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The Debut of the Berlin-Brandenburg Youth Chamber Academy at the Tertianum Residence

Symphony Concert on 3rd March 2011 at the Tertianum Residence, Passauer Str. 5 - 7, Berlin
The very hall with its quaint geometrical forms like an ancient Roman columbarium set the stage for an imposing musical event

Copyright © Sigi Kaufmann
- 26 young musicians and their nineteen-year-old conductor Jens Albrecht from Potsdam have fulfilled their dream of launching a full symphony orchestra complete with strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion, playing for persons in their "third stage" of life, after whom the Tertianum is named. They gave overwhelming proof not only that that classical music in Germany is alive and well, but that a new generation of exceptionally talented young musicians is already waiting in the wings.
The young artists have organised the entire project on their own, set up a homepage, founded an association of supporters, and they have held intensive rehearsals on three weekends in a Berlin school to prepare for this debut, giving delight to senior citizens with their first two concerts - everything without the slightest remuneration. Yet with every concert they will grow into their role as performers, face up to the public and the critics and enrich their curriculum with noteworthy events - all these advantages are priceless!
Copyright © Sigi Kaufmann
To start the programme, they wisely selected a work from the French repertoire that perfectly lent itself to some vivid, crystal-clear conducting with its key of C major, its time-tested modulations and gradual intensification toward the end. Moreover, Étienne-Nicolas Méhul's overture to his opera "Joseph in Egypt" is an exquisite rarity in German concert halls. Those who know the classical portraits of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David can imagine the well-balanced, simple and elegant form of Méhul's compositions. Had the conductor worn a laurel wreath while conducting this piece, he would have captured the spirit of the era quite well.

Copyright © Sigi Kaufmann

It was remarkable that only 13 string players were able to counterbalance the mighty wind section and thus to achieve the orchestra's well-rounded symphonic sonority.

For a splendid conclusion, Jens Albrecht had chosen Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, the "Eroica", whose original dedication contained the words, in Italian, "to celebrate the memory of a great man." Resolutely and briskly like a general, he led his forces through the Allegro con brio with a powerful volume that no one would have expected from only 26 performers. He skilfully avoided any tragic pathos during the funeral march and shaped the scherzo with a delicate, almost transparent texture that contrasted beautifully with the warm, luminous horn calls. Listeners who have worked with strings in the past would have been most impressed by the precision of the pizzicato in the final movement - but much more so by the heroic struggle with the fugato-variations on the Prometheus-theme, during which the team was thinned out at times to the point where the parts were assigned to soloists. Throughout to be admired was the accomplished performance by the concertmaster Gabriel Uhde and the cellist Majella Münz.
Copyright © Sigi Kaufmann

Vigorous final applause left visitors time for many minutes of musings about these superbly trained, idealistic young musicians. The present event was actually the anticipation of a dream, the dream of one day belonging to a respectable professional orchestra - despite merciless international competition and ever shrinking subsidies. The alternative would be to join the thousands of pickup musicians - one rehearsal, one performance - of the kind that served Beethoven and that presently offer their services to church musicians every weekend for their cantatas and oratorios. No doubt Jens Albrecht has what it takes to become a successful director of orchestras, for he is quite capable of creating all the prerequisites, as during the founding of the Youth Chamber Academy. It was evident that all his thoughts revolved around his music and his musicians; in a chivalrous gesture, he even passed on the bouquet of flowers he had received from the house to the youngest member of the orchestra, a fourteen-year-old girl in the second violins.

The icing on the cake, that the young artists might delight their enthusiastic audience with an elegant and elaborate ceremonial of bows and encores, was absent - but no one took it amiss that the conductor remained on the podium with a dreamy look into the distance until the applause had subsided. Whether purists look at encores like a kind of distracting dessert that can only spoil the aftertaste of the main course, or whether the time was just lacking to prepare a good encore, we do not know. But we can calculate what the same concert, consummately performed, will cost when it is performed after graduation by young professionals who pay their taxes and social contributions. At any rate, the grateful listeners at the Tertianum Residence gave a donation of 237 euro to the orchestra. This debut can be considered a complete success and a generous gift - on both sides. Ingo Bathow

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©Network for International Cultural Exchange
Symphony Concert on 3rd March 2011 at the Tertianum Residence, Passauer Str. 5 - 7, Berlin
Text -Ingo Bathow
Foto - Sigi Kaufmann