Berliner Philharmoniker

Simon Rattle and Berliner Philharmoniker

Simonrattle* Notes *
The day before Thanksgiving last week I went to hear Maestro Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic play a second performance at Davies Hall on their current tour. The concerts mark Rattle's farewell as principal conductor as he will not extend his contract when it ends in 2018. The orchestra sounded clean without feeling uptight or frightened, and played with a lot of joy.

The performance began with Rattle speaking about the first pieces about to be played, which were an answer to the previous night's program which featured Mahler's 7th. This evening included Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra, and Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra, which was played as a "14 movement suite or Mahler's fictional 11th Symphony" according to the conductor.

The pieces all had a lot of percussion and the four musicians in charge of this had a lot to do. The Schoenberg was sinuous and graceful, while the Webern was much more spare. It was clear when we got to the Berg because everything became much more lush. The large hammer "with non-metallic tone" used in this piece is comically huge and was very amusing to watch and hear.

The Brahms, Symphony No. 2 in D major, was wonderful to hear. Played with absolute jubilation, it was one of the only times I have heard this composer without thinking of pastures and cows and was instead engaged with the cheer and vibrancy of the musicians. The horn was especially great, warm and secure without sounding overly loud or sterile.

Tattling *
The audience well-behaved, everyone clearly wanted to be there aside from one or two who left at appropriate times and without making a fuss.

It was a fitting send-off for House Usher of Davies, Horacio Rodriguez, who retired after this performance.

Berlin Philharmonic in Tempelhof

The Berlin Philharmonic is to play in Flughafen Tempelhof tonight. Sir Simon Rattle conducts Berlioz's La Mort de Cléopâtre and Symphonie fantastique, with Susan Graham as the soloist for the former.

The damage to the Philharmonic's building last week was not as bad as feared, and the Grosser Saal was not harmed.

AP Article | AFP Article

Berlin Philharmonic on Fire

Am Dienstag den 20. Mai um 13:57 brach oberhalb des großen Saals der Berliner Philharmonie ein Feuer aus. Die Lösch- und Sicherungsarbeiten werden aller Voraussicht nach Mittwoch früh abgeschlossen sein. Das Ausmaß des Schadens ist zur Zeit nicht abschätzbar. Bis auf Weiteres bleibt die Philharmonie geschlossen. Der Betrieb im Kammermusiksaal ist nicht betroffen. Auswirkungen auf geplante Konzerte in der Philharmonie werden wir über die Presse und auf unserer Website bekannt geben. Alle sonstigen Informationen zum Brand entnehmen Sie bitte der Presse.

Official Site | BBC Article | Reuters Article

Orchester-Akademie der Berliner Philharmoniker

Orchesterakademie* Notes *
On Thursday I went to hear the Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic play in the Kammermusiksaal. The evening began with Schubert's "Rosamunde," String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor. It was all quite nice, just not too exciting. The musicians did not seem to have much rapport. They certainly seemed a bit nervous, the first violin occasionally overwhelmed the second violin and especially the viola. It was rather difficult for me to follow the line of the viola, at times I could not tell if she was playing or not. Even still, it was clear that the young musicians were all quite talented. My favorite movement of the piece was the third, the Menuetto, as I am fond of dances. However, I am still not partial to Schubert.

The second half of the performance was Mozart's Serenade for Winds No. 10 in B Flat Major, the so-called "Gran Partita." The work is scored for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 basset horns, 2 bassoons, 4 horns and string bass, and this is exactly what we saw and heard on stage. The piece was more lively than the Schubert, and they played it straightforwardly. The instruments were together, but sometimes the balance of sound was off, the clarinets were somewhat loud, for instance. The musicians were in tune, and the fifth movement was especially good, the bassoons played well.

* Tattling *
The audience was badly behaved, there were a few mobile phone rings, whispering, and leaving in the middle of the music. However, the ovation was spirited and the ensuing encore was amusing. I believe they played Johannes Brahms' Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht, Op. 49, No. 4, and musicians left the stage either in pairs or one by one until only the bassist was alone.

I had forgotten that the erstwhile General Director of San Francisco Opera, Pamela Rosenberg, was the Intendantin at the Berlin Philharmonic, and was surprised to see her name on the program. I think it is quite possible I would have turned out rather differently if not exposed to her short reign at SFO, it was during that time I started writing about opera in earnest, after all. The very next morning I read that Rosenberg was leaving when her contract expires in 2010. She is not going to another position, which I am sure evokes feelings of Schadenfreude for those who loathed her so in the Bay Area.