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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Hamburg Notes

Isn’t it great to live in Hamburg with its wealth of cultural activities? And isn’t it wonderful to be living in a country with such a plentitude of cultural events on television and radio, not to mention that cultural events are covered as prime time news? Many an evening has passed in our home enjoying a concert or musical show on regular television. (And no, I don’t mean Musikantenstadl ;-).) Many of the great concert events of the year from all around Germany can be seen at a later date on ARTE, 3sat or the “Dritten-Programme” and if you have access also on ZDF Doku or Theaterkanal. Additionally you can listen, here in northern Germany, to NDR: for example, jazz lovers can get their fix almost every night on NDRInfo at 22:05 or for those who love classical music, listen into NDRKultur. Of course with access to the Internet you can listen or watch many of these concerts via live stream too. And even better, they’re free – except for your GEZ dues.

For those of you who also enjoy attending live concerts to experience that extra zing of energy that pulses through a great orchestra or a grooving big-band, January and February are bringing some great artists and events to our Hansestadt.

Bringing in the New Year with a musical bang are the Hamburger Symphoniker and the Carl-Philipp-Emanuel-Bach-Chor Hamburg, performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Laeiszhalle on New Year’s Day at 18:00. This last of Beethoven’s completed symphonies arguably represents one of the pivotal points in musical history. Ludwig van Beethoven, born in 1770 in Bonn, began his musical studies with his father, a tenor in the Bonner Hofkapelle. Following his early musical education in Bonn, Beethoven moved on to study in Vienna with Haydn and Salieri. (His earlier attempt to study with Mozart didn’t work out due to family circumstances.) These classical composers very much influenced the early works of Beethoven. The 9th Symphony, however, falls into the very last period of Beethoven’s compositions, his late works. Completed in 1824, just a few years before his death (he died in 1827), this work represents a bridge between the classical and romantic periods. Beginning with Allegro ma non troppo, followed by Scherzo and then Adagio molto e cantabile, Beethoven switched around the movements of the classical symphony composed until then. (The slow movement – adagio – is usually before the scherzo). Additionally, the third cantabile movement is broken suddenly by loud brass “voices” towards the end, heralding of things to come in the fourth. With the fourth and final movement of the symphony, Beethoven then monumentally introduces a choir and vocal soloists into the work, who sing the lyrics from Schiller’s Ode to Joy. If you attend, or have a recording, listen for the instrumental conversation going on in this movement. It begins with voices of anger and destruction from the orchestra followed by the lower strings in a calming answer. Beethoven then recaps and quotes the first movements of the symphony in a discussion among instruments. The low string voices interrupt the orchestra’s “remembrances” as if to say: “No, no. Not this way.” Finally the main theme of the Ode to Joy is then completed by the low strings and then carried on throughout the other strings. After this instrumental introduction, the solo bass then introduces voices into the movement. With Beethoven’s “break” from the traditions of the times with this work he truly forged new paths for the composers of the romantic period to come, many of whom idolized and idealized Beethoven in their works.

Those interested in virtuosic soloists with orchestral accompaniment also have their choice of concerts with two fantastic violinists. David Garrett, born of an American mother and German father, will perform his show “Classical Romance” in the CCH on January 12 at 20:00 with works from classic to pop. And for a double treat, Janine Jansen will perform works from Mozart and Tchaikovsky with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on January 18 at 19:30 in the Laeiszhalle. For those who love the Bach family, NDR Das Alte Werk has the Concerto Köln performing works from the sons of Bach on February 17 at 20:00 in the Laeiszhalle. And if you really can’t get enough of just the music, there is a lecture to the concert at 19:00 in the small hall. And finally on the February 26 the Wiener Philharmoniker under the baton of Loren Mazel will be performing in the Laeiszhalle at 19:30. A note on the Wiener Philharmoniker, however: although this is one of the premiere orchestras of the world, you may want to know that until just recently (1997) the orchestra did not accept women into its ranks! To date there are only four female instrumentalists with the Philharmoniker.

Jazz lovers can get their fill in the winter months as well. The Criss Cross big band will perform at the Downtown Bluesclub im Neuen Landhaus Walter on January 9 at 21:00. One of the best big bands in Hamburg, headed up by none other than Jochen Arp and Nils Gessinger, it is sure to be a treat. Roger Cicero and band will perform in the Color Line Arena on February 20 at 20:00 with their show, combining a great performer, superb instrumentalists, fantastic and smart lyrics with great arrangements for what is sure to be an entertaining evening. Finally for a crossover from classic: Thomas Quasthoff, star baritone, will perform soul and jazz standards from the 1970s in the Laeiszhalle on February 24 at 20:00. If you can’t make it to the concert, he has also recorded “The Jazz Album.”

Last but not least for our children music lovers: The NDR Symphonieorchester is performing “Paddington” on 23 and January 24 at 14:30 and 16:30 in the Rolf-Liebermann-Studio, Oberstraße 10. The concert is for children 7 years and older and tells of Paddington’s very first concert and even has him waving the conductor’s baton; with works from Haydn and Chappell.

Wishing you a great musical start to the New Year!

originally published in Currents Jan/Feb 2010

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