not so much about performing or impressing an audience, the most important thing was to be engaged and to learn something about yourself as a human being by studying art.

The Sing-Akademie nowadays

Your speech reveals very interesting things. Firstly, it was formed by very active citizens who had time and money to spend on music research, and the second was liberal organizations where the women were not shadowed. What about now? Do you use these rules, and statements, that were created in the 18th century and how does it work now in administration and in art things?

The constitution is still the same. If you become a member of Sing-Akademie, you receive a member number, and these numbers are continuous since 1791. Also the constitution is still quite the same. In the beginning, Sing-Akademie decided that the members of the choir vote their musical director. And in the board of the choir had to be gender equality, with as many women as men. The members themselves were ruling the club. And the members were not only wealthy people, therewere also craftsmen or peasants singing in the choir, coming from several religions and backgrounds. 

So they all were involved in creating cultural life in Berlin. And how it works now, I mean, all this staff and the members, the churches, everything?

It’s more or less the same since 1791. The Sing-Akademie zu Berlin is still ruled by independent members, without any state or church support. They still vote and decide if they want to take part in the program. Also, the aspect of self-education and music as an autonomous form of art is still very important for the members. Since 2017 there is not only the „club“ of singers but also a foundation (Stiftung der Sing-Akademie) that takes care for the property and the historic heritage. This was a crucial step. Because we know from the past that a club can sell stuff when money is needed. A club could even change its purpose.

Is it written in these rules in the 18th century, that the members of the choir can change their rules so tomorrow it will be not a choir but a dancing club?

Today the institution has still very mixed participants and a very diverse audience. But what unites them is the shared wish to sing. So they would not vote against singing I guess. In the Sing-Academie we have a girls choir,  a grown-ups choir and the chamber choir, and altogether its around 350 singers of all ages at the moment.

The Sing-Akademie with Director Georg Schumann in 1940

These are active singers? But you also have non-active members.

Yes, we also have supportive members, a society of the friends of Sing-Akademie. They support concerts with money, do their own events to inform themselves about the music and are the best listeners you can imagine. And finally, we also have alumni members, people that used to sing in the choir and remain to be members although they do not sing anymore. They still feel connected to the Akademie and support it. These alumni members pay a one-year charge and still have the right to vote for the artistic director for example.

Are these decisions made by the majority?

Yes, the director is voted by the choir. They also decide about the advisory board, about questions of the constitutions and so on. The program is done by the artistic team of course, but we always do introductions and explain what we are doing and why we are doing it. Our singers really take part in the programs. They show you how they find it and will discuss it with you. It still is a form of an education program, like in the beginning. Singing in a choir hobby, but also a way of being part of society. That might be the reason why we react to political or cultural situations in our programs. People feel responsible for the choir. And we altogether feel responsible for society.

The Sing-Akademie role

It’s an interesting system for voting for artistic direction, for the conductor, because for example in Ukraine we have an opposite situation when the art director and conductor have much more influence than the members of the choir. But in Germany, as I understand the members are ruling the situation, so they vote for the conductor. When we talk about professional choir we understand that these are qualified people, they can understand who is who, and what about the non-professional members? Maybe it’s not working really to vote for conductor and artistic direction?

I think one should trust the people. The constitution of Sing-Akademie zu Berlin was a role model for many similar choirs in Germany, in Europe and in the U.S.  It was copied all over the world, that is the reason why many choirs are called Sing-Akademie, like the Wiener Sing-Akademie or the Sing-Akademien in Zürich, Rostock, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg or Linz. They are all based on the Berlin model. I think the only big orchestra where the players vote the artistic director is the Berlin Philharmonics. And Sing-Akademie and the Berlin Philharmonics have a long shared history. So I guess this idea of a democratic decision comes in both ensembles from the same historical background.

I was researching the choral life in Europe because Germany was, in my opinion, not so singing nation and so much vocal music, so many choral traditions, education, singing. It mostly was concentrated on instrumental performing. That’s why it’s a very interesting situation where the model of the nowadays choral organization was growing up in Berlin.

What you say is only true since World War II. Until then, Germany was really a singing nation. Remember the Bach- and Händel oratorio tradition. There was a big choral movement in Germany, but this all stopped after WWII. At least in the Western part of the country.

