The great chirping: world premiere of “Insect Concerto” – a concert for insects with insects

The great chirping: world premiere of “Insect Concerto” – a concert for insects with insects

The Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker and the World Wide Fund for Nature Germany (WWF) are vocally promoting awareness of how dramatically insects are dying. Conceived by the Berlin agency Scholz & Friends, classical musicians and real insects will make music onstage together for the first time. And not just any stage; the premiere of Insect Concerto will take place on May 21, 2018, in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berliner Philharmonie.


Recent studies have shown that populations of flying insects in Germany have collapsed 75 percent – with dramatic consequences for us all. The insects’ quiet death has prompted the WWF Germany and Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker to give them a loud voice: Insect Concerto – the first concert that sees insects and an orchestra make music together.

The project’s musical head is Gregor A. Mayrhofer, conductor scholarship recipient of the Karajan Academy. For the WWF Germany, the 30-year-old composed a ten-minute concert from the song of grasshoppers, cicadas, and crickets with strings, wind players, harps, and percussion instruments. “The soloists in this piece are the insects. We musicians wanted to find a way to combine the sounds of classical music with their special song and rhythms,” says Gregor Mayrhofer. The result is a special composition that artistically stages a musical dialogue between humankind and nature. The work features classical instruments being played in an unusual way: scratching, scraping, chirping, and even the flapping of wings of mosquitoes or columns of ants are heard. “The tones of the animals with their really quite high and calling sounds but sometimes also groovy rhythms are a unique inspiration for us. This is what makes the piece completely different to any conventional concert,” reports Gregor Mayrhofer.

First live performance on May 21 – piece available to download for a donation

During the Berliner Philharmonie open house on Monday, May 21, Gregor Mayrhofer and an ensemble from the Karajan Academy will together perform the piece for the first time. The insects will appear in a special terrarium. The concert starts at 3:30 p.m. in the Chamber Music Hall. The composition is also available on the website and  can be downloaded now for a donation of an amount of people’s choosing. All proceeds from the sale of the piece go to WWF Germany projects for the preservation of insect diversity and promotion of sustainable agriculture – a basic prerequisite for the survival of insects.

“We are very pleased to have this artistic support for our work combating insects dying on such a scale,” says Jörg-Andreas Krüger, Director Ecological Footprint at WWF Germany. “In the last 30 years, populations of flying insects in Germany have fallen by three quarters. The effects on the ecosystem and our diet are dramatic. Insects are right at the beginning of the food chain in the form of food for birds and pollinators for plants; 90 percent of flowering plants are pollinated by insects. In turn, animals and people live on these. In Germany and the rest of Europe, WWF is therefore working together with farmers and political decision makers on measures to prevent the insects dying,” explains Krüger.

The idea for Insect Concerto came from Scholz & Friends Berlin, the regular agency of the Berliner Philharmonie. Oliver Handlos, Managing Director Creative: “The Insect Concerto project is based on the idea of writing a concert with insects for insects. Humankind and animals enter into a vocal dialogue with each other with nature setting the tone. The joint concert gives the creatures a big stage to, as it were, make people sit up and take notice of them. We are giving a voice to those who will soon no longer have one.” The agency has supported the entire production of the piece and the Karajan Academy and WWF in promoting it online and offline.


The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature)

The WWF was founded in 1961 in Switzerland and is today one of the largest international conservation organizations for nature and the environment. The organization operates in over 100 countries and has around 5 million sponsors worldwide. Its staff are currently implementing 1,300 projects all over the globe aimed at protecting biodiversity.

The Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Since it was founded in 1972 by Herbert von Karajan, the orchestra academy has served to prepare talented musicians for the demands of professional orchestras. The scholarship recipients go through a rigorous selection procedure and are subsequently taught for two years by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Around a third of the members of the Berliner Philharmoniker are former scholarship recipients of the academy.