I enjoyed more incredible music last night during a Karajan Academy concert at Berliner Philharmoniker. Exceptional students attend the Academy to learn from distinguished members of the Philharmonic.
It was cold with fat snowflakes falling all around, so I stopped for a hot drink at the Potsdamer Platz Christmas Market which was full of merrymakers. The performance hall was packed with several concerts appearing in the Philharmonie Building. The Chamber Music Hall was cozy and comfortable.
Popular conductor Herbert von Karajan founded the Karajan Academy 40 years ago. It’s funded by private donors. Berliner Philharmoniker concertmasters and symphony leaders teach young musicians about life as professional orchestral members. Karajan graduates perform in symphonies worldwide, and almost a third of Berlin Philharmonic musicians are former Academy students.
Each season, students participate in five public concerts at the Berlin Philharmonie. The concerts are about “getting to know highly talented young musicians”.
The training program is both a postgraduate course and an internship. Students learn to “listen carefully to their colleagues, become aware of what the other musicians are doing, exercise critical self-reflection, and constantly strive to be better”. The Berliner Philharmoniker makes those concepts its own.
“Chamber music occupies a prominent place at the Academy and promotes the whole instrumental culture.” Students learn the “specific repertoire of their respective instrument” and focus on early and contemporary music.
The Karajan Academy’s moto is “learn from the pros”.
Mendelssohn and Bach
Last night students were led by internationally renowned violinist Carolin Widmann (Mendelssohn) and Elina Albach (Bach) who substituted for Raphael Alpermann on harpsichord. Alpermann, a conductor and harpsichordist, teaches at the Berlin University of Music and is artistic director of the youth baroque orchestra “Bachs Erben” – Bach’s Heirs.
The solos were outstanding! Other than Widmann and Albach a fantastic flute soloist performed during Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, but I don’t know her name. I was at a disadvantage since the programs was in German only.
According to Peter Riegelbauer, Philharmonic double-bass player and head of the Karajan Academy, young instrumentalists get a sense of what it means to be a “complete musician”.
Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas and Brandenburg Concertos
Felix Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra in D minor is “framed by works written by Mendelssohn’s most venerated composer – Johann Sebastian Bach”. The concerto is relatively unknown and rarely performed. Mendelssohn composed it at the age of 13! Last night it featured violinist Carolin Widmann whose performance was indescribably beautiful. Bach’s Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life Cantata and Brandenburg Concert No. 5 in D major were brilliantly performed and well received. The Philharmonic Choir joined the musicians and members and sang several spectacular solos.
Concerts at Berliner Philharmoniker have been a special highlight during my time in Berlin!