Berlin Philharmonic – Antonín Dvořák, Hugo Wolf, Franz Schubert

Iván Fischer Conductor – Budapest Festival Orchestra

Thursday night was likely my last Berlin Philharmonic performance – at least for a while. The sold-out performance was in Philharmonie Hall where the symphony performed music by Antonín Dvořák, Hugo Wolf, and Franz Schubert.

Berlin Philharmonie Hall –

Dvořák and Schubert have long been favorite composers. I remember trying to conquer a Schubert piece as a young piano student – for me, a daunting experience. Unfamiliar with Wolf, the evening was a lesson in German opera! Goethe’s expression below describes my feelings…

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Poet – Weimar-Lese

Iván Fischer Conductor

Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer led the Philharmonic. Fischer studied piano, violin, and cello in Budapest and continued his education in Vienna. His international career took off in 1976 when he won a conducting competition in London.

In 1983 Fischer co-founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Today he’s the orchestra’s music director. Fischer is a regular guest conductor at major European opera houses. He was Principal Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic 2012 – 2018 and is now the orchestra’s Honorary Conductor.

Iván Fischer Conductor – Hungarian Free Press

Fischer is also a composer. His works are performed in the US and Europe. He founded the Hungarian Mahler Society and received Hungary’s Golden Medal Award and the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum for promoting international culture.

Antonín Dvořák Composer

Antonín Dvořák Legends for Orchestra

The concert began with Antonín Dvořák symphonies – Legends for Orchestra. Berlin is  where the Czech composer was first recognized internationally. In 1878, Johannes Brahms recommended publishing his Moravian Duets and Slavonic Dances for piano. A few years later he produced Legends for Orchestra.

Christian Gerhaher Baritone – Digital Concert Hall

Hugo Wolf Goethe and Mörike Compositions

Several Hugo Wolf operatic compositions followed Dvořák’s symphonies. Baritone Christian Gerhaher’s singing captivated the audience. Wolf, known for his “profound poetic insight and imagination,” created them from the poems and ballads of German writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Eduard Friedrich Mörike. Portraying their unique “poet personalities” was key to Wolf in “opening musical and poetic horizons” in his compositions.

Hugo Wolf Composer –


German poet Eduard Friedrich Mörike is known for taking “special pleasure in rendering hair-raising and fantastic verses”.


Moravian Duets and Slavonic Dances – Shazam

Wish I’d had a translation, as titles of the lyrics were interesting – Goethe’s ballads – Der Rattenfänger (The Pied Piper) and Mörike’s Fire Rider. Mörike’s lyric poetry covers a “variety of forms and moods”. The audience was thoroughly absorbed. It was a very German experience!

Eduard Moerike Poet – Augsburger Allgemeini

Christian Gerhaher Baritone

German baritone Christian Gerhaher appears in Germany and abroad as a recitalist and soloist with symphony orchestras in major cities worldwide. He also appears in opera productions, holds the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art, is an honorary professor at the Academy of Music Munich, and teaches international masterclasses. The audience adored his performance of Wolf’s compositions.

Christian Gerhaher Baritone – InstantEncore

Gerhaher attended the Opera School of the Academy of Music in Munich and is an honorary professor at the Munich Academy of Music and Theatre. He and his wife live  in Munich with their three children.

Franz Schubert Composer – BR-Klassik

Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in C Major

The symphony ended with Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in C Major. Schubert composed the symphony in 1825-26, but it was never performed. Robert Schumann discovered the symphony in 1839 and German composer Felix Mendelssohn produced the work that year in Leipzig. It’s a wonderful, dramatic symphony featuring woodwinds and French horns – skip to the end of the video below to hear the rousing finale!

Bolero Berlin – Chamber Music, Philharmonic, and Latin Jazz

Bolero Berlin – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Last night was another evening of outstanding music in Berlin! Bolero Berlin performed at the Berlin Philharmonic and finding a group of musicians with more charm or talent would be difficult!

Martin Stegner Viola –

After becoming “enchanted and inspired by melancholic, mysterious, sensual Cuban bolero,” violist Martin Stegner created the Bolero Berlin ensemble. The popular group fuses chamber music and philharmonic with Latin American jazz creating their own exceptional sound.


The “warm, dark, soft sound that characterizes Cuban bolero appeals to the viola player in particular.”


Esko Laine, Contra-Bass – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Philharmonic Meets Jazz

Martin Stegner plays viola with the Philharmonic, and Bolero Berlin includes three of his “like-minded orchestral colleagues”:

In addition, the ensemble has two incredible internationally known jazz performers:

Bolero Berlin Solos

Each musician performed solos demonstrating mastery of their instruments. The stunning solos were fully appreciated by the audience.

