Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Chamber Music Concert Hall Berlin Philharmonic

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.

Berlin Symphony

Getting to the Concert Hall

After considering the options, 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 interesting passengers on the bus were helpful. Berlin taxis are plentiful but expensive, not sure if they’re safe. Since I’ll be in Berlin fort awhile, it’s a good idea to get comfortable riding buses and trams as well as the U-Bahn.

Berliner Philharmonie Concert Hall

I’ve been looking forward to the concert after hearing praise for the symphony. Many consider the Berliner Philharmoniker the “world’s greatest orchestra”. The performance was sold out. Paavo Järvi conducted works by composers Witold Lutosławski and Johannes Brahms. The gorgeous concert hall is a theatre-in-the round with stellar acoustics. I had a balcony side seat facing the conductor – a prefect vantage point for watching the orchestra in action.

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”.

Witold Lutosławski Polish Composer

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 dramatic 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.

Johannes Brahms German Composer

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”. The soloists were magnificent.

Johannes Brahms 1866 Photo – Picture-Alliance dpa

The symphony has four movements, allegro non troppoadagio non troppoallegretto grazioso, and allegro con spirito. The rousing finale was spectacular and brought the audience to their feet.

Little Man of Lake Wörth Bavarian Folktale

Paavo Järvi Conductor

Paavo Järvi has been the Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen since 2004. Together with the Berlin Symphony he’s produced popular recordings of works by Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Robert Schumann. Järvi is a masterful conductor!

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“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.”

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Paavo Järvi Conductor

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.

Berlin Chamber Music Concert Hall Theater in the Round

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.”

Paavo Järvi Conductor Berlin Philharmonic

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)”.

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“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.

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Berlin Symphony Pipe Organ

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 audience wasn’t shy about acknowledging the talented musicians and conductor with enthusiastic applause. The performance was thrilling and made for a memorable evening in Berlin!

Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin – depositphotos.com

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 – zmescience.com

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 – Fstoppers.com

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, 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 – Wikimedia.org 

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 – 123RF.com

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 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) – blouinnews.com

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation. The 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 – 123RF.com

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

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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”…

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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 – pond5.com

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 – Wikimedia.org

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

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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 – berlijn-blog.nl

Komische Opera House Berlin – operawire.com

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 – efcollegebreak.com 

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 – classictic.com

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