Berlin in Petrenko fever: His inaugural concert with the Berlin Philharmonic

“Four years ago, Kirill Petrenko was elected principal conductor of the orchestra, one steeped in tradition. At his first official concert in that function, the Russian-born maestro gave a sample of what is in store.

Kirill Petrenko with orchestra members seen in background (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

What’s the secret of a conductor’s success? His aura? Charisma? Stage presence? Authority? Technical ability? Hard work?

Those questions came to mind while experiencing Kirill Petrenko’s first appearance as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. And were answered.

Read more: Back to the basics with Petrenko

The iconic Berlin Philharmonie shook to the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and one could feel the tremors in far-off Bonn, where this author watched the transmission in a movie theater. Getting a ticket for the concert in Berlin was impossible, but that was a blessing in disguise: In the theater, one could watch the musical process up close.

Rare appearances

Back to the beginning: In 2015, the Berlin Philharmonic — one musician, one vote — elected the now 47-year-old Austrian, born in Siberia, to be the seventh principal conductor in the orchestra’s 137-year history. Only seven principals in 137 years points to a long history for each individual one.

Orchestra members, choristers and conductor onstage in the Berlin Philharmonie (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)All dressed in black, except for the mezzo-soprano — she wore red

Pre-election, the Berliners had experienced Petrenko only a few times, and post-election there were only four joint performances. In the season to come, Petrenko graces the playbills only six times — in contrast to his omnipresent predecessor, Simon Rattle. The reason? Until the end of 2020, Petrenko remains under contract with the Bavarian State Opera and will commute from Munich to Berlin and back.

So his inaugural performance was all the more hotly anticipated. It began with Symphonic Pieces from the opera “Lulu” by Alban Berg. A riddle of a work from the year 1934: highly modern, atonal.

With 100 energetic musicians onstage, one had the impression that the conductor was working harder than the rest together. Veins pulsed in his forehead, and long before the main work of the evening, he was working up a sweat.

Making music with modest means

Petrenko’s philosophy? “We have to see what we can achieve with our modest means,” said the maestro in a pre-concert interview. Modest means? The Berlin Philharmonic is considered one of the world’s most-renowned orchestras. Some even say: the most-renowned.

Was the conductor playing down the group or its members’ abilities? Hardly. “There are not just 130 musicians sitting there,” says cello chair Olaf Maninger. “The orchestra’s whole history is sitting there. And he brings along the respect for that into his official function.”

The remark about “modest means” can have been made by Petrenko only in relation to something much greater: a work of music, something that can be only approached and never fully revealed.

Conductor applauds musicians and directs them to stand up (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)A conductor who wants to insure that every one of his musicians gets fair credit

Beethoven’s Ninth sounding new

All the more so with a often-heard piece like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which had also been important to his predecessors Hans von Bülow, Artur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle. When conducting it, every nerve, ever fiber in in Kirill Petrenko’s body seems infused with music. He drives the musicians with expansive, energetic gestures, yet seems to conduct most of all with his eyes. In close-ups, those expressions are intriguing, ranging from desperation to jubilation, from wild to crazy — and culminating again and again in an ecstatic grin.

Read more: all about Deutsche Grammophon

Sometimes Petrenko seems to beseech, to implore his musicians with his body language. He often even seems to stand at the edge of a precipice, as though only his last reserves of energy and those of his fellow musicians could prevent the fall.

The exertion is echoed in the faces of the instrumentalists. They, too, play as though their lives depend on it.

Conductor, soloist and orchestra taking ovations (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)Moved and exhausted: Petrenko and baritone Kwangchul Youn

Passion and humility

Orchestra members confirm that wild, uncompromising demeanor. “He went absolutely berserk,” says horn player Sarah Willis, describing Petrenko’s passion. “He struck like a meteor,” agrees violist Matthew Hunter. “It was an explosive experience.”

Yet in conversation, the conductor seems quiet and modest, anything but a commanding presence. In an interview with cellist Olaf Maninger, he mostly avoids eye contact and speaks in a quiet tenor and with a thick Russian accent, as though embarrassed to be speaking at all. One understands why Petrenko rarely gives interviews. But the message is clear: “A concert like this comes only once in a lifetime. Yet the pressure is incredible. I couldn’t wait for the day to pass. I wanted it to be evening right away.”

