Farewell and Spring Hope
The Anton Webern Choir at the Freiburg Kaufhaussaal

The forest is a place of yearning for Germans: romanticized by the Romantics as an idyllic counterworld where the "crazy torments" of the soul dissolve, as stated in Paul Heyse's "Waldesnacht" – the forest became a literary prescribed therapeutic. As an encore, the Anton Webern Choir at the Freiburg Kaufhaussaal now presented this Heyse poem set to music by Johannes Brahms (from op. 62). The ensemble once again demonstrated its expertise in Brahms: despite the high demands of the compositions, it managed to maintain the appropriate illusion of folk-like simplicity.
Choir director Bernhard Gärtner particularly emphasized dynamics without neglecting the texts and emotional content of the songs. Like dotted accents, the night wind blew in Brahms' first "Night Watch," the Rückert adaptation from Songs op. 104. "Autumn" was the title of the concert. In Mendelssohn's "Herbstlied" – performed a cappella like most choir contributions of the evening – the rustling of the forest promises comforting spring hope. Autumn - it stands for farewell. "Lebewohl" ("Farewell") is addressed to the lover in Hugo Distler's Mörike setting. A work from 1939, from the autumn of human rights. Wolfgang Rihm pleaded for them in 1982: "With closed mouth" is a hummed choir on the consonant "m". Unspoken questions about people who disappeared during the Argentine military dictatorship: they become sounds here.
Karlheinz Stockhausen shows a surprisingly conservative side in his early work "Die Nachtigall" ("The Nightingale") (with a movable solo soprano from the choir: Johanna Allevato)…The Anton Webern Choir has radiant sopranos, a wonderful alto section, bright tenors, and truly profound basses. The young members are trained singers. With solo songs and duets, they enriched the program, such as Noémie Bousquet (soprano) with Gabriel Fauré's song "Automne" ("Autumn"). Pianist Philip Rivinius was an inspired accompanist, also with the choir in Brahms' Quartets op. 92. An entertaining evening, though deserving more audience appreciation.

Badische Zeitung, October 12, 2022


Of the Nature of the Eternal
        The Anton Webern Choir at the Freiburg Ludwigskirche

A program with only two different set texts by just three composers spanning different generations - how much can this captivate for an hour and a half? The Anton Webern Choir and its ensemble, under the direction of Bernhard Gärtner, presented a well-disposed program with high technical finesse at the Freiburg Ludwigskirche.
In search of a suitable complement to Bach's Magnificat, which was requested by the organizers to open the Organ Festival in Masevaux on July 22, they came across Michel-Richard Delalande's Te Deum. Lully's successor at the French royal court was also an inspiration for Bach. The composition, a Grand Motet, consists of a interplay of ensemble sections and solo arias. In the tutti passages, the performers demonstrated balanced sound and precision, as well as in the solo performances, such as the interplay between soprano and oboe in the aria "Tu Rex gloriae", accompanied only by the continuo. In addition to the use of historical instruments and the original practice of soloists also being choir singers, the precisely coordinated tempos, derived from the composer's duration indications, also contributed to a very convincing performance.

Badische Zeitung, July 25, 2018

"A Lily Among Thorns"

Bernhard Gärtner and the Anton-Webern-Choir

Ninety minutes, highly concentrated and packed to the brim. 18 works by 15 composers. The "Canticum Canticorum," the "Song of Songs" or, according to Luther, the "Song of Solomon," as the source material, the unabashed celebration of eroticism, sanctioned by the Old Testament. At the center, two who never tire of praising each other: "You are beautiful, my darling," or "A lily among thorns." The eight singers of the Freiburg Anton Webern Choir under Bernhard Gärtner celebrate a high mass of collective singing with solo moments. It may be done differently, but not necessarily better.
What immediately captivates in the Christuskirche is the purity of this singing, as well as its naturalness, its unaffectedness. What stands out right away is the cantabile flow, which does not get lost even in the less clear passages and is never geared towards external effects. Prominent musical exclamations are seamlessly integrated into the vocal line. Where the tone of the works by Edvard Grieg, for example, references Norwegian, and by Vytautas Miškinis, Baltic folk music, Gärtner and his singers point this out without wagging a finger. And the formal appearance of the works between the Renaissance and – more restrainedly – modernity is congenially grasped.
Overall, it is a singing that adheres to the vocal finesse, and one that, where necessary, brings forth almost surprisingly great volume. Whether it's by Heinrich Schütz, Leonhard Lechner, or Johann Herrmann Schein – what we hear oscillates between dynamic hovering and robustly approached larger sound curves. It's wonderful how there the tone garlands resonate, how harmonic frictions are consciously savored.

