Why did improvisation stop in classical music?

Improvised classical music - without sheet music, without shoes - but with success

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Johannes Brahms mixed with salsa, pop and improvisation, a pinch of light and choreography - this is how the orchestra “impromptu” fills the concert halls.

Mozart did. Brahms did it. And all the masters of the baroque era anyway: improvising. But what is common in jazz and contemporary music today has to be rediscovered with great effort in classical music - in many places the reverence for the work of the great composers weighs too heavily.

The STEGREIF.orchester from Berlin cultivates a creative approach to this awe. #freebrahms, the link opens in a new window is the name of the current production, which deviates from the usual rituals of the classical music scene.

This orchestra sings and dances

The audience is greeted with a warm soundscape as soon as they enter: drummers give the beat on stage, a violinist improvises somewhere. Everyone else is scattered around the room and singing. And at some point these gentle acoustic waves form at the beginning of the 3rd Symphony by Johannes Brahms.

Trailer for «#freebrahms»

The musicians wear comfortable clothing: wide trousers or skirts, leggings, shorts. The colors are coordinated: orange, earth-colored and black.

The feet are bare, like with dancers. You move around while playing, use all the space. Depending on the music, they run, dance, walk.

Sold out halls

There are no notes, no music stands, no conductor. Nevertheless, everyone plays together, breathes together, is a body of sound. The music flows organically from one Brahms motif to the next, improvisations arise in between, alone and in a group.

The light sets the scene for the musicians' choreography - and at the very end the audience is brought on stage to dance.

The orchestra has existed for three years. Almost all concerts are sold out, the organizers are queuing up. An orchestra that improvises - that is what the classical music scene has been missing up to now.

A huge band that plays classical music

The 25-year-old horn player Juri de Marco founded the STEGREIF.orchester: “As a teenager I founded a band and worked out choreographies, developed songs, and improvised,” he remembers.

"But I was missing the absolute depth that classical music can have." That's why he founded the STEGREIF.orchester: a huge band that plays classical music.

But how does an entire orchestra improvise? “This requires a structure,” explains violinist Anne-Sophie Bereuter: “We develop it from the symphony. We decide which musical themes should sound in the original, which in arrangements - and where there is room for free improvisations ».

Not just for fans of classical music

Every musician knows the timetable through the whole piece - which then has to be learned by heart. That is demanding in a one-hour symphony.

“We don't want to trivialize the big compositions,” says de Marco, “we want to create an aha moment. Our focus is on the audience that normally doesn't hear classical music. If these people can dock on pop improvisations, then we can also take them with us into the genre of classical music, which is new to them. "

The future of the classic

This is what it could look like, the future of classical music, which is constantly complaining about the aging audience in the feature sections. «We realize that we have started a debate: Can you change classical music? And if so, how? "

That is what makes Juri de Marco successful: "Because that means that people are finally talking about how we want to deal with the value of classical music in the future."

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