And about the point of departure for the new relationship: “I had the feeling that the musicians are ready to honestly follow my intention. And so I want to give them some kind of confirmation, to say: ‘Yes, I’m the one!'”

No megalomaniac at the podium

The American Matthew Hunter, a member of the Berlin Philharmonic since 1996, explains what Petrenko’s modesty means in terms of music-making: “You don’t have to have a big ego onstage. In fact, it probably gets in the way of achieving musical aims. So you can be modest and still have the maximum musical authority.”

And the results? Beethoven’s Ninth was rendered with momentum, passion — and meaning. A work that has to withstand performances at every kind of official celebration sounded fresh, as though heard for the first or only time. Timpani player Rainer Seegers describes the experience, saying: “You take the maximum risk. But then you have the chance that something comes about that can never be repeated.”

Gazing into the crystal ball

What’s to be expected in the Petrenko era of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra? Matthew Hunter gives a hint: “I can’t predict how Kirill Petrenko will develop our sound in the next five or 10 years. But I would say we’re returning to something in our sound. The sound is in us, and it will be in the air.”

Rainer Seegers adds, “Something is returning, something that was there ages ago with Karajan. Restoring the unmistakable sound of the Berlin Philharmonic: I think that’s his secret goal or wish.”

Kirill Petrenko smiling broadly, partially covering his face with his hand (picture-alliance/AP/S. Hoppe)Just what does he have in mind?

For the moment, it’s more of a honeymoon feeling between maestro and orchestra. The program is to be repeated outdoors on August 24 in front of the Brandenburg Gate for an audience of up to 32,000, with transmission onto an LED screen, to television and to the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall. The program begins at 8:00 p.m. CET.

But what was the last thing heard the night before? Ovations, curtain calls, flowers, bows, hugs: the usual ritual — but the ovations wouldn’t subside. One felt the applause could have gone on for half an hour, had the chorus and orchestra not stood up and walked out. Then the auditorium thinned out, too, but the clapping and cheering continued until Kirill Petrenko appeared again on the now empty stage and bowed to the remaining audience members as though to say, “Yes, I’m the one!”

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.




Johannes Brahms / Foto 1864 - -

Symphony for the piano 15.08.2019

Johannes Brahms began with a sonata for two pianos, which morphed into a symphony and later into his first piano concerto. The result is so perfect, you’d think he’d planned it that way from the start.

Komponist Mieczysław Weinberg

Rediscovering Weinberg15.08.2019

Why are some composers popular, then forgotten? Or ignored during their lifetime and later treasured? Such is the case with the Polish-born Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose centennial falls in 2019.

Das Jugendorchester der EU beim Young Euro Classic 2019

Young Euro Classic launches a new season19.07.2019

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the world’s largest parade of youth orchestras has music by Beethoven in its sights – but audiences can also expect surprises.

  • Date 24.08.2019
  • Author Rick Fulke


Berlin Philharmonic Plays At Brandenburg Gate With New Russian-Born Conductor’

Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko (file photo)

Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko (file photo)

“The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and its new principal conductor, 47-year-old Russian-born Kirill Petrenko, have performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for crowds in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

The concert at the historic site in Berlin was part of celebrations marking 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

An estimated 35,000 people turned up for the performance under the open sky.

The crowd celebrated Petrenko and the orchestra with a long applause after the final chorus with Friedrich Schiller’s Ode To Joy.

The concert marked the first time the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has performed in front of the historic Brandenburg Gate.

Petrenko had already begun his time at the helm of the philharmonic on August 23 by conducting Beethoven’s Ninth. He is only the orchestra’s seventh chief conductor in its 137-year history.

Petrenko, who is of Jewish descent was born in Omsk, Russia, in 1972 to a musicologist mother and a violinist father who was born in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

In 1990, when Petrenko was 18, he and his family emigrated to Austria where his father played in the Symphony Orchestra Vorarlberg.

In 2014, when Russian military forces seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and the Kremlin illegally annexed the region, Petrenko called for a solution to the crisis that would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Based on reporting by dpa and RBB-TV


Kirill Petrenko startet bei den Berliner Philharmonikern

“Er ist heiß begehrt: Kirill Petrenko, der in Russland geborene Dirigent, übernimmt Simon Rattles Nachfolge bei den Berliner Philharmonikern. Mit Beethovens “Neunter” legt er los.

