‘It is impossible for humans to have only one feeling. We experience thousands of emotions all at the same time.’ Symphony of Expectation follows Schönberg’s line of thought and places a feminist pamphlet by Marie Pappenheim next to two iconic works from the 20th century: Sinfonia by Berio and Erwartung by Schönberg, which he composed on the basis of Pappenheim’s poem. From Pappenheim’s text to a multi-layered symphony and a monodrama: ‘that one second of maximum spiritual excitement’ experienced by the main female character is extended into an intense theatrical experience.

This is a tour de force for the orchestra, conducted by musical director Alejo Pérez, with an immersive staging by Krystian Lada, who was awarded the very first Mortier Next Generation Award for his work in music theatre.

‘All music from the early 20th century, including Mahler and Schönberg, tends to become a documentary of the universal, profound and tragic transformation that the world was going through at the time,’ said Luciano Berio. He composed his Sinfonia for orchestra and vocal ensemble in the turbulent year of 1968 as ‘a documentary true to the explosive image of the time’.

Berio structured his composition around text fragments by Samuel Beckett, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Martin Luther King, and added musical motifs from works by Mahler, Stravinsky, Schönberg and others. An intertextual game of disclosure and concealment.

In Schönberg’s monodrama Erwartung, this explosion of different voices is condensed into one. It is Schönberg’s most far-reaching attempt to compose music that evokes the constantly changing and irrational flow of an unconscious sensation.

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