August 2004

Ich bin ein Music Lover

Excerpts from an article in The New York Times on August 15, 2004

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Ich bin ein Music Lover

Excerpts from an article in The New York Times on August 15, 2004

by Jeremy Eichler, The New York Times

As an inheritance from its decades of division into East and West, unified Berlin boasts a gloriously impractical number of musical institutions: eight orchestras and three opera companies. Municipal finances are in a shambles, and institutional squabbling abounds, but if you tuned out all the background noise this summer, you could find a thrilling array of options: fiendishly good orchestral concerts, willfully scandalous opera productions, open-air concerts on a beautifully restored square, contemporary chamber music and even music piped underwater into a swimming pool.

New York, of course, has its own claim to sonic plenitude. But musical experiences in Berlin offer something qualitatively different, an intellectual energy and cohesion that have much to do with the particular niche classical music occupies in contemporary German society. In short, it is integrated and taken seriously. ...

Germany's musical vitality also owes something to a mainstream assumption that classical music has a place at the table alongside pop culture, and not merely as a generic signifier of gentility and refinement or as a tool for enhancing relaxation, romance or a fancy dinner. ...

One can argue about the merits of individual productions or the power of opera staging to channel a society's darkest collective fantasies, but on the most basic level, these trends in German opera reflect a fundamental confidence with the repertory, an irreverence born of familiarity. Berliners, it seems, are convinced that these works must change with the times if they are to remain vital. ...

Politics and fiscal pragmatism may continue creeping in on Berlin's musical dreams, but it is hard to imagine those forces completely transforming this city's allure. Berlin, it seems, thrives on a bit of uncertainty as it takes the measure of its complex history while tumbling sonorously into the future.

(The complete article appeared on The New York Times)