The festival from its beginning in 2011
2021 | Cosmos | Comic
The eleventh edition of ACHT BRÜCKEN | Music for Cologne took place from May 1 to 15 as a digital music festival via video stream. Of the 47 scheduled events, 27 could be presented as a stream, ensuring that 13 (world) premieres could take place, most of them commissioned by the festival itself. During the pandemic-induced performance ban, ACHT BRÜCKEN produced creative concert films and recordings at various European performance venues and in cooperation with international partners.
The festival motto »Cosmos | Comic« unfolded in a colourful, varied way: flying over tulip fields with the help of a drone and Asko|Schönberg playing Richard Ayres’ »The Garden«, the Ensemble Musikfabrik’s rendition of Richard Ayres’ and Paul Barritt’s animated film »Strand« as well as new music for the silent film »Stump the Guesser«, Klangforum Wien’s staging of »Happiness Seriousness – A Counterpoint« or the concert-cum-reading of the graphic novel »ERNST BUSCH – DER LETZTE PROLET« by Jochen Voit and Sophia Hirsch with music by Gordon Kampe – all these were examples of high levels of audio-visual diversity.
The ensemble ascolta brought a comic score and rope-skipping percussionists in works by Jennifer Walshe, Martin Schüttler and Annesley Black to the stage of the Cologne Philharmonie, which also hosted appearances of the Kollektiv3:6Koeln and the Living Cartoon Duet as well as Malgorzata Walentynowicz playing the »Lynch Études«.
The ÈRMA Ensemble performed »HERO«; Ensemble Modern was live-broadcast from Frankfurt with works by Salvatore Sciarrino and Fausto Romitelli; Studio Dan from Vienna played Frank Zappa, John Zorn and Oxana Omelchuk; from Berlin, PHØNIX16 broadcast its experimental film »DRZAVA«. Live concert streams were made possible by the WDR Symphony Orchestra and the WDR Radio Chorus with the sonic.art saxophone quartet, and from the Casa da Música in Porto, the audience could listen to the Remix Ensemble playing works by Igor C Silva, John Adamas, Heiner Goebbels and Bernd Richard Deutsch.
Music was accompanied by live drawings by graphic artists Lukas Kummer, Jurek Malottke, Silvia Dierkes and Frauke Berger; the Cologne Academy of Music and Dance presented its school dance project »mixed pieces«, members of the Aachen Symphony Orchestra performed the children’s opera »Jakub Flügelbunt… und Magdalena Rotenband« and the Kollektiv3:6Koeln played works by the finalists of the ACHT BRÜCKEN Composition Competition. Simon Rummel and Vera Lossau’s sound installation »The Secret of Life« and jazz concerts featuring Mount Meander, Veronika Morscher, the Hendrika Entzian Quartet, Heidi Bayer and Sebastian Scobel rounded out the on-demand offerings, which were free and available online for 60 days.
2020 | Music and Cosmos
The tenth festival edition of ACHT BRÜCKEN | Music for Cologne had been planned for the period from April 30 to May 10, featuring about 50 live concerts at 14 different venues in Cologne. This included the large-scale event »Karlheinz Stockhausen: Sternklang« at the RheinEnergieSTADION.
Three weeks before the beginning of the festival, the concerts had to be cancelled, as all performances were banned due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to a cooperation with the WDR Kulturambulanz, a small part of the programme could be implemented as an on-demand stream on May 1 under the title ACHT BRÜCKEN Free Harbour »STREAM«. It included pianist Rei Nakamura playing excerpts from John Cage’s »Etudes Australes«, the ensemble asamisimasa and the visual artists Warped Type performing Klaus Lang’s »bright darkness«, the Zöllner-Roche-Duo giving the German premiere of Christopher Fox’ »On Tranquility« and the world premiere of Johann Svensson’s »double dubbing (firefly song)«, the jazz formations Totenhagen with the programme »Yonic – Von kleinen Welten und großen Herzen« and Schmid`s Huhn with »Golden Spheres« as well as the school dance project »Bewegter Kosmos« initiated by the Cologne Academy of Music and Dance.
In October, the concerts »Eine Reise durch das Weltall« with Trio Catch and David Barski at the Kunst-Station Sankt Peter as well as »The Fabrication of Light« with the Ensemble Musikfabrik were able to take place at Cologne’s Philharmonie with a live audience, in keeping with precautionary hygiene measures.
2019 | The Polyphony of a Metropolis
In its ninth edition, ACHT BRÜCKEN once again made music of today the focus of attention from April 30 to May 11, 2019, winning enthusiastic applause from approximately 25,000 visitors. One special focus was on the work of the composer Georges Aperghis.
More intensively than ever, the festival brought music from the concert hall into the urban space – this time under the motto »The Polyphony of a Metropolis«. The festival opened with Gerhard Stäbler’s »HÖR-FLECKEN«, or Listening Spots, composed for the modern, spacious subway station Heumarkt. Manos Tsangaris’ »City Pieces« sent the listener to various urban spaces, from stores to kiosks, changing places and perspectives. The series ON@ACHT BRÜCKEN featured chamber electronics at klub domhof and Maximilian Marcoll in the underground vaults of Cologne’s club scene, crossed the Rhine on the MS Jan von Werth with the project »Line crossed«, and took over a skating hall in Cologne’s Kalk district with Lea Letzel’s »2 SECOND MANUAL«.
The safe harbour of Cologne’s Philharmonie served as a platform for contemporary music and large-scale orchestral evenings with the SWR Symphony Orchestra under Teodor Currentzis, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam under Peter Eötvös as well as Emilio Pomàrico with the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne. The SWR Vocal Ensemble and Asko | Schönberg performed Georges Aperghis’ »Hamletmaschine« there; the WDR Symphony Orchestra presented works by Georges Aperghis, Christophe Bertrand and Gerhard Stäbler as part of the series »Musik der Zeit«.
