The Berlin Phil – definitely an orchestra that should be on everybody’s to hear list! Even though they have given various concerts in London over the past few years I have been here I have never been lucky enough to snatch up a ticket so a trip to Berlin was the perfect excuse to finally get that tick done!The Philharmonie is a quite interesting building and you get a sense of history on entering the place! It was a completely different feel and atmosphere though than you would have in a British or American concert hall. It has been close to 9 years since my last concert attendance in Germany and I can’t quite put it into words what the differenct is but there is something a little more uptight and formal about the air. I was lucky enough to sit in a seat behind the orchestra – I love those seats because you are just so close to the action – though you can even sit on stage in Berlin!
The first piece of the night was Edward Elgar’s Violin Concert B-Minor. Pinchas Zukerman was playing the solo part. A bit ironic to hear a British composer played in Germany by a German Orchestra. Having heard quite a bit of Elgar before this was going to be quite interesting. For my personal liking the orchestra didn’t quite convince me with this performance. No doubt it was beautiful craftsmanship when it came to playing the music but the rather melancholic nature of the piece ended up sound a little too teutonic for me – almost Wagnerian. Only in the third movement that orchestra, solist and conductor had managed to find their swing a little. There was no spark in this emotional, romantic piece of music. It felt a little like they were just going through the motions of a rehearsal leaving the whole piece a little disjointed. This Elgar is probably a piece not played that often and so maybe not as much in the fingers and souls of the orchestra. Zukermans play was superb but it couldn’t quite make up fir the missing connection between him and the orchestra – is has been a while since he played with them last but considering this was the second evening of this particular programme already one would have expected a bit more of feel and colouring of the piece. After the last bar I felt a bit deflated to be honest – I had quite high expectations but it was a disappointing first half of the concert.
Thankfully, the second half with Tchakovisky’s Symphony Number 5 made up for the less enthused first half of the evening. Now I totally understand what people mean with the big sound of the Berlin Phil – there were points where the music was almost too loud! It seemed like there was a different orchestra and conductor in stage – Mehta was suddenly alive and indulged himsilf fully into the Russian depths. The energy had totally changed and it was a joy to watch the orchestra much more at ease with the intensity and drama of this particular symphony. Every section was so immersed into the music that you were taken on a journey. All I personally could do was to just let myself be carried away with the music – I love my Russians anyway and this was just pure bliss – it almost felt like being a naughty child listening at home on maximum volume whilst the parents are out… This symphony definitely pulled the evening back for me.
It was an interesting evening – almost a little strange being back in a German concert hall. One of the great things was though that not a single person even attempted to clap between the movements… Regardless though – there is a much more stiff upper lip approach – though with the ticket prices rather on the expensive side I believe it probably is a case of going there to be seen because society demands it. Having said that there is still much more a sense of occasion going to the Philharmonie. I felt a little underdressed with in my dress – most of the audienece were donning rather elegant evening wear and suit and tie, with the average age of the audience guessed to be a lot higher than what you’d find in some concert halls in London.
I’d definitely go to see the Berliner again – though I would be careful as to what would be on the programme. It was great to have the chance to see Zubin Mehta in action – now in his 80s it is idfficult to know how much longer he will be active. Also I will keep an eye out on Pinchas Zukerman performing in London – I definitely would like to see him play a different violin concerto with a different orchestra and conductor…