Dirigent Kirill Petrenko (Foto: Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP,file)

Vor 13 Jahren, im Frühling 2006, spazierte ich mit Kirill Petrenko durch Berlin, nach einem “Don Giovanni” an der Komischen Oper. Wir waren beide gleich alt und beide in Russland geboren. Es war spät, aber mein Gesprächspartner hatte ausreichend Zeit für ein Interview, obwohl er kurz zuvor einen fulminanten Mozartabend dirigiert hatte. Wir sprachen Russisch. “Musik ist nicht zum Spaß da”, sagte er unter anderem, “sondern dazu, dass wir ständig an uns arbeiten, auch das Tragische am Leben erkennen und dadurch womöglich bessere Menschen werden.” Die Musik sei schlussendlich die höchste Form der Menschlichkeit, so Petrenko. . . . ”


“Dass ein Musiker mit russisch-ukrainisch-jüdischen Wurzeln zum Nachfolger nicht nur von Simon Rattle, sondern auch von Wilhelm Furtwängler und Herbert von Karajan wird, ist ebenso symbolisch wie historisch gerecht.”

Autor Rick Fulker

Beethovens Neunte ganz neu

. . . . . .

Ein Blick in die Zukunft

Was kann man in der Petrenko-Ära der Berliner Philharmoniker erwarten? Matthew Hunter deutet es an: “Ich kann nicht voraussagen, wie Petrenko unseren Klang in den kommenden fünf bis zehn Jahren entwickeln wird. Aber ich würde sagen, wir kehren zu etwas zurück.”

“Rainer Seegers wird da deutlicher: “Da kommt wieder so was, was vor urlanger Zeit mit Karajan auch war. Der Klang der Berliner Philharmoniker, den es mal gab, wiederherzustellen: Ich glaube, das ist sein geheimes Ziel.”

Petrenko und sein Orchester auf der Bühne (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)Zum Schluss lässt Petrenko die Orchestergruppen aufstehen

Zum jetzigen Augenblick steht aber erstmal die frisch gebackene Partnerschaft im Vordergrund, die von einer Art Flitterwochen-Gefühl überlagert wird. Am 24. August wird das Programm wiederholt – am Brandenburger Tor vor einem Publikum von bis zu 32.000 Menschen samt Übertragung auf eine LED-Wand, ins Fernsehen und zur Digital Concert Hall der Berliner Philharmoniker. Um 20 Uhr mitteleuropäischer Zeit geht es los.

Und wie ging die Aufführung am 23. August zu Ende? Mit nicht enden wollenden Ovationen, etlichen Vorhängen und den üblichen Ritualen: Einzelne Instrumentengruppen nahmen den Applaus entgegen, Chor, Vokalsolisten – und immer wieder erschien der Maestro, der glücklich und erlöst wirkte. Das hätte vermutlich eine gute halbe Stunde so weiter gehen können. Irgendwann standen jedoch Orchester- und Chormitglieder auf und gingen. Dann lichteten sich auch im Auditorium die Reihen etwas. Es ging aber mit dem Applaus immer noch weiter. Endlich kam dann Kirill Petrenko alleine heraus, ein letztes Mal, und verbeugte sich vor dem Rest-Publikum. So als wollte der bescheidene Maestro nochmal sagen: “Ja, ich bin es!”


“What do Hongkongers really need? Economic growth, employment opportunities and better housing, tasks the mainland has already accomplished. If they want a bright future Hong Kongers need to work together harder and bring their education standards up to the mainland’s. Their youth must develop a clear understanding of their true friends and real enemies.”
Something to think about!

The Most Revolutionary Act

An illuminating dispatch by our Far Eastern correspondent Godfree Roberts on the puzzling Hong Kong crisis, whose contradictions are cynically exploited by the Western media, all according to Washington’s plan. Have we seen this movie before? Yes, we have, in 2014, and in scores of other places victims of some “color revolution”, wherever America’s “soft power” is allowed to sink its devious claws.

