Monday, October 13, 2008

Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin - Oehring & Beethoven - 10/11/08

Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher
Oehring: "Goya II - Yo lo vi" - Memoratorio for boy soprano, deaf mute soloist (male), three instrumental soloists, orchestra, chorus and live-electronics
Beethoven: Symphonie No 3, "Eroica"

You can never get too much of a good thing, so for my last night in Berlin I was happily back at the Berlin Philharmonic for a concert by the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, in which a friend of Nyla's plays the viola. The first composer was totally unknown to me, but Beethoven was of course always a good reason to get excited, even if the Eroica is not a favorite of mine among his symphonies. Before the concert started there was a speech and an award was eventually given to Helmut Oehring, who was present that night for the premiere of his new work.

The piece started on a decidedly upbeat note, the music conveying much drive and urgency. Nyla later pointed out that it sounded like it was made for a movie and I couldn't agree more. It would be perfect for a car chase or any situation where speed and suspens are paramount. The stage was pretty crowded: beside the large orchestra to which two electric guitar players were added, a sign-language interpreter and a young boy soprano were on each side of the conductor, not to mention a large chorus in the backgound. The whole performance seemed at times kind of chaotic to me, no doubt because of the language barrier I faced when the poems from Lorca, Kester and Weiss were read in their respective tongues. The few words I managed to grasp here and there were usually not enough for me to understand exactly what it was about, but the music was very evocative and convincingly expressed very distinct moods and feelings. An interesting experience, even if it was at times pretty frustrating.
After the intermission, we found ourselves on much more familiar territory. Even if Beethoven's third symphony never grabbed me the same way others did, I'll be the first to admit that its powerful evocation of, depending on who you ask, Napoleon, revolution, heroism and more, makes it a major milestone in the development of classical music. A lot can be, has been and will be written about it, but the most important thing remains that listening to it in a concert hall is a very gratifying experience, even for the non-initiated in musical theory. That night was no different, and we fully enjoyed the fiery, full-speed-ahead parts interspersed by quieter, lovely dialogs between just a few instruments. The beautiful quartet in the third movement comes to mind, among others, and it perfectly emphasized the wide-range and eloquent style of the whole piece.

After the concert, we sneaked backstage to pay a short visit to Nyla's friend, who was very gracious but unfortunately not feeling well and would have to bail out of their upcoming tour. This was my last evening in Berlin, and another fully successful outing. Even after just four days, I've learnt to appreciate how many cultural opportunities the city has to offer on a daily basis, and how much its people make the arts part of their daily lives. All performances I went to were remarkably well-attended, which is quite amazing when one thinks that Berlin has "only" about three million inhabitants. Everywhere the crowd seemed to cover a whole spectrum in terms of age, social status and education background, which totally validates the idea that the "arts for the masses" concept is not a marketing utopia, but is alive and well in some parts of the world. On this heart-warming note, I said auf wiedersehen to Berlin, but I will be back for more.

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