The festival from its beginning in 2011

Festival Review 2016

Das Glashaus | 30.4. Theater im Bauturm ©Jörg Hejkal
Einstürzende Neubauten | 3.5. Kölner Philharmonie ©Jörg Hejkal
Unsuk Chin | 6.5. ACHT BRÜCKEN Lounge ©Jörg Hejkal

2017 | Tone. Setting. Sound.

2017 saw the seventh edition of the Festival ACHT BRÜCKEN | Music for Cologne, which played to an audience totalling almost 23,000 and had chosen »Tone. Setting. Sound.« as its motto, exploring the relationship between music and language. The Festival opened with contemporary music performed at unusual locations within the city: students of the Cologne Academy of Music and Dance presented a series of concerts entitled LIFT! at the LANXESS Tower; Hans Wüthrich’s Glashaus was performed at the Theater im Bauturm, and the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne was spread out among the audience members at the Sartory-Säle. The WDR Symphony Orchestra offered sheer listening delight at the concert hall of the Cologne Philharmonie, performing Peter Eötvös’ Oratorium Balbulum, as did the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra – State Philharmonic of Bavaria, which, among other works, performed Šu, a piece for mouth organ by the South Korean composer Unsuk Chin, who was featured in several portrait concerts.

Almost 5,000 visitors attended the ACHT BRÜCKEN Free Harbour, listening attentively to concerts by Das Neue Ensemble and Ensemble Modern, watching movies by Mauricio Kagel and sampling the work of Cologne’s Welcome Chorus and electro-acoustic music performed by the SWR Experimental Studio.

ACHT BRÜCKEN 2017 offered a major platform to artists with a playful, experimental approach to the paired themes of music and language, also including pop, jazz and world music. Among them were the experimental rock band Einstürzende Neubauten, the Hip Hop project Spitting Chamber Music featuring stargaze, Inna Modja, Käptn Peng, Malikah and Spank Rock, the lyrical and rhythmical world music event Languages of Drums, the David Kweksilber Big Band from the Netherlands, the vocal acrobat Hannah Silva and the poetry artist Saul Williams with the Mivos Quartet. ON@ACHT BRÜCKEN presented a painstaking dissection of sounds and phonetic acrobatics with Scott Field’s Beckett Suite, Camilla Hoitenga and the language arts ensemble sprechbohrer from Cologne.

Unsuk Chin – the composer portrayed in 2017 – won the audience over with her charismatic presence, two portrait concerts and a total of 13 works performed by ensembles including Ensemble Intercontemporain and the SWR Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Musikfabrik, the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne and the Orchestra of the Cologne Academy of Music and Dance.

Festival Review 2016

DITIB Sufi-Ensemble | 30.4 Kölner Zentralmoschee ©Jörg Hejkal
Misa a Buenos Aires | 1.5. St. Mariä Himmelfahrt ©Jörg Hejkal
Six pianos | 3.5. Kölner Philharmonie ©Jörg Hejkal

2016 | Music and Faith

In keeping with the motto »Music and Faith«, 26,000 visitors explored the resounding world of spirituality in various cultures and religions in 2016. The festival opened at Cologne’s houses of faith: the audience listened to the performance of the DITIB Sufi Ensemble at Cologne’s Central Mosque with curiosity and followed the Ensemble Musikfabrik’s retrospective of this year’s portrayed composer Galina Ustwolskaja from St. Michael to St. Aposteln. Late at night, the evening concluded with an Ambient Night. More than 600 choristers and soloists were featured at the ACHT BRÜCKEN Freihafen (Free Harbour), performing 20th and 21st-century choral works at the Minoritenkirche, at St. Mariä Himmelfahrt, at the WDR Building and Cologne’s Philharmonie – the crowning finale being the performance of Olivier Messiaen’s »La Transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jesús-Christ«.

The rendition of Steve Reich’s »Six Pianos« by artists from the electronic music scene was a festival highlight, as was Leonard Bernstein’s »Mass«, the German premiere of John Adams’ »The Gospel According to the Other Mary« und Arvo Pärt’s »Lamentate« as interpreted by the Estonian State Symphony Orchestra. The Ensemble intercontemporain made concepts of this world and the hereafter resound in works by Johannes Maria Staud, Jonathan Harvey and Gérard Grisey, and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne dedicated itself to Buddhist meditation techniques, among other things, in Harvey’s »Tranquil Abiding«.  

The festival concept – presenting extraordinary music at special performance venues in the heart of Cologne – worked again in 2016: there were impressive performances of Horaţiu Rădulescu’s space music by the Asasello Quartet at Trinitatiskirche, of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s »INORI« at the Kunst-Station Sankt Peter, of Galina Ustwolskaja’s piano sonatas by Tamara Stefanovich at the storage space for mobile flood barriers, and Michael Ranta played at KOLUMBA. The independent scene presented ON@ACHTBRÜCKEN, a diverse evening at the former Ehrenfeld freight train station JACK IN THE BOX e.V.

