Notes from the Berliner Philharmoniker

Since a good couple of weeks, Berlin is bathing in the sun and even though the summer has not even started, people in the city seem to indulge themselves in the warm nights, long days and refreshing water of the surrounding lakes. I am touring as well: I have just returned from a couple of weeks spent in Barcelona and Galicia, where I spoke at a conference and this week I’m heavily involved in the hackdays happening at my company, as well as participating at Tech Open Air¬†– giving some talks in the forthcoming weeks.¬†Thus, with so much happiness and excitement outside, it’s not a perfect season for writing these days. Well, there’s no such things as a perfect setting for writing anyway, so why not just scribble a few notes.

Upon my arrival from travels, I was expecting a great cultural thrill though: seeing Max Richter performing in the magnificent Berliner Philharmoniker. Booking tickets 6 months in advance is a reality if you want to participate, so I was anxiously looking forward to it. After all, I missed the famous performance of the ‘Sleep’ at Kraftwerk two years ago.

Richter performed ‘Infra’ and ‘Blue Notebooks’ this time, inspired by Schumann’s¬†Winterreise¬†and political happenings at the times he wrote these pieces. It sounded very profoundly, illustrated by the special lighting and the venue itself. I’ve been to the Philharmonic several times. Once, me and my friend missed an opening in the neighbouring gallery and simply bought the tickets from a nice elderly couple that were cold and thought inappropriate to participate in a concert coughing.

What is special about this place is not only the architecture, but its philosophy of accessibility, so far away from monumental and baroque design of Philharmonic, that often happens elsewhere. I am proud that I live in the city where art, culture and social participation matters so much. Berlin might be changing, even in these four years I’ve been living here, but its connection to art is special and making other live choices of leaving the city at some point so difficult. Even though my relationship with German language is still far from perfect and I am truly a ‘new Berliner’, I’ve managed to see a lot and try to understand the city much as I can, also through participation.

I love the egalitarian spirit of Berlin. In the warm summer night, I saw a very diverse crowd at the Philharmonic, connected together. Hope that this spirit prevails the hype, raising inequalities and general craziness on various levels.

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Piano Salon Christophori

Long live the Piano! Salon Christophori takes this very seriously. Last month I had a chance to finally visit this magic place, to hear Paulo Bonomini on cello and Maria Yulin on piano performing Debussy’s Nocturne & Scherzo L.26 and Sonata for Cello and Piano L.144; Ravel’s Sonate Posthume and Rachmaninov’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, op. 19.

 

Located in the area near Uferstudios and Café Pförtner, Piano Salon Christophori takes care of the old pianos in terms of renovating them, and hosts almost daily concerts with a broad range of classical repertoire.

Since years, it’s organically attracted music lovers and I didn’t have much luck in the past booking my spot in this intimate concert hall. This month, one of the dark, cold and still freezing days I decided that the venue would be perfect to spend one of my weekday evenings enjoying the music. Upon the arrival, I had a seat waiting for me with my name and surname printed, in this very charming, DYI setting. In price of 25 EUR (back in a day it used to a ‘donate or pay-as-you-wish’ model) you not only get to listen to brilliant repertoire, but also taste wine and soft drinks during intermission.

The atmosphere of this Wedding-based venue is truly magical and I already decided to return with a group of friends, to wind down and immerse into sound, awaiting for the spring to really kick off in Berlin this year.

 

Radiohouse

Funkhaus stands for a broadcasting station in German, and is also one of my favourite venue in Berlin. Not surprisingly, this building is a former GDR radio broadcast centre built in the 50s. It’s located far East of the city, overlooking River Spree and it’s already quite a challenge to get in there, especially if you do it for the first time. In 2017, it was a venue for events like TOA, Loop and various concerts labeled as Funkhaus Sessions, such as Francesco Tristano’s, Jan Jelinek’s & Kaithlyn Aurelia Smith’s or Lamb’s 20th anniversary tour.

Since music is one of the primary reasons why I’ve been living in Berlin for over 3 years, both in my professional and in my private life, no wonder I spend a good chunk of my time off at gigs. I’m no longer keen to put long hours in partying, I focus mostly on the concerts these days.

And Funkhaus is one of my top-notch venue for large-scale electronic and experimental music events, live performances and installations. It’s also a house for MONOM, an experimental performance and spatial sound studio, equipped with a high-spec 4DSOUND system, a spatial instrument that enables a physical and interactive sound environment.

What I love the most about concerts at Funkhaus, is the great fusion of 50s architecture taste, great sound acoustics and a special, intimate bond between the artists on stage and the audience.

