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‘Rolls Royce’ NDR Sinfonieorchester temporarily ‘parked’ in fabulous ‘Work in Progress’ Sankt Georgen Wismar church – Concert Review NDR orchestra visits Wismar – by OTA-Berlin Constituency contributor Mr Filip van der Plas

May 14th, 2012

Robert Schumann OTA Berlin

Johannes Brahms OTA Berlin

Concert Review Sunday 13th May 2012

Place Sankt-Georgen-Kirche 23966 Wismar

NDR Sinfonieorchester conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock

Program -Schumann’s 3rd Symphony & Brahms 1st Symphony


The ‘Rolls Royce’ is in this case the NDR Sinfonieorchester and the venue the still being renovated huge and captivating space of the Sankt-Georgen-Kirche in the old Hansa city of Wismar in northern Germany – which unbeknown by most – was still officially part of Sweden until 1903.

I was intrigued to see how this great orchestra would sound in this still very hollow re-built church and I was not disappointed, mainly because of the musicality of the Hamburg musicians.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the sixth largest German state by territory, and the least densely populated one and also one of the poorest – accolades should also go to those in the local governments of Wismar, the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and those people who were responsible for getting the NDR orchestra into this great space. More of these concerts are planned next year and this is a great idea!

Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock led his vibrant orchestra masterfully with the zest, power and sensitivity both of these works demand. The horns but especially the wind sections – in Brahms the oboe and flute- were absolutely world class. When these high-lighed parts fail the whole piece falls apart but these great musicains pulled it off wonderfully and Maestro Hengelbrock duly pointed them out after the concert.

The strings were, under the circumstances of an almost evaporating acoustic, well managed and did what they had to do and held everything together. Stefan Wagner the ‘Konzertmeister’ and both Paulus van der Merwe and Kalev Kuljusas as solo-Oboists were magnificent in the Brahms.

The Hamburg Brahms would have been proud of this Hamburg orchestra – often times complacent Berlin orchestras please take note – you have worthy competition in Hamburg!

Wismar is blessed with three great Gothic religious buildings – the St Georgen, St Marien and St Nikolai and apparently when the cities had a population of 30 thousand and at any one time almost 10 thousand of these were busy building one of these 3 churches!

The largest is the St Georgen and was begun around 1295 George Church and is known as the ‘youngest’ of the three [!] and served of the gentry and the craftsmen of the Hanseatic League town of Wismar. It was heavily damaged in World War II and during DDR times more, due to lack of funds was only partially restored and slowly became a dilapidated building. After some great work the principal walls and roof were restored in 2010 and work continues. Many of the artifacts are stored in the equally interesting and magnificent St Nikolai church – just 5 minutes’ walk away.

The St Georgen Church is listed as part of the old town of Wismar in 2002 on the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage.


Robert Schmann [1810-1856] wrote his 3rd Symphony known as the “Rhenish” in E flat major, Op. 97 in 1850 and is the last of his symphonies to be composed. It comprises five movements: 1.Lebhaft – 2.Scherzo: Sehr mäßig- 3.Nicht schnell- 4.Feierlich- 5.Lebhaft

Its premiere on February 6, 1851 in Düsseldorf, was conducted by Schumann personally and was received with rather ‘mixed’ reviews – from praise to bewilderment. However during the actual performance the audience applauded between every movement – as odd then as it would be today -and gave it a rousing ovation at the end of the work when even the congratulated the composer.

Johannes Brahms took over 20 years to write his Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, and was started about the same time as Schumann’s 3rd. He felt an onerous responsibility to not let down Beethoven whom he respected along with Bach as the two giants of music. He also at the same time wanted to somehow separate his own symphony and stamp it with his own identity and in a very critical musical world of Vienna at this time wanted to be sure he got it right.

The by nature diffident Brahms, took a long time to actually publish this work and when completely while a great work – it is the least popular of his symphonies. They rank down-wards in popularity from the 4th to the 3rd, 2nd and lastly the first. It also took him less time to write the later works.

The premiere of this symphony, took place on November 4th, 1876, in Karlsruhe. The symphony is in 4 movements: 1 Un poco sostenuto – Allegro – Meno allegro 2 – Andante sostenuto 3 -Un poco allegretto e grazioso and 4- Adagio – Più andante – Allegro non troppo, ma con brio – Più allegro.

Previous article by Filip v d Plas – http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/02/08/live-johannes-brahms-in-berlin-ein-deutsches-requiem-german-requiem-at-radial-system-with-rundfunkchor-berlin-directed-by-simon-halsey-in-original-brahms-score-for-two-pianos-soloists-an/

and http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/07/25/live-classical-music-alive-and-well-in-berlin-review-of-bach-un-accompanied-cello-suites-by-berliner-alban-gerhardt-at-radialsystem-v/

See also – http://www.georgenkirche.de/aktuelles.html



Some interesting details – if you follow all the opera gossip and into that kind of thing, and if you read German about differences between Wagner Bayreuth ‘Festspielleitung’ and Hengelbrock – http://www.freiepresse.de/NACHRICHTEN/KULTUR/Thielemann-erstaunt-ueber-Rueckzug-Hengelbrocks-vom-Tannhaeuser-artikel7924944.php



This blog is brought to you by …..OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ is part of OTA-Berlin   ‘……the intelligent Apartment-Alternative to Hotels  in Berlin’. The views of the article are those of the writer Mr Filip v d Plas and not necessarily those of OTA-Berlin.

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