Monday, June 4, 2012
By Brian McCreath | Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The Berliner Philharmoniker is an orchestra that’s regularly referred to as the Best in the World. Now, the idea of judging orchestras is, to me, nonsensical. Once we’re talking about a certain level of highly trained musicians with a substantial track record of performances and recordings, whether those musicians are in London, Chicago, Tokyo, or Boston, we can be sure that we’re past technical challenges of pulling off a performance and into the realm of hearing some sort of creation of an artistic vision.
That said, my experience is that there really is something special about the Berlin Philharmonic. It’s partly based on history, but when you see the orchestra in concert (whether in person or via their superb Digital Concert Hall), you’ll see that tradition and legacy are only a small part of the picture. It’s a young orchestra, with dynamic players from in every position.
You can learn quite a bit more about the orchestra and the reasons behind its consistently terrific performances in a recent blog post by New England Conservatory President Tony Woodcock.
One aspect of the Berlin Philharmonic I think we in Boston can relate to is the orchestra’s relationship to its concert hall. A great concert hall isn’t necessarily required to cultivate a great orchestra (just look at the histories of the major orchestras in Chicago, Philadelphia, and London, just as a start), but it can really help. Symphony Hall in Boston very directly shapes the particularly gorgeous sounds of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and so it is in Berlin. The Philharmonie has allowed the Berlin Philharmonic to work regularly in a space that encourages in its musicians that subtle form of non-verbal, chamber-music-like communication that’s invariably part of the equation when it comes to great orchestra.
It wasn’t always the case. When Hans Scharoun’s modernist masterpiece first opened, replacing after many years a hall destroyed in World War II (left), the Philharmonie was, if not an acoustical disaster, at least a great disappointment. But in a rare instance of a bad-to-mediocre hall being transformed into an absolutely superb one, modifications were made over the years to create one of the great concert halls of the world.
What distinguishes the Philharmonie from other amazing concert halls like our Symphony Hall and the vaunted Musikverein in Vienna is the relationship of the audience. Intentionally built to bring to the audience a more direct, visceral, connected experience, the stage is set at the bottom of a bowl, with the audience surrounding it. In a series of four concerts I attended a few years ago, I found that the experience really is remarkable. And yet, amazingly, in the four places I sat in the hall, the acoustic was even, blended, and true.
Beyond the experience of hearing music in the hall, I also found the architecture of the building itself to be inspiring. To once again draw comparison to Symphony Hall, walking into the lobby of the building takes you very definitively to a different time. But while Symphony Hall takes you to the early 20th century ambition and optimism of Boston, the Philharmonie transports you to that very troubled time of a divided Berlin in the early 1960’s.
It’s an era of architecture that hasn’t worn well overall, in my opinion, but like so much of Berlin, the building tells an important story, and one that connects to what the Philharmonic has been and is now to Berlin, Germany, and the world. And in that sense, it's architecture that's beautiful and exciting.
If you’d like to share your experience of visiting the Philharmonie or hearing the Philharmonic, feel free to add a comment below.
(images via Wikimedia Commons)
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
By Kim McLarin | Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The world premiere of Illuminessence: prayers for peace, an interfaith oratorio by Silvio Amato (left), highlights the concert conducted by Benjamin Zander. The NEC Youth Philharmonic Orchestra with chorus and vocal soloists perform the piece, commissioned by the Vatican and which touches on the commonality of human aspiration and the universal spiritual impulse as expressed in the prayers of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, along with other works.
To hear the concert, click on "Listen" above.
Benjamin Roe talks with composer Silvio Amato:
On the program:
Key: The Star-Spangled Banner
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Massenet: "Meditation" from Thaïs with violin soloist Yuki Beppu (NEC Preparatory School student)
Amato: Illuminessence: prayers for peace
chorus composed of singers from:
NEC Youth Chorale, Jonathan Richter, director
Young Men’s and Young Women’s Choruses from the
Handel & Haydn Society Vocal Apprenticeship Program,
Joseph Stillitano and Alyson Greer, directors
Kirsten Scott '08 Prep, soprano
Cristina Bakhoum '12 G.D., mezzo-soprano
Michael Kuhn, '12 M.M., tenor
Beethoven: "Ode to Joy" from Symphony No. 9
with chorus and soloists
Thursday, September 8, 2011
The Music Director of both the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, steps up to the podium for a tradition-soaked celebration of music from the heart of Great Britain.
Special guests include American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and British violinist Nigel Kennedy.
London-born composer Anna Clyne, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's composer in residence, has written a new work that will open the program, and the concert also pays tribute to the anniversaries of the births of Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, and Benjamin Britten.
Of course, no Last Night of the Proms would be complete without Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 ("Land of Hope and Glory"), Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry's "Jerusalem," and "God Save the Queen," performed this year in the arrangement by Benjamin Britten.
Join us at 8pm, Saturday, Sept. 7, on 99.5 WCRB in Boston and New Hampshire, and on 88.7 WJMF in Providence.
Anna Clyne - Masquerade
(BBC Commission, World Premiere)
Wagner - Die Meistersinger Overture
Bernstein - Chichester Psalms
Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending
Britten - The Building of the House
Bernstein - "Make Our Garden Grow," from Candide
Massenet - "Je suis gris! je suis ivre!" from Chérubin
Handel - "Frondi tenere e belle ... Ombra mai fù" from Xerxes
Rossini - "Tanti affetti in tal momento!" from La donna del lago
Bernstein - Candide Overture
Verdi - "Va, pensiero" (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves), from Nabucco
Arlen - "Over the Rainbow
Monti - Csárdás
Traditional - Londonderry Air ("Danny Boy")
Rodgers - "You'll never walk alone," from Carousel
Bantock - Sea Reivers
Lloyd - HMS Trinidad March
Arne - Rule, Britannia!
Elgar - Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major ("Land of Hope and Glory")
Parry, orch. Elgar - Jerusalem
Traditional, arr. Britten - The National Anthem
Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano
Nigel Kennedy, violin
BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, conductor
(image of Marin Alsop by Grant Leighton; image of Royal Albert Hall by Marcus Ginns)