I am already looking forward to some of the Funkhaus Sessions in 2018, as the line up looks equally exciting as in the past couple of years.

In the summer, especially when the events such as Tech Open Air take place, one can reach Funkhaus by a boat, in the winter, it often means a long ride in the darkness by a tram 21 and a long walk by the misty banks of Spree. The feeling of arriving in the cosy, stylish and wooden House of the Radio Sound is one of it’s kind though.

So even if today I’ll miss Nils Frahm’s concert I was waiting for a long time (sold out 6 months in advance or so), simply because a January flu knocked me off my feet this week, I hope others that can participate in this event, will enjoy it on my behalf!

 

Kosmische Klänge

Exactly 3 years ago I started off writing this blog with a very ambitious plan to describe the most remarkable happenings in my life, starring the city of Berlin as a main hero(ine). Since then my life took various twists, turns and I focused on different things. You could read about the clubbing peculiarities, concerts and music performances, contemporary art and dance, and last but not least: about my getaways within Germany and more distant corners of the planet Earth.

These days I am running behind my backlog of the events, socializing and trying to balance it out with getting away from Berlin at least once per month. To remain ever-changing fresh perspective, look for inspirations and discover the unknown. At the same time, I get older and enjoy living healthy, sleeping a lot and binge reading good books.

 

And there are still places I have not yet discovered! This month’s spotlight goes onto the Planetarium (Zeiss-Grossplanetarium in Prenzlauer Berg). Ever since I saw it’s colourful, illuminated copula I was curious about the events happening inside the eye for the cosmos. Still, I had no expectations, like with most of the new places I visit.

 

For my initial visit, I picked an event which involved not only spatial views, but also cosmic sounds labeled as ‘Contentious Constant‘ by M.E.S.H., Sapphire Slows & Moonwheel.

 

The blend of music, sound and space was breathtaking: I teleported myself on another orbit, and found it difficult to come back. Especially that I developed some light motion sickness while travelling without moving in planetarium.

 

The Zeiss-Gross Planetarium is celebrating over 30 years of existence and offers various events: from typically scientific presentations to concerts and classical music. A mixture of drone music in space was probably the most amazing choice to combine my own tastes.

 

To finalize the food for thought for this month’s highlight I realized that my expectations from art and events have risen greatly for the past couple of years. There are spaces in Berlin which almost always guarantee truly high-quality art experience, and there are some good surprises from the new places too. However, in the jungle of art and music scene events that this city lives and breathes, sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate the truly amazing gems from mediocre stuff. Since I made a conscious decision to only dedicate time to good things in life, art is no exception.

Sound Sculpture in Szczecin

Last month for me was exceptionally full of events in Berlin during the work week, and shorter or longer getaways during the weekends. Similarly like last year around springtime, I felt tempted to explore not only Berlin and Brandenburg, but also the coastline.

Triggered by the concert of one of my favourite Polish electronic music producers in the newly built Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin, together with my friend, we decided to spend a weekend in Szczecin, the biggest Polish city situated next to the North-Eastern frontier.

Typically people would go there on the way to some other locations: like for instance Polish¬†seaside towns¬†or even more popular summer festivals, like Pl√∂tzlich am Meer. The train ride to Szczecin would take us less than 2 hours and cost… less than 6 EUR, if you manage to find your ‘Berlin-Brandenburg-Ticket’ group, which is almost a ritual part of this route. Otherwise, if you don’t feel like socializing, you can stick to a special fare, individual ticket for 10 EUR.

Szczecin itself has its specific charm. On one hand, it’s probably one of the most spacious cities in terms of territory: situated by the bay, river and countless lakes, it is indeed huge. Given its difficult, war, post-war and heavily industrialised history, it also seems derelict or¬†unproportionally uncrowded comparing to its size. This has a lot to do with the migrations to other bigger cities or neighbouring Germany. So obviously there are places one shouldn’t visit after the sun goes down.

However, there are some sparkles of creativity in reconstructing the city, and bringing more cultural events. The area surrounding the castle and the promenade is full of interesting street art and the city tries to attract different people by hosting cultural events such as Kontrapunkt, or at least inviting unusual artists like Skalpel for the electronic music showcases in the extraordinary set up in the Philharmonic, which is worth visiting itself.

I enjoyed this visit greatly, given that I was pointed many recommendations by my friends originating from Szczecin and the concert exceeded my expectations.

If you like history, scratching beyond the surface, and discovering the beauty in the atypically interesting architecture, yet you’re bold enough – visiting Szczecin sounds good in combining it with one of its cultural events.