Friday, October 10, 2008

Berlin Philharmonic - All-Mozart - 10/09/08

Conductor: Trevor Pinnock
Mozart: Symphony No 25, "The Little"
Mozart: Piano Concerto No 9 "Jenamy" - Maria Joao Pires
Mozart: Symphony No 40, "The Great"

Mission accomplished! I've finally attended a concert by the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at their no less famous home, the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. And what a concert that was. The hall itself was a rather pleasant vision considering the ugliness of its bright yellow tent-like exterior designed by the Berlin architect Hans Scharoun, an unfortunate example of 1960s aesthetics. The space was very large and open, all sharp angles and understated tones. I'm typically not crazy about modern architecture, so it did not take my breath away, but considering my admittedly low expectations, I was happily surprised. I found out I had an unbelievably good seat, another miracle when I think of how late I bought it, and quickly bonded with the woman sitting next to me in half-English half-German. It was her first time too as she had just moved to Berlin, and we were all giddiness and excitement.

The program was all-Mozart and the first piece, the symphony No 25, set the tone for an evening of one musical treat after another. Although it is not as good as his latter work, the man obviously already knew what he was doing, and the orchestra proved right away that its reputation of excellence is more than justified. The perfect acoustics for which the hall is so well-known helped the sound carry faithfully and powerfully, and it was a wonderful way to start the evening.
The second piece was the lovely piano concerto No 9 and our soloist for the evening was Maria Joao Pires. I had never heard her before, but she's definitely worth getting to know. She had a bohemian look, short hair and earth-toned flowing outfit, that was a refreshing change from the overstuffed big-gown-and-bigger-jewelry that a lots of soloists wear in the US. Her playing seemed particularly fit for the lyricism of the concerto and the lightness of her touch was etheral. Even the musicians were attentively listening to her during the solo parts. She was such a big hit that she eventually had to come back and did a little four-hand piece with Trevor Pinnock. It seemed kind of unplanned, but totally delightful.
After the intermission, we were back for the pièce de resistance, the über-popular symphony No 40. Its three very distinctive and extremely melodious movements are the kind that grab you right away and won't get out of your head. They have always been a joy to listen to, and last night even more so. Trevor Pinnock took command right away and led the orchestra in a particularly inspired performance that had everybody in the audience hold their breath. After the infectous first movement, my neighbor and I looked at each other in utter astonishment until she finally asserted that it was "very intensive." The playing was very intense indeed, but also very subtle in the softer passages, highlighting the emotional roller-coater that made Charles Rosen qualify the piece of "work of passion, violence and grief." The orchestra felt totally engaged and committed, and really treated us to an extraordinary performance. I couldn't have expected a better introduction to the orchestra or the concert hall.

But the evening was not over, and Nyla was waiting for me at a tiny, but oh so cool piano bar between the Kulturforum and her apartment: "Joseph Roth Diele. "My spirits still soaring thanks to Mozart's beautiful notes, I settled with a beer and less refined, but no less enjoyable music. The acoustic guitarist was very good, and later the pianist was a lot of fun as well. They really got a good thing going together for a while, and we happily took it all in. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and it was definitely a heavenly spicy evening.

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