Force & Freedom

Beethoven between compulsion and freedom

With the premiere of "Force & Freedom", Nico and the Navigators will continue their successful series of staged concerts and their collaboration with the renowned Kuss Quartet at radialsystem Berlin from December 17 to 20.

In the face of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's birth, they will focus on the life and work of the great composer. What does it mean to acquire the master's late works with all senses today? How have these sensations changed in the here and now? How do they relate to our current experiences? With the works Opus 59, No. 3 Finale, the Heilige Danksagung, Opus 135, the Great Fugue and three Beethoven songs, Nico and the Navigators, together with the Kuss Quartet, embark on a scenic and cinematic search for traces - from historical sources to their own present in the pandemic year 2020.

The work, whose title "Force & Freedom" varies the motto borrowed from the fugue, "tantôt libre, tantôt recherchée" ("partly free, partly strict"), was overshadowed by a radical change in reality shortly after rehearsals began in spring: Not only did the Corona Pandemic make it necessary to cancel the world premiere at the Schwetzingen SWR Festival for 2020, but the joint work of the ensembles was no longer possible in the foreseeable future. Suddenly, the words compulsion and freedom, which were originally meant to outline above all the coordinates in Beethoven's life, became a direct experience for all those involved. How should dancers, singers, musicians and performers meet in the future in a confined space? How would the audience fit into such a situation?

It was not yet foreseeable at that time that almost all independent artists would be faced with the same economic constraints that once affected a composer like Ludwig van Beethoven. First and foremost, it was all about the hardly bearable distance, the isolation and prevention of work that was dependent on exchange.

Nico and the Navigators, together with the Kuss Quartet, made a virtue of this need by countering the threatening resignation with small messages from the shared present in the isolation. In this way, a crisis diary was created in the digital space, which in the end merged into a memory game as a lasting memory. Of course, all participants were painfully aware that these virtual encounters could not offer a full substitute for direct artistic exchange. The ensemble is now taking the experiences they have gathered with them and is already working with cameras during rehearsals in order to enable broader access to the project on a cinematic level in the future.

Beethoven's String Quartet Opus 135, of all things, provided an example of insight into the necessity. In the fourth movement, under the title "Der schwer gefasste Entschluss" ("The Difficult Decision"), there are two mottos that mark individual parts as a game between rebellion and surrender: "Must it be?" and "It must be!“ If "Force & Freedom" now takes shape, this mixture of defiance and insight should be considered - not only with Beethoven in mind, but also as a field of tension in which our own contemporary society must constantly reorient itself.



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