As I had mentioned in the last post, the night belonged to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Led by Sir Simon Rattle, it is the best performing orchestra in the world. (as voted by Bachtrack’s panel of judges.) It is said that they are recognizable just by the way they play and sound. And if that is not enough. Even the Philharmonie concert hall is worth the visit. Designed in an octagonal shape, the orchestra is seated toward the centre of the hall, surrounded by the audience. So, to say the least, I was excitedly looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, excitement alone was not enough for the man. After a packed day of sightseeing, plenty of walking and jet lag from arriving the night before, the final clincher was that it was a semi opera. And not just any opera but the tragic love triangle of Debussy’s Pelleas and Melisande. Sung in French, there are usually subtitles to help you along. But as we were in Berlin, you can guess what language the subtitles were in. German!! As such, since his grasp of either French or German was basically zero, he really did not stand a chance. What he needed was a full matching band accompanied by fireworks AND at the same time seated in a roller coaster. None of this was on the cards. So, in less than half an hour, he was asleep.
The NY times wrote the next morning of the performance as “perfectly sublime” calling this semi-opera something of a signature piece for Simon Rattle. It extols his ability to “craft pillows of sound, building tension through colour and balance….. and to refine dynamics to the most astonishing, distinct grades”.
The reviewer then writes glowingly of the orchestra highlighting the “naive delight of the harp, the tender empathy of the flute, the savage attack of the cellos and instruments played so low they felt cold to the ear.” It was clearly a review most orchestras would die for.
I was just glad no one noticed too much, a man seated twenty rows from the front, head rocking every now and then as if in agreement but happily floating away on the “pillows of sound” to a land far far away.