The Ernst von Siemens Music Prize has been awarded annually since 1974 to recognize “outstanding contributions to the world of music”. Its 2020 recipient was violist Tabea Zimmermann, who after several postponements due to Covid restrictions, received him in an online-only ceremony, framed by several interviews and a touching praise from Norbert Lammert, former Speaker of Parliament German. The musical side was typically thoughtful programming, including compositions by previous winners Benjamin Britten (the very first in 1974) and Luciano Berio (1989), as well as a premiere by 2021 winner Georges Aperghis.
Helped by sensitive camera work, the different musical layers of Berio’s Naturale were lovingly laid out in front of the listener. Ideally balanced with the prerecorded folk songs, Zimmermann’s accompanying ad libs were perfectly in sync between the phrases sung. It made the arabesques typical of Sicilian folklore absolutely spontaneous. Just as the singer on the band moved back and forth between song and speech, Zimmermann’s tone spanned the gamut between lyrical effusion and percussion effects which oddly mingled with Christoph Sietzen’s matching drums and other props.
Aperghis’ Aria for Viola, Strings and Percussion is a rather daunting affair, requiring an unusually high noise component in the sound of the strings at both ends of the dynamic spectrum. Under the dedicated direction of Emilio Pomàrico, Zimmermann and the musicians of the Resonanz Ensemble – where she was artist in residence a few seasons ago – have convincingly broken a spear for this most personal and unconventional music.
The evening ended with a coherent reading of Britten’s Lachrymae, started by Zimmermann with discreet accompaniment to the melody of Dowland on bass. She then characterizes the different variations – like a deliciously decadent waltz – with an infallible sense of style. After a few odd double overtones, she didn’t shy away from Ponticello’s “ugly” sound, accentuating the contrast with the classic beauty of Dowland’s final quotes.
CARLOS MARIA SOLARE