Why?

Many people, especially the good composers and a historically aware civil society, felt that singing in collectives was politically misused by nationalism.

Like in the Soviet Union.

I think after Fascism, people tried to avoid singing in collectives and wanted to be more individual. Also the composers were not composing for choir so much anymore. And if they did, the structure was so complicated and de-composed that amateur choirs couldn’t sing the pieces most of the time. Of course, I am generalizing, there were other tendencies as well, but at least the so-called “Neue Musik” in West Germany was very sceptic regarding the idea of an amateur chorus. . In the German Democratic Republic it was a bit different, they were influenced by the choral system of Soviet Union. In the GDR singing in choirs was a political issue. GDR for example had several mixed, half-professional, half-amateur choirs. The ensembles should look like amateur choir, but in fact they were quite often professionals. The images of working-class choirs were sometimes created for propaganda reasons. This might have been another reason to be sceptical towards choir culture in Germany.

Choir movement in Germany now

It was not a social but a political thing. But about now in Germany? 

I would say in general there was somehow a renaissance of choral singing and choir singing during the last 20 years.

With what is it connected?

I can only speculate what influence German reunification had on this so-called “choral renaissance”. Of course, in GDR tradition people were used to singing in choirs already. There was not only the official choir system, there was also a strong church choral tradition as an opponent to it. So singing in choirs was already a practice. And maybe this changed the cultural landscape in the country? I also think that people recognize more and more that individualism is not a straight way to paradise.

But it is also true that reality for choirs does not just look bright. Choirs are suffering, especially after the COVID pandemic, because they don’t have men’s voices. That’s a problem for every amateur choir in Germany. But I must say that I was impressed by how strong the feeling of responsibility and engagement was during the lockdown. People are really engaged in singing, they fight for it. Imagine, only in Berlin, we have 290 amateur choirs. Many chamber choirs, but also big oratorio choirs, like Philharmonischer Chor among others.

And who are these people? Do they have a professional background or some basic musical education?

Most of them are just amateur singers. Traditionally, in Germany, we have had quite a good basic musical education in school. Many schools have choirs and orchestras. If you have a look at the choral landscape in Berlin you will find many sorts of choir, from every sort of background. A Turkish choir, Bulgarian Voices, even a Diplomatic Choir…

From diplomatic corpus?

Yes, the choir was made up in 2013 by diplomats from 15 nations. In Berlin, we have choirs at the universities, many church choirs and concert choirs connected to our big concert halls like the Berliner Philharmonie.

The Choir of the Berlin Philharmonics is also an amateur choir? 

Yes, it is called Philharmonischer Chor. It’s a choir that exists since 1882. The ensemble is also coming from Sing-Akademie’s tradition, it is a big oratorio choir performing oratorios, most of the time in the Philharmonie.

Tell a little bit about nowadays projects, projects of the last years, so what did sing academy do, what kind of projects? Oratory choir is meant for Ukrainian auditory that choir works concentrate just for repertoire oratorio and around the singing, so it’s singing with the orchestra? Is it just old music or contemporary also?

We have several ensembles of all ages, from amateur to semiprofessional. Our girl’s choir is an outstandingly good ensemble! But I will focus now on the oratorio choir. The choir really concentrates on the oratorical repertoire from Baroque until today. The choir sings in average 3 concerts per year, most of the time with the orchestra, only sometimes a cappella. The repertoire Bach-Händel-Mendelssohn is important for us, but we always try to combine it with contemporary aspects, and social and political situations. Therefore we also quite often ask composers for new works.

Who makes the decision on what repertoire we will hear or what commission we will do?

I think that special constellations make their own suggestions. We only answer with the programs on the challenges of our times. Firstly, the repertoire must fit to the ensemble. Historically spoken, the oratorio tradition only starts around 1800 and only in certain countries like France, England and Germany. When we look for music before 1800, it’s mostly written for a smaller ensemble, so for this repertoire, we need a chamber choir and specialists in Ancient Music. If you want to know who decides: most of the time I do a suggestion for a program and discuss it with the choral conductor of the program, mostly with Kai-Uwe Jirka and Friederike Stahmer, our musical directors and conductors. Sometimes the best ideas come from the singers themselves.