Jazz and world music fans also had reason to be satisfied with this year’s festival: the combination of music and spirituality in the Indonesian and Indian tradition was personified by the Ensemble Gamelan Taman Indah and by Bombay Jayashri. With his a-cappella project »Gospel Journey«, the soul and Hip-Hop singer Faada Freddy inspired the audience to dance at Cologne’s Philharmonie; the New York-based jazz formation Zion80 brought Jewish-African-inspired grooves to the Stadtgarten; and the artists at the ACHT BRÜCKEN Lounge guaranteed the right sound for the festival tent. With 60 events, daily lunch concerts, 15 performances and the composers’ competition, the 2016 edition of ACHT BRÜCKEN was a forum for music unheard-of and music of today.

Festival Review 2015

Heiner Goebbels | 3.5. DEPOT 1 ©Jörg Hejkal
Schorsch Kamerun | 3.5. DEPOT 2 ©Jörg Hejkal
Asko Schönberg | 10.5. Kölner Philharmonie ©Jörg Hejkal


For 2015, the EIGHT BRIDGES festival chose the motto “Music. Politics?” – posing the question whether and to what extent new music implies political action, or even becomes political action itself. The main focus was on composer Louis Andriessen: 14 of his works written between 1970 and 2013 gave an insight into his oeuvre. His highly successful work De Staat was performed by the Ensemble Modern Orchestra, while Asko|Schönberg presented M is for Man, Music, Mozart, the soundtrack to Peter Greenaway’s film of the same title and an interdisciplinary facet of Andriessen’s work.

There are names that cannot be omitted from any discourse on music and politics. Among them are Luigi Nono, to whom an evening at the Kunst-Station Sankt Peter was dedicated, Luciano Berio, whose Passaggio was performed by the renowned Ensemble intercontemporain, Heiner Goebels, whose Songs of Wars I have seen made the Schauspiel im DEPOT resound, Hans Werner Henze, whose moving biography of a slave, El Cimarrón, filled the depot for mobile flood barriers with life, and Frederic Rzewski, who interpreted his legendary piano piece The People United Will Never Be Defeated! himself at the Funkhaus Wallrafplatz, investing it with every ounce of his powerful presence. 

To more than 20,000 visitors who could choose from more than 50 events, the festival offered two high-carat orchestras: the New York Philharmonic performed the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’ Senza sangue and the Vienna Philharmonic offered the world premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s Masaot / Clocks without Hands. Altogether, the festival boasted 23 world premieres, of which eleven were written with the premise of being an “anthem for a non-existing country”. Among the composers who accepted this challenge were Georg Katzer, Hèctor Parra, Malika Kishino and Michael Gordon.

Among the festival’s regular and popular performance venues, ON@EIGHT BRIDGES stands out, and its free offers found many enthusiastic takers, such as the EIGHT BRIDGES Lunch, the EIGHT BRIDGES Lounge and the EIGHT BRIDGES Freihafen, where urbo kune became the longest-running world premiere of the 2015 festival, clocking in at 25 hours. Artists cooperating with “c/o pop” made cross-genre contributions: Atari Teenage Riot, Schorsch Kamerun, Susana Baca and Ana Tijoux raised the average temperature significantly. Given such a wealth of material, visitors could decide for themselves whether the question mark behind the motto “Music. Politics?” should be turned into an exclamation point, or whether perhaps many additional questions were raised to keep the exploration of this field alive and lively.

Dobet Gnahoré ©Künstleragentur
Evelyn Glennie ©Rachel Blackwell
Dirk Rothbrust ©Klaus Rudolph

2014 | Im Puls

The 2014 EIGHT BRIDGES festival, whose central theme was "Im Puls", was devoted to the field of tension between the human pulse and mechanical rhythms. One hundred years after Henry Ford used the first conveyor-belt assembly line to maximise production – thereby accelerating the mechanisation and automation of society – the festival took a multi-angled view of the dichotomy between man and machine. The composer in focus was György Ligeti, who was represented with around 30 works dating from 1948 to 2001. Ligeti's "Atmosphères", the orchestral work popularised by "2001: A Space Odyssey", was among several pieces performed by the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg under François-Xavier Roth, the general music director designate of the city of Cologne.

Other renowned ensembles such as the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Jonathan Nott, the WDR Sinfonieorchester, Ensemble intercontemporain, Ensemble musikFabrik and the International Contemporary Ensemble performed works by György Ligeti, Igor Stravinsky, Johann Strauss, Pierre Boulez, Frank Zappa and Harry Partch. 

