Concert review | Barenboim and the Staatskapelle at Musikfest

By Maria Ossowski

Article is available in German here.

Mask, Mozart and Maestro

Despite COVID-19, Berlin celebrates the Musikfest every year at the beginning of the season. Guests should be coming from all over the world. This time it is different. It is still a festival. On Saturday evening Daniel Barenboim conducted the last three Mozart symphonies. 

Usually they belong to every concert, the tour buses opposite the main entrance of the Philharmonie. Berlin, the music metropolis, is the destination of classical music fans from all over the world. But what is normal in COVID-19 times? This time completely different travelers wave the Reich flag before they get on the buses and stow their “Merkel Must Go” signs in the trunk. None of the demonstrators are wearing masks, and their buses are fully occupied.

Absurd juxtaposition of music festival and demo madness

Right next to it, masked concert-goers wait at a proper distance as per the strict rules of inspectors for their time slot to enter the Philharmonie, separated by different color markings. Half of the rows in the hall remain empty again; for three quarters of the seats, the folded seats are tied up. There could be astonishment or anger at this absurd juxtaposition of music festival and demonstration madness.

Thanks to the Staatskapelle and Barenboim, the anger disappears. The last three symphonies are among the most profound and beautiful from Mozart’s work, melancholy and cheerful, divine and sensual, familiar and yet to be rediscovered again and again.

The sound of the Staatskapelle suits Mozart

Daniel Barenboim likes to tell us that he fell in love with the German sound of the Staatsoper orchestra when he conducted the Staatskapelle for the first time thirty years ago, as a rehearsal to see if he would like to commit. It was the sound he knew from his youth from the emigrant orchestras in Israel. This sound, dark and slim with a wide range between loud and quiet, has nothing to do with German foolishness; it was shaped by many Jewish musicians. The Staatskapelle has cultivated it wonderfully; It suits Mozart.

Together for the first time since March

The orchestra played for the last time in March, “Carmen.” Then came part-time work, when many musicians gave court concerts in the city. With the last Mozart symphonies, 52 of them made music together again for the first time. The distances between the stands, which the maestro changed a few times during rehearsals to move them a little closer, don’t interrupt the reunion. The tempos are brisk, Barenboim is in a good mood and full of energy, and the last movement of the Jupiter Symphony sounds beautiful enough to cheer or bow down.

The magic lasts a long time, and not even the last scattered anti-corona demonstrators around the Philharmonie and Potsdamer Platz manage to drive Mozart out of your head after this concert.

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