When the choral conductors present the program to the advisory board and then to the singers. They can freely decide if they want to participate or not. Sometimes we are afraid that they will follow us on a discovery of an unknown piece. Sometimes we ask ourselves if they might find work too strange or challenging. But I have the feeling that the members are very open to contemporary music, unknown pieces and also the combination of old and new music.

Tradition and innovation.

Yes, I think that’s special about us! We react on the current situation with works of the past and new compositions. And this is also in the tradition of Sing-Akademie. Already in the beginning performing music from the past was an innovative act. It was a combination of rewriting and adopting styles. And that’s what we try to continue; it is a possibility to react on the situation of our society. This also makes time and space very important. We don’t always perform at one spot, in one concert hall or church. Other choirs are connected to one venue. But we always try to find the best space to perform a specific piece. We are in a way a nomadic institution. .This is also true in terms of time. Of course, we react on anniversaries, historical and social events. So we really think that space, time, and ensemble must really fit together to create a good concert.

Projects with Ukrainian music

This last concert with Ukrainian music that we made together, was like a response to nowadays things and some cultural statement? Let’s talk a little bit about this concert. This music, this war situation I know we all know that Germany is involving a big part of  Russian propaganda in TV, and social media, they are involving not just in Germany but in every progressive country they have a big part of the influence on society, and in Germany also. Was it a problem for you to involve members? Did they agree with your decision to perform this Ukrainian music?

Because it’s not just an art, but it’s like a part of fighting, like a diplomatic culture fighting for everyone. Was it hard for you to get permission from members or did you have some discussion or was it very easy for everyone to vote for this?

It wasn’t hard at all to convince our members. They all stand with Ukrainians in this terrible situation. But you must know that we already planned a concert with Ukrainian music long before the war, in spring 2021. And the reason for that was a historical one. The archive of Sing-Akademie happened to be in Kyiv for a long time, from World War II until 2001. 20 years ago the archive (which also contains Ukrainian music by Berezovskyi) came back to Berlin. We wanted to remember that historical event and ask the Ukrainian embassy to take part in the concert. It was important for us to thank Ukraine for giving the archive back to Berlin, to a private association like ours. Therefore we wanted to play and sing Ukrainian music.

Do you mean old Ukrainian, not contemporary?

Not only old music but a combination of both I would say. Unfortunately there was not been so much exchange with Ukrainian music and musicians during the last 20 years. So I really thought that it is very important to focus on that. We knew about the current situation in Ukraine, and we knew that Ukrainian music – especially in comparison to Russian tradition – is not present enough in Germany. So we thought it might be a good thing to combine this anniversary of the archive coming to Berlin with an opening view to Ukrainian music. So in the beginning this concert was planned for March 2021, then we tried to do it in December, but we had to postpone it due to COVID. In the end of march 2022 we finally had the chance to do the concert in Berlin Cathedral. After the war started it was very easy to convince people to take part. They were very engaged, willing to learn Ukrainian pronunciation and songs, and to include you as a choral conductor in our work when you arrived in Berlin in March.

So people are really involved in the process. They do not just sing the music but want to know much more about history, and context and have a respect for the foreign language. Is it just Sing-Akademie people or it’s normal for German musical society?

I think it’s really special for Sing-Akademie. It has to do with our kind of projects, with a certain sensitivity for history and with the engagement and intelligence of our singers. Of course I wouldn’t say that other members of other choirs don’t inform themselves. But the interest for new challenges and historical backgrounds is unusually strong in our ensembles. Respect for foreign languages has luckily become a common thing in Berlin. Even in opera they do not sing translated libretti anymore, but sing the original. If you hear Janáček’s operas, it’s sung in Czech now. Maybe twenty years ago, in „Komische Oper Berlin” the texts were all still sung in translations. Our singers are also very used to learn and sing in different tongues. In 2019 we did a Polish program with music by Stanislaw Moniuszko who also was educated in Sing-Akademie in his youth. In Germany, he’s completely unknown today.  Another program was focused on the anniversary of Alexander von Humboldt. In this program we included Latin American music by Antonio Estévez, singing in Venezuelan-Spanish, together with soloists from Venezuela. So you see, people are used to such work and they are curious. I think that culture is always in an exchange, sometimes good traditions get lost. It helps to focus on certain moments when history was good and improving for a second. Maybe it helps to go back to those historical moments and to show that their potential must be taken as a task for the present.