The ACHT BRÜCKEN Free Harbour proved an audience magnet once again in 2019, offering a diverse musical programme and free admission all day. It opened with TRAVEL MUSICA and a resounding march through the inner city, followed by harp sounds at Cologne’s Philharmonie, Enno Poppe’s »Rundfunk« at the WDR Funkhaus on Wallrafplatz, Georges Aperghis’ »Machinations« at the Museum Ludwig’s cinema, and finally Klangforum Wien playing works by the composer in focus, by Alberto Posadas and Georg Friedrich Haas.
A major part of the 31 world premieres was featured in fascinating ensemble concerts with Klangforum Wien at the Trinitatiskirche, electronic ID at the Kulturbunker Mülheim, the Nieuw Ensemble at the WDR Funkhaus on Wallrafplatz and Ensemble Modern at the Schauspiel im Depot. The daily ACHT BRÜCKEN Lunch offered free culture at lunchtime; the varied education programme gave children and teenagers a field for experimentation, and the installations by Uwe Rasch and the Academy of Media Arts Cologne offered deeper insights into the relationship between music and multi-media arts. Lovers of jazz and electronic music enjoyed the diverse programmes of the ACHT BRÜCKEN Lounge’s late night sessions, with artists including the Tia Fuller Quartet, Sebastian Gramss’ STATES OF PLAY, Moritz Simon Geist, MAKKRO, Tony Allen and Jeff Mills, as well as musicians from the Cologne scene.
2018 | Metamorphosen - Variationen
Über 25.000 Besucher lockte das diesjährige Festival in die knapp 60 Veranstaltungen in der Kölner Philharmonie und vielen weiteren Spielstätten Kölns. Im Fokus des Festivals stand die Würdigung des Komponisten Bernd Alois Zimmermann, der 2018 100 Jahre alt geworden wäre. Ganze 30 Werke und Bearbeitungen des Kölner Künstlers wurden aufgeführt und zeigten sein vielgestaltiges Oeuvre Bearbeitungen für das Radio präsentierte in unterhaltsamer Manier das WDR Funkhausorchester, das Gürzenich-Orchester jagte in »Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu« Hund und Einrad über die Bühne und Zimmermanns epochales Schlüsselwerk »Die Soldaten« konnte gleich in zwei Versionen erlebt werden: In einer Inszenierung von Carlus Padrissa für die Oper Köln und als Vokalsinfonie, aufgeführt vom WDR Sinfonieorchester. Ergreifend war auch die Interpretation von Zimmermanns letztem Werk »Ich wandte mich und sah an alles Unrecht, das geschah unter der Sonne« durch das Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.
Auch der ACHT BRÜCKEN Freihafen mit seinem kostenlosen Konzertangebot stand ganz unter dem Vorzeichen des Porträtkomponisten, ergänzt durch das multikulturelle Projekt Volksmusik international re|visited. Über 4500 bestgelaunte Besucher fanden den Weg in das WDR Funkhaus am Wallrafplatz und in die Kölner Philharmonie, um zeitgenössischer Musik zu lauschen.
Die Konzerte in der Kunst-Station Sankt Peter sind schon eine Tradition bei ACHT BRÜCKEN. In dem stimmungsvollen Kirchenraum spielten diese Jahr das XXY Ensemble, ensemble recherche, MAM.manufaktur für aktuelle Musik und Calefax mit den Neuen Vocalsolisten. Auch die Lagerstätte für mobile Hochwasserschutzelemente wurde wieder zum Klangraum umfunktioniert und von Studierenden des Zentrums für zeitgenössischen Tanz der HfMuT zu Musik von Zimmermann bespielt. Im Museum Schnütgen erklang zwischen den Exponaten die Musik des Duo Mixtura und Udo Moll. Das WDR Funkhaus stellte neben den Freihafenkonzerten sein Podium für das Quatuor Diotima und die Reihe ON@ACHT BRÜCKEN zur Verfügung, die mit Electronic ID, Kommas Ensemble, Crossover Bagdad und dem Ensemble Garage aktuelle Arbeiten aus der freien Kölner Szene vorstellte. Auch das Ensemble Modern gastierte im Funkhaus bevor es zum Folgekonzert in der Philharmonie antrat und dort mit einem Steve-Reich Porträt-begeisterte. Zwei Podiumskonzerte – Florentin Ginot sowie Dirk Rothbrust und Christian Dierstein – platzierten die Konzertbesucher der Kölner Philharmonie ganz nah am musikalischen Geschehen.
Mit der Monika Roscher BigBand und Edit Bunker im Stadtgarten, sowie bei Frederik Kösters »Die Verwandlung« und Underkarl in der Volksbühne am Rudolfplatz, kamen die Jazzliebhaber bei ACHT BRÜCKEN auf ihre Kosten. Der Kompakt-Labelgründer Wolfgang Voigt verwandelte die Kölner Philharmonie mit seiner audiovisuellen Live-Performance von GAS in eine rauschende Waldszenerie. Zum Abschluss des Festivals trafen in diesem Jahr die Kölner Ensembles Concerto Köln und Ensemble Musikfabrik aufeinander und kombinierten mit Werken von Héctor Parra, Martin Matalon und Martin Smolka Alte mit Neuer Musik.
Festival Review 2016
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
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.
MUSIC. POLITICS? | 2015
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.
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.
ELEKTRONIK – ELECTRONICS. IANNIS XENAKIS | 2013
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.