Listening to the Berliner Philharmoniker live has been high on my (musical) bucket list for years. I love watching their recordings on Youtube and during my whole musical career I’ve wondered what it would be like to go to one of their concerts in the Philharmoniker. Last May I was lucky enough to fulfill this dream together with my friend Mireia.
It all happened in a very natural and smooth way. I think it was around February when we were going to Enschede to play a concert and Mireia said that she thought we were approaching the German border. I took out my phone and went into Google Maps to check that, indeed, we were just some kilometers away from the neighboring country. One thing led to another and we ended up searching the distances to major German cities: Hamburg, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Berlin… To our surprise, the capital city was only two trains and 5 hours away from Zwolle. We started daydreaming about going there to listen to the Berliner Philharmoniker until we realized that, actually, it was quite a doable thing. When it comes to traveling, I’m very daring and, even if I like to think about it twice to make a responsible decision, I’m always ready for adventure. So after checking the orchestra’s program for the season and our holiday schedule, we found a couple of concerts that we could go to. The next day the tickets were already in our mailbox and some weeks later we had booked a room in a hostel and bought the train tickets. Boom. It was going to happen. We were going to listen to the Berliner Philharmoniker live. Unbelievable.
We spent 3 days in Berlin in which we saw some of the most important places of the city, we visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and we ate in cool restaurants that they had recommended to us. In order to get the most out of our stay in the German capital, I wrote a travel itinerary, as I always do before a trip. When I was younger, I struggled so much when I had to change my plans and not follow the itinerary to the letter, but I’m slowly learning to leave room for improvisation and the unexpected, which makes the trip even more exciting! All in all, we both loved the city so much, it screams history in every corner and it has nothing to do with any other city that we had been to before.
The concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker was of course the crown jewel of the trip. It was a unique experience right from the minute we entered the building. Maybe I'm a bit biased because I had so high expectations and was so excited, just like a kid in a candy store, but I can assure that it was probably one of the concerts I have enjoyed the most. The sound of the orchestra was really special and it traveled all around the hall, to the farthest corner of the room. They were so unified that sometimes it was hard to distinguish which instruments were playing. Furthermore, the energy of the musicians was such that I was drawn to them and could not stop paying attention to every detail. I had goosebumps most of the time and I even shed some tears because I still couldn’t believe I was listening to one of the best orchestras in the world live. Honestly, it still feels unreal a few months later. Regarding the repertoire, they played Sibelius and Beethoven symphonies and they premiered a piece the orchestra had commissioned to the Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür.
Now that I’m here writing about it I realize how hard it is to write about music. There’s little more that I can say about this concert besides how a special moment of my life it was. I can try and try to describe the orchestra’s sound or their energy, but I come to a point when it’s impossible to describe it with words. That’s something that used to make me nervous but I now love about music: it leaves you speechless. I remember looking at Mireia and being able to imagine what she was feeling only by seeing the tears coming to her eyes, there were no words needed. Call me romantic, but I truly believe that there’s something magical to music and the bonds it creates between people.
Besides the music, there was something that I had never seen before that caught my attention. Prior to the concert, a musicologist gave a short explanation of the repertoire in a small room. The only drawback was that the talk was in German but, even if our level is not so good, we decided to go and see what it was like. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that there were so many people listening to the explanations that we had to stand in the back of the room as there were no more free seats. It’s crazy how differently classical music is viewed in every culture and country, it made me think a lot about the environment in which I’ve been raised and how contrasting other people’s realities are.
Since I had no idea about the piece they were about to premiere nor the composer, I found it particularly interesting that they offered a brief explanation. The musicologist also talked about the structure, keys and motifs of the Beethoven and Sibelius symphonies. I believe that this kind of short “lectures” can change the way both musicians and non-musicians listen to the concert, as the audience has more insight and can understand the music in a different way.
Even if we were so busy with school and gigs when we went to Berlin, it was an amazing trip. I came back to Zwolle with so many new memories and experiences and happy to have fulfilled a dream. I’d like to close this post with a small reflection about the expression “fight for your dreams”. In my humble opinion, dreams can be dreams forever unless you fight for them and do all that’s possible to achieve them. There’s no point in saying that you want to do something if you don’t look for ways to make it happen. Sometimes it might seem scary or hard to make certain decisions, but the satisfaction of fulfilling my dreams and living the life I want to live makes it all worth it. So, here’s to the future and to keep seeing my dreams come true!