Opinion on Ukrainian music

Tell us more about your relationship with Ukrainian music. For example, you have already told me about the Bach archive, but it’s mostly old Ukrainian music. What about your opinion and understanding of contemporary music?

I can’t say that I’m an expert, of course. Let me start with the old music. I was very impressed to discover Berezovskyi’s repertoire, because I didn’t know that such church music for mixed choir was composed that early, in such a context. Almost nobody knows about this music, even in Ukraine, as far as I think. Many of those compositions for the mixed choir were rearranged in orthodox traditional music for male choir. So you find Berezovskyi often in male choir arrangements, but it’s obviously not meant to be like that. And it raises the interesting question if Sing-Akademie is really the so called eldest mixed singing choir in the world because one can ask: who sang those Berezovskyi scores? If those motets were church music, was it allowed for women to sing in church in Ukraine in those days? Or was it church music for the court?

We also have a good tradition of university singing, but for us it’s the terra incognita still. Of course, it was forbidden to work with this music for example in the Soviet Union it was a very big problem with old Ukrainian music, that’s why we now have this Renaissance with researching in Berezovskyi and even partes music that was more early than Berezovskyi. This was the next unique tradition of growing up in a very interesting way in Ukraine. 

I knew a bit about Berezovskyi, about his connection to Italy and Galuppi. But I didn’t really know about these mixed choral compositions for church, and I still don’t know enough about why such works exist. I would like to learn more about it! There seems to be an early sort of European-Italian-Ukrainian style exchange, and this needs to be discovered. But you asked me for my opinion on contemporary Ukrainian music. When I listen to the examples you have shown me, I find many folklore aspects that I know from the music of other Eastern European countries like Romania or Hungary, I also feel a certain connection to the Austrian-Habsburg tradition…

Yes, actually, the founder of Ukrainian composing school was Mykola Lysenko, he was educated in Leipzig, so of course, he has added mostly as the composers going to Austria to have this musical education. 

At the same time it’s very different from the Viennese School. Ukrainian folk song tradition has a very special melodic structure. Melody is never avoided, always a present element. Contemporary composers from the Ukraine like Silvestrov or Poleva are deeply connected to this tradition. Their work has this meditative, maybe orthodox feeling of infinite space. It might be interesting to combine it with the works of Morton Feldman or John Cage, It is definitely another world than the more teleological western tradition.

Bach archive

I think it’s time to talk about the Sing-Akademie archive. In the musical society in Ukraine, we have controversial information about this Bach archive.

You call it the “Bach” archive, but I am not so happy with that name, because the archive contains not only Bach. In fact, the name is a bit misleading because there are almost no Johann Sebastian Bach autographs in this archive, only scores from his family. And the Bach sources make just 10 per cent of the whole. The collection should better be called the Zelter archive, for it was compiled by Carl Friedrich Zelter. He was the second director of Sing-Akademie, a friend of Goethe and a teacher of Felix Mendelsohn, Otto Nicolai and Giacomo Meyerbeer. Zelter travelled through Germany, collecting scores from churches that would have been used as a lighter for fire otherwise. Almost nobody collected ancient music then. Even the court music gave old scores away. Zelter saved those scores, studied and used them in his composition classes. This collection consists of almost 6000 signatures, a signature sometimes include i.e. 30 compositions, sometimes only one. A signature can be a collection of works or can be one opera, one symphony or just a song. If you have a look at the whole archive, it’s not mainly choral works, it’s symphonies, instrumental chamber works, and operas. Just a small part is cantatas and other choral works. You won’t find a lot from Sing-Akademie’s practice in the 19th century. It’s more a personal collection of the collector Zelter, with music from 16th to 18th century, showing the repertoire that was played in Berlin at the opera house and in the court; the main focus is on the music of the Frederician Time.

