An evening in Berlin 

"Cathedrals of Culture" by Wim Wenders starts off with a bit about the Berlin Philharmonic as one of the places in the world that are way ahead of their time, form taste, and become the source of new things. Today we head to the Berlin philharmonic and the new direction it has taken under Kirill Petrenko. 

The Berlin Philharmonic is the place you enter with reverence, but also a place you feel calm and comfortable. What sets it apart from other similar spaces throughout the world is that stiffness and distance, strictness and conservatism are not present at the Berlin Philharmonic. You can already feel that upon entering, with not many people dressed in a strict dress code. A colourful audience from all around — not just their clothing, but also their age. Those are our impressions from each visit there. 

But this is only the outside, formal layer of things. The audience comes here to become a part of the process, to cross the barrier of “audience-orchestra”. And to go beyond the cliché “orchestra-conductor”. Here in Berlin the stage is completely surrounded by audience from all sides, and the acoustics are so strong, that you can hear a page of the score being turned all the way back to the last row. 

Since 2020, the Berlin Philharmonic has entered a new era under Kirill Petrenko. A conductor, called a “kung-fu” master by his fellow musicians. By the press, he is known as a musical storyteller, a humble person, for whom the word “ego” has no meaning.

Last week the orchestra and Petrenko offered a unique programme, that included three pieces, written in the middle of the 20th century, that come to show that the music from that time is very accessible and digestible. 

Pieces, dominated by rhythm - a Three movement symphony by Stravinsky, the ballet Alagoana by Zimmerman, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic dance. Music way closer to jazz. 

While Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff are very known and popular composers, Zimmerman’s music surprises. Alagoana was written in the 50’s of the 20th century, highly influenced by Brazilian music and folklore. For that reason the orchestra included a lot of percussions and drums, as a contrast to its usual arrangement. 

Those are the facts. The miracle began with Petrenko being welcomed on the stage like a rock star. From that point onwards, he takes you on a journey to a world full of finesse, smoothness, and drama. A whole lot of emotion. The result is the behaviour of the audience - there were people moving with the music or quiet whispers and comments - emotions that could not be held inside. We need at least a minute after the end of each piece in order to get out of the world we were thrown into by the orchestra, to gather our thoughts and start applauding. After the end of the concert the applause lasted 15 minutes. 

Today we go to Berlin with a few short musical examples, showcasing what happens at concerts at the Berlin Philharmonic. And to wrap things up we have Alagoana by Zimmermann. 

Scriabin: Le Poème de l'extase / Petrenko · Berliner Philharmoniker

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique" / Petrenko · Berliner Philharmoniker

Alagoana, caprichos brasileiros: I. Ouverture
February 2020
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