Demonstrators breaking into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Chambers


Under British rule,  Hong Kong’s public had no say in political appointment and the Governor, who was Commander in Chief of military forces, could do anything short of sentencing people to death. Wiretaps didn’t require warrants; when police denied demonstration permits the courts could only review their paperwork; the legislature was a rubber stamp and there was no political opposition. Under Communist “oppression”, the courts review police decisions for reasonableness, citizens elect their legislators, the…

View original post 602 more words

Our Brunch on a Sunday in August 2018








I copy here what I wrote in last year’s blog including the comments to that post:

Sunday, 12th of August 2018

The soft boiled eggs that Peter cooked for breakfast were perfect. I ate my warmed up crispy bread-roll with the egg, I also had some fresh strawberries with strawberry jam on one half of the bread-roll. And I took all my vitamins. We both also had a great cup of coffee for our breakfast.

At nine o’clock we started watching the Insiders’ program on ABC TV. The politics that were discussed upset me a great deal. I mean I should be used to this sort of political talk  by now where everything gets blamed on labor. But somehow it got to me today more than usual. I just could not keep my cool. Maybe I should stop watching these interviews where no question gets answered properly and were outrages lies are repeated ad  nauseam. Soon Peter handed me a bit of brandy to calm my upset stomach. This bit of brandy that I sipped very slowly, actually made me feel a whole lot better.

Later on for  brunch we had baked camenbert cheese with some bread and a glass of red wine. We also had a bit of vanilla ice-cream with apple sauce. Luckily my stomach had settled sufficiently, and I could enjoy this excellent meal. I enjoyed it very much indeed!

7 thoughts on “Sunday, 12th of August 2018”

  1. We forgot the ABC Insiders which is unusual. Just as well by the sound of it. Glad you made up for it by having such a lovely breakfast. We are finding that the ABC is so keen to remain neutral that it is now dribbling a lot of nonsense in its commentary, frightened to give an opinion, any opinion.

    1. Here you can watch the whole program, Gerard, in case you and Helvi are interested.

      “Barrie Cassidy interviews Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, and Fiona Katauskas talks pictures with The Feed’s Jan Fran. On the panel are The Australian’s Niki Savva, Guardian Australia’s Lenore Taylor and The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe.”

      Barrie Cassidy and also the panel did not upset me. The Energy Minister chose not to answer certain questions. Do you expect anything else from politicians? Sometimes I just cannot listen to them anymore! But I understand that the person who is interviewing has to remain polite. I went out for a while to calm down. But I did watch the hilarious talking pictures. A bit of fun and laughing is definitely preferable!

      What do you think of the “National Energy Guarantee” program?

  2. Thank you Uta for the links.

    Helvi watched the whole episode on my computer. She thought Frydenberg was weak. We feel that renewables are the only way to get cheap energy that will also guarantee lower emissions. It is ironic that Australia with its overabundance of resources now has some of the highest energy prices in the world.
    Sadly the word ‘renewables’ has become a dirty word in our Government. Those without solar and batteries will increasingly carry the burden of coal fired energy and its maintenance.
    What do you think will give us energy at a price that is affordable? I just had my electricity bill which was $410.- for three months. The last gas bill was about the same.

    1. Our recent electricity bill was a bit over 600 Dollars for three months, Gerard. But we use no gas. You’re right, only people who have solar and batteries can expect to pay less for power in the long run. Why does the government not want some of the old power stations to close? And why, oh why, do they even think of allowing new coal power stations to open? Surely no investor would want to invest in new coal fired power stations? Who owns the coal? Is it the government or some companies?
      Surely, we have enough sun and wind in Australia for all our energy needs. We have sun and wind for free, whereas someone has a vested interest in all the coal reserves and wants to get some adequate profit from whatever their investments were.
      I hate it that there are so many different energy companies now. The supply of energy and water should be in government’s hands only. The government should also have strict rules that our air and environment does not get polluted. But instead of looking after the needs of the total population in the first place, they are more interested in looking after vested interests and companies above all. Anyhow, this is the way I see this, and I am just an ordinary citizen without special knowledge.
      You say that renewables are the only way to get cheap energy that will also guarantee lower emissions. I could not agree more!

  3. Your Sunday meals sound beautiful and yummy! Especially the eggs Peter made for you with love! 🙂

    I try not to watch news or politics TV shows. But maybe I should. Usually they upset me too much. 😦
    HUGS!!! 🙂

Religions and Babies, Hans Rosling

This video from 2012 is so very interesting to watch!

