Musik Maestro

Holidays can be full of surprises. On my first visit to Kulturforum in Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum was closed, and Neue Nationalgalerie between exhibitions, but my luck changed at the end of the day.

It had been a slightly disappointing day touring Kulturforum, I’d enjoyed the architecture and the atmosphere but not-so-much the art. But then I stumbled upon the last minute queue at the Berlin Philharmonie and was lucky to get a ticket for a performance.

The building is amazing. It has a flashy and angular facade but is like a fairy castle within. It seemed deserted so I wandered onto the upper deck to examine the gold exterior and that’s when I noticed the box office below.

It seems that the doors open unceremoniously at 6.00pm and tickets go on sale some time after (6.45 for us). People queue quietly and patiently and take pot luck when they get to the window. The woman ahead of me took the €72 option; I was offered standing room for €10 or a seat ‘way up there’ for €20.

We standby people have the advantage of being early enough to snag a dining table so I left my tourist paraphernalia with a cloak room attendant, draped my silk scarf, and headed for the bar. Settling in with my rot wein and kase brot (about the same cost as the ticket), I offered to share my spot with an American couple. It was clear from their English-Deutsch that we’d have no trouble understanding each other.

I know nothing about music so the nice Americans explained that Mahler had only completed nine symphonies and the tenth (to be performed tonight) had been finished by scholars after his death. It was a controversial choice for the orchestra but the English Conductor, Daniel Harding, was a Mahler expert so we were in good hands.

‘Way up there’ was indeed way up. I had to stop for directions twice. Finally reaching what appeared to be my seat, the gentleman occupying it looked at the ticket and said ‘ja, the special seats, up there’. Up beyond the TV lights in fact. It was lucky we’d come for the music.

A brief round of applause as Daishin Kashimoto took his seat then the spotlight turned to the Conductor (going bald, hundreds of eyes above noted). A rousing welcome for him and we were away.


Photograph is from Esther Schipper, Berlin. Here I enjoyed work by Ari Benjamin Meyers and the performance of his composition Serious Immobilities.