Charlottenburg Palace is in Berlin’s Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf District and easily accessible via U-Bahn. From November 27 – December 26 a popular Christmas market is set up on Palace grounds. Before the concert, some guests savored a three-course “themed candlelight dinner”. Several years ago, I experienced a similar but disappointing dinner in Salzburg, so I opted for the concert only.
Charlottenburg Palace History
Charlottenburg is Berlin’s last remaining palace “reflecting the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern clan”. The complex covers several blocks along the banks of the Spree River, and it’s surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden. Best to see it during the day, but it’s also lovely at night.
“Originally a petite summer retreat, Lützenburg grew into an exquisite baroque palace with opulent apartments, festival halls, collections of precious porcelain, and paintings by French 18th century masters.”
Soon after his coronation in 1701, King Frederick and Queen Sophie Charlotte decided to expand their Lützenburg residence. Tragically, Charlotte died of pneumonia in 1705 at the young age of 37. After her death, Frederick renamed the residence Charlottenburg Palace, expanded it further, built a magnificent dome, and added an “elongated building” named the Great Orangery.
Today Charlottenburg is a working palace and one of Berlin’s most “grandiose event venues”. It’s a great place for concerts.
“Loud against quiet, solo against ensemble, a competition of instruments dominates the Baroque period…”
Berlin Residence Orchestra
In 2006, the Berlin Residence Orchestra began staging classical music concerts in Charlottenburg’s Great Orangery. Several chamber music ensembles formed within the orchestra play at events throughout Berlin. Performances feature composers like Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi. The staged atmosphere transports audiences beck in time to when kings listened to Baroque music.
Last night, the chamber orchestra consisted of a harpsichord, cello, bass, flute, violin, and four violas. There were flute, viola, and cello solos. Soprano Sara Gouzy and countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow were the featured vocalists. Their operatic solos and duos were fantastic.
For a while, the commentator (compère) gave parts of the narrative in English as well as German – it was obvious he really didn’t care for it. Later, he spoke German only, so I missed the nuances and jokes that made others in the audience laugh….The program was slightly confusing to follow, but the music was wonderful.
The program included well-known baroque composers, kings, and friends of kings:
- Frederick The Great
- Georg Friedrich Händel
- Antonio Vivaldi
- Johann Sebastian Bach
- Jean-Baptiste Lully – friend of Frederick I
- Giovanni Battista Pergolesi – Italian opera composer, chapelmaster
- Christoph Willibald Gluck – German opera composer
- Riccardo Broschi – Italian composer, chapelmaster
- Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – son of Johann Sebastian Bach
Anna Fedotova Concertmaster
Multi-talented Russian Anna Fedotova studied at the Far East Art Academy in Vladivostok and later at Moscow’s Gnessin Academy. She’s participated in Salzburg masterclasses and is a “laureate of several competitions in many countries”. Fedotova co-founded the Tango Ensemble Coamorous” and has toured with the group throughout Europe. Last night she played a lovely violin solo.
Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director
Alexandra Rossmann was born in Minsk Belarus, where she studied piano and became a teacher and accompanist. She performed at international festivals and made her début at the Minsk Philharmonic at the age of 17. Rossmann later moved to Germany and studied at the Musikhochschule Munich. She lives in Potsdam and teaches piano. Alexandra played harpsichord during the performance.
Sara Gouzy Soprano
French soprano Sara Gouzy completed her piano studies at the Conservatoire de Toulouse. She studied voice at the Academy of Music “Hanns Eisler” Berlin and attended masterclasses in France and Germany. In 2012 Gouzy participated in projects at the “Hanns Eisler” and Berlin’s Komische Oper (Comic Opera). Gouzy is a scholarship holder of the association “Yehudi Menuhin Live Music Now” and soloist with the Berlin Residence Orchestra.
Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor
The German-Russian countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow began his career as a chorister in the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and received Canada’s Saint Nicolas Award from the Royal School of Church Music. He began vocal studies at the “Hanns Eisler” in 2011 and has taken masterclasses. He appeared with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the world première of Evan Gardner’s Die Unterhändlerin (The Negotiator).
This is the first time I’ve experienced a countertenor in such close quarters – a most unusual voice!