Preis’s mastery of his four instruments is amazing. Stegner’s bolero takes your heart and mind on a Latin vacation. Esko Laine’s solo during a composition inspired by Duke Ellington blew the audience away, and it was a delight watching Gioia flawlessly play a myriad of exotic Latin percussion instruments.

Daniel “Topo” Gioia, Percussion –

During an encore, guitarist Nieberle surprised the audience by playing a gorgeous ukulele solo – evoking big sounds from the instrument. Raphael Haeger held everything together with his impeccable piano skills and accompanied Gioia on drums during a Latin percussion tambourine solo.

Bolero Berlin – iTunes

In addition to their distinguished careers as musicians, Bolero Berlin members are also composers and teachers. They perform with other artists and have won many awards.


“We look forward to every concert and have a relaxed, respectful approach. Nothing has changed in ten years.”   Martin Stegner Bolero Berlin


Raphael Haeger, Piano and Drums – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

The group’s goal is “surprising listeners with familiar melodies in an unfamiliar sound”. Because jazz and classical are so different, in the beginning some wondered if the concept would work.

Bolero Berlin – © 2018 Hagke. Music Management

Clearly the music does work, and their audiences love them! The concert last night celebrates their 10th anniversary performing together. They’ve perfected Latin American music in philharmonic sound while complimenting each other superbly.

Bolero Berlin – Photo Alba Falchi

For their anniversary program, Helmut Nieberle arranged music combining tracks from Consuelo Velázquez’s Besamé Mucho, Django Reinhardt’s Troublant Boléro, Duke Ellington, and tango master Astor Piazzolla with operatic melodies from Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto and Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The result was absolute heaven!

Manfred Preis, Clarinet and Saxophone – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

I regret not being able to understand Stegner’s German narrative which amused the audience and created laughter. The program was in German, but the compositions played were originals inspired by contemporary and classical artists and composers.

I especially liked their tango music and reminisced about a Piazzolla Tango Performance in Buenos Aires several years ago. The evening featured the traditional songs of Astor Piazzolla, the world’s foremost tango music composer.

Helmut Nieberle, Guitar © Arvo Wichmann


“Classical concert organizers don’t dare offer jazz sounds to their audience, while jazz organizers doubt whether philharmonic musicians get the right groove for jazz and Latin American music.”


Bolero Berlin’s performance was a memorable evening! You must hear them in person to appreciate their talent and incredible sound. After rousing applause and two amazing encores, the audience still didn’t want to let them go!

Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin –

Gardening and Wildfires

It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.

Garden Visitor

Cute Stray Cat

The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.

Fire Tornado –

Carr Fire Chopper – The Mercury News Bay Area

The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained!  Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

Wildfire Sunset San Francisco Bay –

Wildfire Smoke at Sunrise – Jonathan Hayward Canadian Press

Brave Wildfire Fighter – Charlie Nash Photography

Next Long Trip

I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!

Berlin Boroughs and Districts

Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-WilmersdorfFriedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.

Museum Island River Spree – Stock Photo

Return to South Africa

I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, but six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…

Berlin Cathedral – 

Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.

Berlin Cathedral at Museum Island –

Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the real issues keeping South Africans awake at night.

Kayelitsha Township Outside Cape Town – Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Julius Malema Leader Economic Freedem Fighters (EFF) -blouinnews

Julius Sello Malema Leader Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) –

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation.


South Africa’s EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition”.


Mmusi Maimane – Leader Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.

My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.

Unter den Linden by Night –

During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin

Clouds Over Table Mountain from Signal Hill Cape Town – Erik Pronske Getty Images


The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…


Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Berlin State Opera Staatsoper Unter den Linden – Wikipedia

Berlin This Fall

I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate at Dusk –

I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”

Bode Museum Mitte –


Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.


Strandbar at Bode Museum Mitte

Mitte begins at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate on the east side of Tiergarten Park. The grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, is lined with 18th- and 19th-century palaces and monuments.

Mitte – VanDam StreetSmart Maps

Tiergarten Park –

Komische Opera House Berlin –

I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.

Christmas Berlin – 

Germany’s festive Christmas Markets are legendary. These are the top five:

  1. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
  2. Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
  3. Wintertraum am Alexa
  4. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
  5. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche

Christmas Markets Berlin –

I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…

Monbijou Park Embankment River Spree