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Concert Review – Waldbühne, Berlin – Beethoven’s 9th Symphony live in Berlin forest – West-Eastern Divan Orchestra + Barenboim – by Filip van der Plas

August 22nd, 2011


The good news is that it did not rain!

While many people looked up at various times thinking that they heard some nearing thunder – it was nothing more than aircraft taking off into some low-lying cloud cover at Tegel airport.

TheWaldbühne, Berlin or the out-door forest stage; in is one of the most beautiful open-air stages in Europe.

It lies at the western end of the Olympic Park in the district of  Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and can accommodate  audiences  up to 22,000 people.

While no numbers have yet been given I would say there were many thousand Beethoven fans there last night -the concert was very well attended – probably close to 20,000 came out to see a wonderful Beethoven performance and they got their monies worth!

There was perhaps a short moment in the last movement when the orchestra and choir seemed to be going in different directions – but this was nothing the intrinsic musicality of a dab-hand conductor like Maestro Barenboim could not easily set right.

I did have some issues with the slow tempo of the 1st, 2nd and last movements and missed some of the ‘fire’ which  should be added to most of Beethoven. However, perhaps Barenboim had to ease off a little on this orchestra – they are after all mostly still young students learning their trade.

The best section of this orchestra was by far the wind instruments – absolutely first class. There are oboe solo parts all over the place in the first three movements and the person responsible should get a prize……..marvellous playing and made the evening for me.

The acoustics outside were actually very good all things considered and the assisted acoustics in the form of well placed mircophones meant the soloists could be well heard just a little over the accompanying orchestra.



Ludwig van Beethoven - www.foto-face.com

It reminded me of the last outdoor performance of this same piece – also in Berlin, but then with the Staatskappelle Berlin orchestra also conducted by Barenboim – on the celebration of 20 years German Unification in 2009.

Daniel Barenboim took to this stage last night and conducted perhaps the greatest classical piece of music ever composed – along with members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Last night’s concert was the culmination of the 2011 summer concerts of this ensemble and maestro Barenboim who had earlier played in  Salzburg, Lucerne, Cologne, Beijing, Shanghai and in Korea where or a concert in the demilitarized zone in Korea.


Barenboim ....OTA-Berlin

Barenboim OTA-Berlin


Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 and its musicians come from Israel and Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and Spain. Since its founding, the orchestra in many countries in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East has played.


Four world-renowned vocal soloists also have contributed their time and talent and volunteered this performance to support the cause of the orchestra.

Mezzo Soprano Waltraud Meier, Anja Harteros, René Pape and Peter Seiffert , as well as all of the other artists contributed their salaries to support the financing of scholarships for young musicians from Israel and Palestine.

The 9th Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven is perhaps, world-wide, universally the best known single piece of music ever composed. If one excludes his other great master piece the Missa Solemnis – written about the same time – then one could even say the best singular piece of music ever written.

Ludwig van Beethoven, a pivotal and crucial figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in classical music, is universally recognized as one of the most famous and influential composers ever.

Beethoven originally wanted this symphony to be played first in Berlin after finishing it, because he thought that musical taste in Vienna was too dominated by Italian composers – however he was convinced to do otherwise and the premiere was duly performed in the Vienna Karntnertortheater on 7 May 1824.

It was performed by a partly amateur orchestra – and this with a new and radically novel piece which introduced a choir and soloists amongst the musicians. With only two full rehearsals, the musicians were reported to have struggled, just to start and end together without any major calamity.

While we all have our favorite recordings of this fabulous work – conducted by Fritz Reiner, Furtwangler, Hans Knappertsbusch, von Karajan, Roger Norrington, Carlos Kleiber or my own personal favorite Erich Kleiber to name but a few– Barenboim’s Beethoven was at least last evening warm and full – perhaps a bit restrained at times – however the orchestra performed well under his command as noted above. The soloists also were great as were the choir.

Long may we be entertained by this wonderful West Eastern Divan Orchestra!

The four world-renowned vocal soloists that accompanied Maestro Barenboim and have contributed their services are   : Mezzo Soprano Waltraud Meier, Soprano Anja Hatero http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anja_Harteros,  Bass Rene Pape, http://www.renepape.com/ and Tenor  Seiffert. http://www.bayerische.staatsoper.de/309-aWQ9MjA0-~popups~k_biographie.html

More about the orchestra and its activiites at – http://www.west-eastern-divan.org/

The weather was also better than the Mozart concert premiere of the Magic Flute on the 11th of August ……….which was a bit of a disaster – http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/08/11/outside-in-berlin-rain-or-shine-seefestspiele-berlin-here-comes-mozarts-magic-flute/

For ticket information or other details –  http://www.waldbuehne-berlin.de/west_-_eastern_divan_orchestra_2011-08-21_19.html


The following articles on the OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog deal in more detail with the 9th Symphony -http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/10/05/beethovens-9th-symphony-manuscript-on-display-in-berlin/

The following previous articles on the OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog deal with the West Eastern Divan Orchestra -http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/10/31/daniel-barenboim-and-the-west-eastern-divan-orchestra-win-this-years-westphalian-peace-prize/

The following previous articles on the OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog deal with Daniel Barenboim -http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/02/13/daniel-barenboim-wins-dresden-preis/

and – http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/02/14/london-reviews-for-daniel-barenboim-staatskapelle-berlin-ludwig-van-beethoven-piano-concerto-cyclus/


The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of OTA-Berlin but of the contributor.

We welcome any links to blog articles – however they may be reproduced or copied only with the prior written permission of OTA-Berlin GmbH. http://www.ota-berlin.de

‘OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ is part of OTA-Berlin – the economical ‘Apartment-Alternative to Hotels’ in Berlin.The Blog provides OTA-Berlin guests a quick overview of the cultural, sports, social and other related activities taking place in Berlin during their stay. With daily commentary entries, descriptions of events, and other material such as photographs or video, the blog has become popular amongst a growing number of OTA-Berlin guests – a way of keeping in touch with the city until their next visit.

‘OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ has existed since May 2008 and its entries are displayed in reverse-chronological order.


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One Response to “Concert Review – Waldbühne, Berlin – Beethoven’s 9th Symphony live in Berlin forest – West-Eastern Divan Orchestra + Barenboim – by Filip van der Plas”

  1. Nora Symington says:

    It was a really great concert – was able to get a last minute ticket….just.

    Also lots of children and young people which was nice to see.
    The location was excellant and glad it did not rain!

    NS from London

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