Michael Hovnanian plays bass in an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009
Speaking of Hindenburg, for once the German capitol city is warm and sunny. We used to have a conductor (name escapes me) who dragged us to Berlin every Easter where it seemed perpetually rainy, cold and gloomy. And that was before leaving the concert hall.
Haitink is “Mr. Sunshine” in more ways than one, I guess. He seems to be back to form after suffering some sort of leg or back ailment that had him using a cane last time we saw him. The orchestra came out of vacation sounding understandably ragged at the opening rehearsal but more or less pulled together to put on a fine concert (Mozart 'Jupiter', Shostakovitch 15) at the Philharmonie, thanks in large part to the Maestro's steady hand.
The Philharmonie has been underwhelming me the last few times we played there. Not sure why – the sound is clear and certainly more resonant than what we are used to, but I can't help feeling there is something a bit flat about it. The backstage canteen continues its fine tradition of offering cheap eats and drinks – about € 4 for a sandwich and a beer. Honestly, the availability of beer within 20 or so paces of the stage makes up for any number of shortcomings.
I devoted a free afternoon to my usual pilgrimage to Marx Engels Platz for a glance at the statue. Hardly a thing a beauty – the huge clunky figures would not find themselves out of place in one of the Planet of the Apes films – nevertheless, whenever I am in town I am drawn to the sad spectacle of those two somber figures forced to watch their dream is slowly, inexorably crushed as the Unter den Linden becomes just another shopping street. Perhaps as a classical musician I have a degree of empathy for those who, in spite of their best efforts, wind up on the 'wrong side of history', become ossified, caricatures of their former selves, forced to watch the march of so-called progress heading off in the wrong direction. Whatever. My visits to the statue began soon after the wall came down. Several times I discovered someone had left flowers at the feet of the great socialists – sometime an old bouquet, wilted weeks ago, lying in the rain – but that hasn't happened in years now. Clasping hands with Engels, Marx rises stiffly, shedding a few rust-colored flakes as he takes a first, faltering step. Bronze shoes thudding on stone, I watch the two giants stride off down the Unter den Linden in the direction of the Brandenburg Gate. Engels shrugs, 'accidentally' taking out a Starbucks sign with his shoulder. Marx, lost in conversation, gestures idly with his free arm, swiping away a pair of golden arches. My shoes slide on broken glass as I run to catch up to the great thinkers disappearing down the street. “Wait for me,” I call out, weakly.
Posted by Michael Hovnanian