Last night I attended a Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performance at the Chamber Music Concert Hall. There were several choices for getting there from my apartment. U-Bahn wasn’t one of them. At night, I’m more confident taking U-Bahn and am a bit leery of walking between connections in the dark.
Getting to the Concert – Bus or Taxi
I took the M41 bus to Potsdamer Platz and walked about 10 minutes to the concert hall. It worked out well, even though I initially went in the wrong direction :o( but figured it out and changed course. I learned from the mistake, and the mellow eclectic passengers on the bus were helpful and interesting company. Berlin taxis are plentiful but expensive. I’m not sure if they’re safe. It’s a good idea to get comfortable riding buses and trams.
I’ve been looking forward to the concert after hearing much praise for the symphony. Many consider the Berliner Philharmoniker the “world’s greatest orchestra”. It’s a gorgeous concert hall with stellar acoustics. The performance was sold out. It’s a theatre-in-the round and I had a balcony side seat facing the conductor – a prefect vantage point for watching the orchestra in action. Paavo Järvi conducted as they performed works by composers Witold Lutosławski and Johannes Brahms.
Witold Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra
Polish composer Witold Lutosławsk’s Concerto for Orchestra is known as “one of the top Polish works of Social Realism”. It’s described as a “rousing concert for orchestra combining the harsh force of Polish folk music with ingenious, futuristic construction”.
The Concerto has three movements beginning with a solemn introduction featuring “transformed tunes of folk songs”. Critics characterize the second movement as a “syncopated folk tune”. The finale is the longest movement and has a special “dramatic effect through the rise of the sound volume from pianissimo to fortissimo”. It’s a very modern, abstract composition.
Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 for Chamber Ensemble
German composer Johannes Brahms’ Second Symphony was a sharp contrast to Lutoslawski’s composition. He created the symphony during a holiday on Lake Wörthersee, a glacial lake in the Starnberg district of Bavaria. Maybe Brahms got inspiration from the legend of the Origin of Lake Wörthersee, a fascinating folktale.
Critics describe Symphony No. 2 as having a “pastoral, serenade-like quality with moments of somber severity”. It’s considered the Brahms Symphony “most suitable for a chamber version filled with expressive solos and transparent textures”.
Paavo Järvi Conductor
Paavo Järvi has been the Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen since 2004. Together with the Berlin Symphony he has produced popular recordings of works by Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Robert Schumann. He’s a masterful conductor!
“Järvi is a fascinating man to watch in concert. Not only is he a Grammy award-winning conductor but he is also a swift mover on the stage. He remains focused, and incredibly involved in the music.”
Paavo Järvi’s Conducting Career and Awards
Järvi’s career began in 1995 as conductor of Stockholm’s Kungliga Filharmoniska Orkestern. Career landmarks include positions with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Frankfurt HR Symphony Orchestra. In addition to his position with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, he’s artistic advisor to the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Järvi Summer Festival in Pärnu, Estonia.
In 2010, Järvi was awarded the ECHO Klassik as Conductor of the Year for his Beethoven interpretation – considered his greatest success. “The CD versions of Beethoven’s nine symphonies and the performances of the complete Beethoven cycle in Tokyo, Yokohama, Lanaudière Quebec, Paris, Strasbourg, Montreal, Bonn, Salzburg, Warsaw, and Sao Paolo sparked a wave of enthusiasm.”
Following the Beethoven project, “Järvi and his orchestra worked equally successfully on the symphonic works of Robert Schumann”. The third CD with Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 and the Concert Piece for 4 Horns was awarded the prestigious French Music Prize, the Diapason d’Or. Järvi then focused on the complete Brahms Symphony Cycle winning Germany’s Opus Klassik Award in the category “Symphonic Recording of the Year (music of the 19th century)”.
“Berlin’s striking pentagonal yellow concert hall was the product of designs by Hans Scharoun. It, along with the Neue Nationalgalerie, the chamber music hall, and the State Library, make up Berlin’s Kulturforum.“
Beginning with the 2019/20 season Paavo Järvi will become the new Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. He’s absolutely mesmerizing, a phenomenal conductor!
The Brahms piece was my favorite – it was magnificent. The full house wasn’t shy about acknowledging the musicians and conductor with an enthusiastic applause. The performance was thrilling and made for a memorable evening in Berlin!