Fragment of the Archive

So this was a private archive and he donated it?

Yes, first it was a private archive of several collectors, like Sara Levy, Friedrich Nicolai, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and others. Then Zelter collected everything, donated it to Sing-Akademie and connected it with Fasch’s idea of performing ancient music. But the archive is not at all a documentary of Sing-Akademie’s performing practice. All the sources of 19th century are still gone. The whole archive stayed in Berlin until World War II; when the bombings started, the choir tried to rescue the archive and evacuated it to Ullersdorf Castle in Silesia, now Poland. The archive remained there until the Red Army came and brought it to Moscow. For unknown reasons the cultural trophies were transported to Kyiv and handed over to the Kyiv Conservatory on 2th November 1945. As far as I know the collection was first deposited in Tchaikovsky Music Academy, later in the State Archive Museum for literature and art. But in Germany, the whole archive was considered to be lost until 1999. There was only a rumor that it might still exist somewhere.

The main question is how it was brought back to Germany? 

In 1999 a team of Harvard University, Patricia Grimsted and Christoph Wolff, were allowed to see the collection and saw that it was the old Zelter Archive, believed to be lost. The Ukrainian government showed more goodwill than Poland or Russia in the question of giving back so called “trophy art”. The fact that the archive was always privately owned and not the property of the German state was very important in that.

But how is it now?

It is still a private collection, owned by the Sing-Akademie and it’s foundation. The archive now is in the State Library, open for users, but it belongs to the choir.  It is a so-called deposit, which means Sing-Akademie has a contract with the library about keeping the scores in good condition; they have the best conditions in the world to protect historical autographs. I think the fact that the archive today is owned by a private society was the main reason that it was given back. It was an important sign of the Ukrainian government, a sign of peace. Russia would have never given back any trophies, not even to a private owner. So this really was an important signal.

Photo credit: Bach-Archiv Leipzig / Jens Schlüter

Who was the initiator of this resettlement of the collection? 

The initiator was Harvard University, especially Christoph Wolff as far as I know. He is one of the most important musicologists regarding the work of J.S. Bach. When the archive was discovered, nobody knew what exactly was in the archive. Many people hoped to find new scores by the famous Bach. As far as I know, Leonid Kuchma, the former president of Ukraine decided to give it back in person during a visit in Germany.

I want to point out that there were Ukrainian musicians and scientists before the recovery who knew about the archive and performed pieces. Ihor Blazhkov was very important, he performed music in Kyiv Philharmonic already in the Seventies. I am also glad that the repertoire connected to Eastern European music tradition stayed in Kyiv. I hope that institutions in Ukraine and Germany can collaborate more in future.

When the archive came back to Berlin in December 2001 there was a lot of work to do, and a lot of decisions to make. Sing-Akademie then was in a bad condition, the choral conductor Hans Hilsdorf died only two years earlier. So the choir suddenly was in charge of this big carriage, they were not prepared. Plenty of discussions came up, regarding questions of copyright, preserving, restoring, editing, researching and so on. All those measures had cost the choir a lot of money. There even was a court case about the copyright of a newly discovered Vivaldi opera called Montezuma.

How did you solve this?

The German court decided that copyright was free, so since then, everybody can use historical sources. Since I am part of the Sing-Akademie we have opened our archive to users and players all over the world. We try to answer their questions, give advice, do our own concerts and ask specialists to play the music. We also work together with publishing houses like Ortus Verlag and Bärenreiter to publish unknown scores. And the next step will be the complete digitalization of the archive, starting next year.

So you stay in this position of researching and performing music? It’s more than 2 hundred years since you held this tradition, so now it’s a complicated archive you still work on.

Such an important archive is a challenge. You have to keep it alive. To play the music and do research. I see that new and young ancient music ensembles come up in Ukraine. This is now the moment to work together. The archive is free for every scientist and musician. We hope we can discover new music together with new friends from Ukraine like you.

Read also:

• Statement from the musicological community of Ukraine

• Violinist Anastasia Poludenna: “Until we undergo treatment, we are allergic to Russian culture”

Timothy Hoft and Virko Baley: pre-concert talk on Ukrainian contemporary piano music

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *