German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann is one of new music’s most prominent figures, working at the junction of academic tradition and popular culture. Few people would believe that the composer, whose works are performed at the festivals alongside compositions of 20th century classics such as Erik Satie, John Cage, and Steve Reich, began his career in a hip hop band that was very popular in 1990s Germany.
Today, Bertelmann, who took up a pseudonym in honour of a rather unknown 19th century Austrian composer, is best known for his music for the “prepared piano”, which is a classical grand piano, the strings of which hold various items, from pieces of paper and foil to cutlery. This new instrument, a modernized version of the old one, was invented in the second half of the 20th century by the great visionary and innovator of academic music John Cage. Hauschka, who recorded about ten albums of intriguing pieces for Cage’s invention, is one of this century’s best known popularisers of prepared piano.
John Cage is also known for the fact that he turned the grand piano — the holy cow of the Romantic composers who wrote profound melodies — into percussion instrument. And here Volker, with his hip hop background, is also following in Cage’s footsteps — under his fingers the piano is turned into a whole orchestra of percussion instruments, capable of producing both a luscious groove, and an intricate polyrhythmy.
Hauschka is the author of 13 albums of inventive music (not just for the prepared piano, but for all kinds of instrumental groups, including a full-scale orchestra), and composer of numerous movie and exhibition soundtracks, and scores for theatrical and choreographic performances. He has done a number of collaborative projects with well-known electronic and classical musicians, and even did a remix of a fragment from Wagner’s Parsifal opera. This well-regarded German pianist and composer continues to experiment with new approaches to music and surprise his audiences.
The House of the Unions, Pillar Hall
Bolshaya Dmitrovka str, 1