Published on May 22, 2012 Hans Rosling had a question: Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others — and how does this affect global population growth? Speaking at the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, he graphs data over time and across religions. With his trademark humor and sharp insight, Hans reaches a surprising conclusion on world fertility rates. TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on, at If you have questions or comments about this or other TED videos, please go to

Hans Rosling, statistician and development champion, dies aged 68

Swedish academic, whose gift for making data sing brought his innovative ideas to a worldwide audience, dies after year-long illness

Hans Rosling gives a presentation outlining key innovations needed during 2012 to tackle global challenges such as disease and poverty, during an event at the London School of Economics, central London, in 2012.
 Hans Rosling presents ideas on tackling global challenges such as disease and poverty, at the London School of Economics, 2012. He has been described as a Jedi master of data visualisation. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

It was his first Ted talk that thrust renowned Swedish academic Hans Rosling into the international spotlight in 2006, billed as the man in whose hands data sings. Since then, the statistician more likely to illustrate an idea with a few multi-coloured lego bricks than a PowerPoint has been described as everything from a data guru to a Jedi master of data visualisation.

He died on Tuesday, aged 68, after a year-long illness, surrounded by his family in Uppsala, Sweden.

Play Video


Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%



 Population growth and climate change explained by Hans Rosling

A professor of international health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, Rosling liked to call himself an “edutainer”. A talented presenter, whose signature animated data visualisations have featured in dozens of film clips, the statistician used humour and often unlikely objects such as children’s toys, cardboard boxes and teacups to liven up data on wealth, inequality and population.

Rosling’s work featured in a BBC4 documentary on The Joy of Stats, and he presented Don’t Panic – the Truth about Population on BBC2. He was also involved in founding the Swedish chapter of Medécins Sans Frontières, according to Swedish media reports. When the Ebola outbreak led to states of emergency being declared in Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014, Rosling went out to Monrovia to work with the Liberian government on their emergency response, tracking cases and pinpointing missing data.

Time magazine included him in its 2012 list of the world’s 100 most influential people, saying his “stunning renderings of the numbers … have moved millions of people worldwide to see themselves and our planet in new ways”.

But in an interview in the Guardian, in 2013, he was dismissive about his impact on knowledge. Asked what had surprised him the most about the reaction he had received, he said: “It’s that I became so famous with so little impact on knowledge. Fame is easy to acquire, impact is much more difficult. When we asked the Swedish population how many children are born per woman in Bangladesh, they still think it’s four to five. I have no impact on knowledge. I have only had impact on fame, and doing funny things, and so on.”

Claire Provost, a former Guardian journalist who interviewed Rosling in 2013, said: “Given the timing, with all the talk about fake news, alternative facts, concern over misinformation and propaganda-by-numbers, Rosling stood for the exact opposite – the idea we can have debates about what could or should be done, but that facts and an open mind are needed before informed discussions can begin.”

Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, tweeted: “I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of my friend, @HansRosling. Few Swedes had an impact such as his.”

Daniel Ek


I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of my friend, @HansRosling. Few Swedes had an impact such as his. 

135 people are talking about this

Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Isabella Lövin, wrote on Facebook: “ … For the world, Hans Rosling was a great fighter for the right to health, for reducing maternal mortality and for supporting fragile countries damaged by conflict. He challenged the whole world’s view of development with his amazing teaching skills. He managed to show everyone that things are moving forward … I think the whole world will miss his vision and his way of standing up for the facts – unfortunately it feels like they are necessary more than ever at the moment – so the loss is even more painful.”

A statement was posted on Gapminder, the foundation he co-founded with his son and daughter-in-law in 2007: the venture was named after London Underground’s “mind the gap” notices in reference to bridging the divide between statistics and their interpretation. “We are extremely sad to announce that Professor Hans Rosling died this morning. Hans suffered from a pancreatic cancer which was diagnosed one year ago. He passed away early Tuesday morning, February 7, 2017, surrounded by his family in Uppsala, Sweden.

“Eleven years ago, the three of us, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Rönnlund founded Gapminder. In 2007 Hans decided to “drop out” of university to work only 5% as professor at Karolinska Institute. That was a great decision. The 95% he worked for Gapminder made him a world famous public educator, or ‘edutainer’, as he liked to call it.

“Across the world, millions of people use our tools and share our vision of a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand. We know that many will be saddened by this message. Hans is no longer alive, but he will always be with us and his dream of a fact-based worldview, we will never let die!”

  • Additional reporting by David Crouch