Badische Zeitung, May 17, 2017


Tremendously Agile
The Anton Webern Choir with Bernhard Gärtner

 The rasping lament of the cello: like a poignant eulogy. The loss of the founder and conductor, Hans Michael Beuerle, who passed away in early 2015, is still palpable – among the audience, who have accompanied the choir for years, as well as among the singers of the Anton Webern Choir Freiburg, reflected in the heart-wrenching interludes from works by modern composers Arthur Gelbrun and Paul Ben-Haim, performed by cellist Gesine Queyras.
The atmosphere was no less exceptional as the renowned ensemble, now officially under the direction of Bernhard Gärtner for the first time in Freiburg's Maria-Hilf-Kirche, was once a student of Beuerle himself. Although Gärtner had already been acting as the interim conductor, the first concert program as the designated successor generates a different set of expectations. This is not without reason, as it reads like the ensemble's original self-conception: temporally and stylistically shifting between Psalm motets from "Fontana d’Israel" (better known as "Israelsbrünnlein") by the early Baroque Thomaskantor Johann Hermann Schein and two works from Arnold Schoenberg's op. 50 trilogy. A world is unleashed.
It is always the immense flexibility in the interpretative culture of the Anton Webern Choir that fascinates: just recently navigating the streams of polyphonic torrents, merging into a vigorously expressive architecture without friction loss (perfected in Schein's "Turn to me, O Lord, and have mercy on me" or "Those who sow with tears"), the ensemble seamlessly captures the rigidity ensnared in dissonant infinity in Schoenberg's "Dreimal tausend Jahre" op. 50a, without needing any adjustment period. Gärtner gives each vocal group its profile, blending into the overall sound, yet with interpretive liberties: it is precisely the madrigal quality of the Schein motets that can thus be emphasized. Exemplifying this is the expressive will in the faces of the male voices in "Three Beautiful Things": a single grin, signaling complete identification with the interpretation of music and text – and in which a musical world is unleashed.
Gärtner is likely the right man in the right place – a conservative in the best sense of the word: someone who, like Beuerle, knows how and when to optimally utilize artistic means, and above all: what freedoms an ensemble needs for this.

Badische Zeitung, September 27, 2016


Remarkable Flexibility
Freiburg: Anton Webern Choir under Bernhard Gärtner

 It is with two very different versions of 'Ave maris stella' ('Hail, Star of the Sea') that the Anton Webern Choir begins its concert at the Herz-Jesu-Kirche in Freiburg. The organ version by Nicolas de Grigny and Gregorian chant is simple and contemplative, while the other by Guillaume Dufay develops tension-filled polyphony. Under the precise direction of Bernhard Gärtner, a friend and student of the choir's founder Hans Michael Beuerle, who passed away at the beginning of the year, the choir effortlessly transitions between the different styles. The audience experiences a sophisticated Marian program presented at the highest level.
Following Dufay's piece, Arvo Pärt's 'Magnificat' is heard – a huge leap of five centuries, where the similarities between the composers become apparent. Like Pärt, it is the harmonic tensions, the shimmering and precisely intonated seconds by the choir, that have a fascinating effect. It is also remarkable how flexibly the choir and organist use the church space and adapt to the acoustics of the venue... It is ultimately this remarkable flexibility that defines the choir's great musical potential.

Badische Zeitung, 08.09.2015