20 premieres, the ON@EIGHT BRIDGES opening night and the fifth edition of the International LANXESS Composition Competition for Young Composers provided a platform for young artists. Around 9,000 people in total took advantage of the festival's free offerings: the daily EIGHT BRIDGES Lunch and the EIGHT BRIDGES Freihafen on 1st May. Operating at 20 different venues, the festival made its presence felt all over Cologne. Continuing the successful collaboration with c/o pop in 2013, there were concerts by the Acid Symphony Orchestra, Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Robert Henke, Kreidler and Bohren & the Club of Gore. The festival's Africa weekend "Im Puls Afrika", which presented strands of African music ranging from the traditional to the innovative, was staged in association with Cologne University of Music and Dance.

Bonner Wall ©Heike Fischer
Nicolas Jaar ©Matthias Muff
Enno Poppe ©Klaus Rudoph


In 2013, the third EIGHT BRIDGES festival firmly established this event as a staple of Cologne concert life, attracting over 30,000 patrons. The festival, which took place between 30 April and 12 May, focused on electronic music past and present as well as the works of the Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis, whose mathematical composition techniques have influenced the electronic music scene so profoundly. Highly regarded ensembles such as Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern, the IEMA-Ensemble, and many more, provided musical highlights with a total of 30 first performances and a great number of experimental programme items.

The first-time collaboration with the c/o pop festival also provided a platform for artists such as Nicolas Jaar, Matthew Herbert, Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit and many more besides. One of the most unusual events was the opening of the festival, which took place in two as yet uncompleted underground stations in Cologne. Visitors were able to stroll through the underground tunnel from Bonner Wall to Chlodwigplatz while experiencing a unique sound installation. As in previous years, Cologne’s independent scene was able to present its combined musical forces at the festival in the ON special at the EIGHT BRIDGES festival. During a night-time walk through unconventional performance venues on the banks of the Rhine, such as the storage facility for mobile flood defences, the local scene was able to demonstrate its astounding range and quality.

And once again everyone was able to get a first taste of the evening performances at the 2013 EIGHT BRIDGES lunch concerts, for free. The children’s day at the Kölner Philharmonie also took place under the festival’s banner, bringing the audience of youngsters face to face with the music of Xenakis & Co. The Kölner Vokalsolisten and the ensemble musikFabrik under Enno Poppe provided the conclusion to a highly successful festival in the Kölner Philharmonie with works by Karlheinz Stockhausen and a premiere by Marcus Schmickler featuring the composer himself.

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) ©Liz Linder
Ensemble musikFabrik ©Klaus Rudolph
Ensemble modern ©Manu Theobald


The year 2012 the festival continued to build on this success. The second EIGHT BRIDGES festival ran from 29 April to 6 May 2012, bringing around 20,000 spectators to Cologne to experience the concerts and the many other EIGHT BRIDGES events. To mark the centenary of John Cage's birth, his music and American modernism were presented in many Cologne venues for a whole week under the banner "John Cage – America. A Vision."
As in 2011, the 2012 festival again incorporated the International Composition Competition for Young Composers. "EIGHT BRIDGES to John Cage" was a musical audio guide walk, with Cage fans listening to interesting facts about Cage's ideas, compositional techniques and oeuvre whilst being guided to eight specially selected locations in the centre of Cologne. A literary matinée with readers including Mary Bauermeister, the Lunch concerts and themed film screenings rounded off the festival programme.
One enormously popular aspect of the festival was the open-entry video competition for John Cage's work 4'33", which set the challenge of creating a version of 4'33''. The Rodenkirchen Grammar School drama group and the Zentralkapelle Berlin were voted winners by visitors to the EIGHT BRIDGES website.
The festival's climax was "The day belongs to John Cage" on 6 May 2012. Throughout the day there was free admission to the Kölner Philharmonie, the adjoining Museum Ludwig and the Filmforum, with works by John Cage and his contemporaries being played and films about Cage screened. Chamber music and large-scale works were performed by various ensembles including musikFabrik, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), members of Ensemble Modern and the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg. Around 4,500 visitors took part in this phenomenal concert marathon, which concluded with a massive party late into the night.

Pierre Boulez ©Deutsche Grammophon/Harald Hoffmann
Manu Katché ©STEPH / VISUAL Press Agency


The first EIGHT BRIDGES | Music for Cologne festival took place between 8 and 15 May 2011. It was dedicated to the hugely distinguished Pierre Boulez and his work. This French composer, conductor and musicologist is one of the greatest representatives of modern music. The opening concert, with Boulez himself conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in the Kölner Philharmonie, was completely sold out. Boulez's music was also the theme at the ON@ACHT BRÜCKEN Music Night, a showcase for Cologne's independent musicians and ensembles. Contemporary music from France, represented by acclaimed jazz musicians Manu Katché and Baptiste Trotignon, was another focus of the festival programme. The inaugural festival was an enormous success, attracting around 9,000 visitors and far exceeding the organisers' expectations.