Saturday, January 3, 2009

Volume 4. 1/4/09 - 1/10/09 Berlin

Welcome back folks. I'm hoping you survived the holidays with your senses of adventure and discovery intact. For this, the 4th edition of Global Around Town, we're heading to a city that has endured much. A city that has changed and grown. To a city that suffers from an embarassment of riches culturally. What fun! We're off to Berlin where we can all "ich bin."

Berlin has everything. Great Music, Art, Architecture, Cuisine, a history of Film... and it is because of the richness of Berlin's many cultural offerings that I thought we should spend this week there.
Berlin is blessed with an abundance of symphonies and operas. Because of this you can usually count on there being many wonderful concerts taking place. And for those of you lucky enough to be heading to Berlin this week, or living there for that matter, the Music scene is chock full of goodies. Let's continue Elliott Carter's 100th birthday bash by attending the Philharmonie Monday night. There Daniel Barenboim will lead Maurizio Pollini and the Staatskapelle Berlin in a wonderful program:

Elliott Carter - Allegro scorrevole

Schumann - Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54

Ravel - Ma Mere l'Oye (Mother Goose)

Ravel - Rhapsodie Espagnol, for orchestra

Paul Griffiths wrote about the piece by Elliott Carter:

"Composer's Notes

Allegro Scorrevole, as its title suggests, consists primarily of a continuous flow of soft, rapid passages that move over the entire range of the sound spectrum, and here and there form into thematic material. Against this is a lyrical idea also developed throughout, sometimes slowing down to hesitantly separated notes and at other times tightly joined together to form intensely expressive lines. The fleeting, evanescent character of the score was suggested by these lines from the Latin poem, Bulla (Bubble) by the English Jacobean poet, Richard Crashaw – The bubble speaks, as it floats through the air:

Sum venti ingenium breve

Flos sum, scilicet, aeris


Sum blandum, petulans, vagum,

Pulchrum, purpureum, et decens,

Comptum, floridulum, et recens.

I am the brief nature of the wind

To be sure, I am the flower of air


I am charming, wanton, inconstant,

Beautiful, gleaming, and noble,

Ornate, somewhat blooming, and fresh.

Allegro Scorrevole was commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Music Director, and is dedicated to it and to Oliver Knussen. It was composed during the summer of 1995 in Southbury, Connecticut. Elliott Carter, 1995"

Carter, Griffiths continues "adopts the viewpoint of a bubble floating above human affairs, observing, ... the games people play, the tragedies they endure, and the life that goes on fizzing through them."

You will not want to miss seeing what fools these mortals be! This will certainly prove to be a fascinating opportunity to hear an interesting work by one of the few great living composers. Happy Birthday Elliott!

The rest of the program is quite nice as well. Having seen Maurizio Pollini a few weeks ago in performces of Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Schubert, I can assure you that he is in rare form. His Schumann Piano Concerto should be fine indeed. Then how nice to continue with Barenboim and the Staatskapelle in Ravel's gentle Mother Goose Suite and finally the sprited and colourful Rhapsadie Espagnole. This will be an evening of fine music making in a fascinating city.
Afterwards continue the celebration by heading over to Paris Bar for Belon Oysters the size of your fist, entrecote, as well as other great bistro fare. Who might you spot at this hip late night haunt... Volker, Gunther, Claudia, Wim?! A good time will be had by all.

For a meal less frivolous, I really enjoyed Restaurant Vau in the Gendarmenmarkt. There I loved being served by a cadre of attentive sylphs. I had:

Amuse Bouche

Jerusalem Artichoke Creme with Venison Tartare and Imperial Caviar

Braised Veal Cheeks

Piedmontese Hazelnut Tart

Espresso + Petits Fours

I enjoyed this lovely meal, in this stylish room, served by these angels. If I'd had more time I might have indulged myself in an intermediate course of:

Lobster in Wild Herb Fond

My last night in Berlin I splurged and went to a restaurant that some consider its best. You will probably want to try the very elegant Margaux. There I had:

Grilled Scallop on Potatoe Puree with a Drizzle of Pesto Oil

Pheasant Parfait served with a Little Square of Cooked Apple, a Roast Chestnut, a Round of Gingerbread, and Bacon Wrapped Chicory

Lobster from Bretone with a Jerusalem Artichoke Marmalade, Lemon Froth, and a Seaweed Crisp

Turbot with Goose Liver topped with little Mussels Frites

Inspirations of Dark Chocolate

Everything was spectacular at Margaux. Ambiance, food, service, and one of the best wine lists I've seen in a long time.

Now that we've surveyed the dining scene, there are a number of other events this week that will appeal. Global Around Town Berlin Correspondent Gabe Shalom insists that the place to be Tuesday night is the New Year's Reception hosted by Create Berlin at the Temporary Kunsthalle. It is there that you will find the "20 Years Since the Fall of the Wall - Freespace" Exhibit. The exhibit is of 20 interdisciplinary design projects from Berlin's contemporary design scene; a mixture of both established names and companies and up and coming designers. This exhibit, first shown in London in September as part of the Tent Design Festival, is not to be missed. Get your tickets now.

On Wednesday you can choose between a performance of Puccini's Tosca by the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Herbert Blomstedt leading Leif Ove Andsnes and the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin in a Mozart Piano Concerto and Bruckner's 3rd.

Thursday brings a performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute by Komische Oper Berlin.

Friday you will not want to miss Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen performed by the Deutsche Oper. My taxi driver told me I had to go! Also, the Elliott Carter concert is repeated. And you just might want to head to the Konzerthaus where Eliahu Inbal leads violinist Dmitri Sitkovetsky and the Konzertausorchester Berlin in the Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Bruckner's 2nd. Did I say Berlin would prove to be an embarassment of riches?!?!?!?!?!

You can wind things down Saturday with a performance of La Boheme at Komische Oper Berlin if you like. A number of the previously mentioned concerts are repeated again on Saturday. And if you're still into celebrating Elliott Carter's birthday, head to the Philharmonie where Zubin Mehta leads Murray Perahia and the Berlin Philharmonic in:

Elliott Carter - 3 Illusions for Orchestra

Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, op. 58

Richard Strauss - Sinfonia Domestica, op. 53

Amazing! What a town!

Then of course there are many museums worthy of your attention. So many in fact that you will not have time for them all. While in Berlin I visited the 3 B's: The Bauhaus Archive/Museum for Design, The Berggruen Museum - Picasso and his Times, and The Brucke-Museum Berlin.

There is a Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin that often has interesting exhibits. I enjoyed a trip to the Vitra Design Museum. And a visit to Berlin without a visit to the Jewish Museum would be unfortunate. Daniel Libeskind's building is at once an expressionist sculpture and intricately designed vessel in which to house this vast and meaningful collection.

Lastly do not miss grazing through KaDaWe's Gourmet floor filled with thousands of breads, pastries, cheeses, cold meats, and fish. It is spectacular. And if while strolling around Berlin you come across a donner kebab stand or a cigar shop with Havanas... indulge yourself. You'll be glad you did.

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