Last night I enjoyed a concert at Charlottenburg Palace. Dressed in period costumes, the Berlin Residence Orchestra performed Baroque masterpieces by Vivaldi, Händel, Bach, and others.
Pre-Concert Candlelight Dinner
Before the concert, some savored a three-course “themed candlelight dinner”. Years ago, I experienced a similar but disappointing dinner in Salzburg, so I opted for the concert only. The Palace is in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf District and accessible via U-Bahn. From November 26 through December 27 a popular Christmas Market is set up on Palace grounds.
Today Charlottenburg is a working palace and one of Berlin’s most “grandiose event venues”. It’s a great place for concerts.
Charlottenburg Palace History
Charlottenburg is Berlin’s last remaining palace “reflecting the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern Family“. The complex covers several blocks along the banks of River Spree. Restaurants, hotels, and cafés near the Palace feature paintings of Queen Charlotte and the grounds. The Palace is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden best visited during the day, but it’s also lovely at night.
Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Hanover – wife of Prussian Friedrich III – commissioned the construction of Lützenburg, a “summer residence in Lützow” in 1696.
“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 expanded 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, built a magnificent dome, and added an “elongated building” named the Great Orangery.
“Loud against quiet, solo against ensemble, a competition of instruments dominates the Baroque Period…”
Berlin Residence Orchestra
In 2006, the Berlin Residence Orchestra began conducting classical music concerts in Charlottenburg’s Great Orangery. Chamber music ensembles that formed within the orchestra play at events throughout Berlin. The staged atmosphere transports audiences beck in time to when kings listened to Baroque music.
“Derived from the Portuguese word barroco, or ‘oddly shaped pearl,’ since the nineteenth century, the term Baroque describes the period in Western European music from 1600 to 1750.” The concerts are popular with both locals and tourists.
Last night, the chamber orchestra consisted of harpsichord, cello, bass, flute, violin, and four violas. There were flute, viola, and cello solos. Soprano Sara Gouzy and countertenor Georg A. Bochow were the featured vocalists. Their operatic solos and duos were fantastic!
For a while, the commentator (compère) presented parts of the narrative in English and German – it was obvious he 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 works by well-known German and Italian composers, kings, and friends of kings:
- Frederick The Great – Prussian King
- Georg Friedrich Händel – German Composer
- Antonio Vivaldi – Italian Baroque Composer
- Johann Sebastian Bach – German Baroque Composer
- Jean-Baptiste Lully – friend of Frederick I
- Giovanni Battista Pergolesi – Italian 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 competitions in many countries”. Fedotova co-founded the Tango Ensemble Coamorous” and toured with the group throughout Europe. Last night she played a fantastic violin solo.
Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director
Alexandra Rossmann is from Minsk Belarus, where she studied piano and became a teacher and accompanist. She performed at international festivals and made her début at the Belarusian Philharmonic at the age of 17. Rossmann moved to Germany and studied at the Musikhochschule Munich. Currently she lives in Potsdam and teaches piano. Alexandra played harpsichord during the Baroque performance last night.
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 A. 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 took masterclasses. Bochow appeared with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the world première of Evan Gardner’s Die Unterhändlerin (The Negotiator).
“There are many misconceptions and mysteries about the countertenor. Some take it for a whim of nature, though this type of voice has nothing mysterious about it.”
This is the first time I’ve experienced a countertenor in close quarters – a beautiful but most unusual voice!