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.”
Philharmonic Meets Jazz
Martin Stegner plays viola with the Philharmonic, and Bolero Berlin includes three of his “like-minded orchestral colleagues”:
- Manfred Preis – Clarinet, Bassclarinet and Alto and Contra-Bass Saxophone (I think)…
- Esko Laine – Contra-Bass
- Raphael Haeger – Drums and Piano
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
“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!