Friday, June 26, 2009


On the western outskirts of Berlin is the Waldbuhne, the forest stage, an outdoor amphitheatre built for the 1936 Olympic gymnastics. It is now a heritage site and large scale performance space where every summer, at the solstice, the Berlin Philharmonic hold their final concert of the season. Magic in the forest on a Sunday.

From the local station you follow the crowd through the woods and with 20,000 others wait for the gates to open.

Seating is purchased for a block and within your block it is first in etc. Everything is ordered. Everyone is patient. Security is pleasant and fast. The food stalls are fun and the beer is good. Ushers are helpful. People are friendly. There is no sense of my space your space. There are picnics, bread and schnitzel, and jam turnovers (and umbrellas) to be shared, even with strangers. 

The days are long in the north, and by the 8.15 start time, with the sun just slipping behind the birch and pines trees, the temperature falls faster than the light level.

Sir Simon Rattle is hugely popular and his contract has been renewed till 2018. In that interview with the Financial Times, he speaks about the subtleties of language and culture, about the German containment of emotion and the effect of releasing it, and most of all, he dwells on the importance of journey over destination.

It was an all Russian programme, and after the Tchaikovsky warm up, the amazing Yefim Bronfman, with the help of a few woodbirds, sent a stunning Rachmaninov 3 into the night. After some interval showers it was The Rite of Spring, in a forest now making its own mysterious sounds and with the sometimes distant cry of a baby, the occassional clickety clack of a passing train blown in on the breeze, with the Berlin Philharmonic, with Simon Rattle. 

The sound quality was good, in fact K thought it very good (K gets picky on these matters) with the only obvious loss somewhere in low midrange, with no echo and thanks to whoever was doing the mixing, you never felt you were listening to anything other than the stage. Incredibly, this audience more than matched the Japanese for behaviour. There was no wandering about, eating and drinking stopped, no one dreamt of even whispering, they were unbelievably true to their orchestra and to the music. It was moving enough just to be part of such a group.

And for a closer look and listen to the big bear, from MediciTV (as long as the link stays true...)

The tradition is to finish each year with Die Berliner Luft von Paul Lincke. Here it is from 2007, or you can find this years by clicking the last little window in the playhead cursor in the MediciTV link below. (MediciTV have clever cursor setup which is segmented, so you can jump sections.) I can't watch this now without going all misty. Maybe you had to be there, but 20,000 Berliners, the march, the whistles....

OK, the link to whole concert from MediciTV is here. I'm still geting my head around MediciTV, which uses Youtube for HD broadcasting, and its copyright relationship with performers. If anyone can help, feel free.

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