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TESS CREBBIN talks to Sven Helbig, Torsten Rasch and Gert Hof about the story behind the 2004 Echo Classical Award for best world première recording


Choosing whose story to highlight as a preview to the upcoming Echo Classics Awards is a tough call because this year's Echo awards, the German equivalent of the Grammy, has its fair share of inspiring life stories of the winners. The award ceremony will take place on 24 October 2004 in Munich and many artists who had to struggle against the odds and whose ascent seemed impossible will have their day. There is Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist (Best Instrumentalist), who was so poor that he shared a bed with his father and lived in a heat-less apartment in winter. Or take baritone Thomas Quasthoff (Best Male Singer) who was once told that on account of his disability he would never make it as a singer but today is one of the most respected Lieder singers of our generation. Pianist Lars Vogt and his chamber music ensemble are taking home the prize for Best Chamber music -- for a recording they did together with cellist Boris Pergamenschikow who died earlier this year. These are just some of the inspiring stories behind this year's Echo Classics. And then there is the story behind the best world première recording, which goes to the orchestral Lieder Cycle Mein Herz brennt (My heart in flames) by German composer Torsten Rasch. The text is by the author and poet Till Lindemann/Rammstein, music is performed by the Dresdner Sinfoniker under the baton of John Carewe. René Pape, one of the most sought-after young operatic basses who has been working with all sorts of great conductors from Levine to Barenboim, is the singer. His website,, incidentally, was designed by Thomas Hampson's stepdaughter Catherine Herberstein.

The truly astonishing story behind this CD is best told in their own words, so here is an interview with the founder of the Dresdner Sinfoniker, Sven Helbig, and the composer Torsten Rasch who has based his composition on fragments of the original Rammstein music which he has developed into a classical work to show that any kind of music, so long as it consists of notes, can be used as a base for serious classical compositions. Also joining us for the interview is Till Lindemann's spokesman and friend Gert Hof, an internationally known director of opera and stage shows who works with Rammstein and who has also edited and photographed for Lindemann's poetry book that eventually led to him writing the texts for this recording.

Sven Helbig (left) and Torsten Rasch. Photo: Sven Helbig
Sven Helbig (left) and Torsten Rasch. Photo: Sven Helbig

Tess Crebbin: So, how does it feel to have won the Echo Classics Award for Best World Première Recording?

Sven Helbig: Unbelievable! We are still overwhelmed with the news. It will take a while to sink in. When we founded the orchestra in the nineties, such an event seemed a long way off.

TC: And yet, you were able to attract some of the world's best musicians to your orchestra. Can you tell us a little about the background of this extraordinary story? How does one go about founding an orchestra?

SH: My background is jazz but my roots are classical. So some years back, in the nineties, I looked around myself and decided that the kind of music that I would like to hear is not performed by the big orchestras these days. Money is a prime consideration nowadays, rather than music that would warrant performance. Everything is becoming over-commercialised in our modern world and this trend has entered classical music also. I wanted to hear contemporary classical music played in the concert halls, but not the kind of contemporary music that destroys. I wanted music that unites and that emphasises harmony and tonality, similar to what was found at the turn of the last century. Mahler, Schoenberg, these are the kind of composers who interest me most.

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Copyright © 17 October 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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