Sunday, November 22, 2009

Berlin Reprise

I'm back in Berlin and loving it. What a great town this is. First thing that meets the eye as I emerged from the Zooligisher Garten train station was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. I did not have a good photo of it from last time I was here so I took this shot. The place is magnificent and a lasting testament to the horrors of war.

Jana and I went shopping yesterday on a beautifully warm, sunny day. We walked to her local outdoor market, the Winterfeld Markt, and cruised around looking mostly but I did buy a few Christmas gifts, some fruit and cheese, tea, a piece of smoked eel finally, and a loaf of the best bread I've had in Europe up to now.The bakery we got it from is named Lindner, like our friend Maynard who I know from KBay Caffe and who is about to become a father. The first photo below is of Jana buying spices:

These vendors caught my eye. The woman has quite a hairdo. They were selling fruits and veggies. Nice selection, good prices. But my favorite vendor was the olive seller. This guy was so happy to be serving up bags of his specialty olives. Lovely man. We bought some kalamatas and some of Jana's favorites: walnut stuffed olives.
Another interesting food item that was selling like hot cakes, or rather, like hot cheese, is just that. It's a local favorite snack called raclette. In the photo you can see a long black arm thing-a-ma-bob. Sort of looks like  jig saw or sewing machine. It's actually a gas grill which is pointing down so it throws heat onto block of cheese placed below it. The cheese gets hot, bubbly hot, mouth burning hot, and after enough has melted she will scrape off big gobs of it onto slabs of fresh bread. I wanted to try some but as we had planned to eat at a restaurant nearby I forced myself to walk on by. Just as well probably.

We sat outdoors in the very agreeable weather at a Lebanese restaurant and ordered a variety plate for 6 euros each. Falafel, hummus, Baba Ghanoush, gyro-chicken, and sliced veggies. It was a very good meal, and cheap too. By request, for those of you who, like me, are gastronomically inclined (haha), here's the obligatory photo:

Later, Saturday at 8:00 pm:

Okay, I know isn't the type of musical event that many of you would appreciate but as it was so very exciting for me, I must relate the story. I mentioned earlier that I had purchased tickets to a chamber music concert before leaving for Poland. I attended that concert was last night. It was superb, fantastic, and awesome in every way. Here I was, in the Berlin Philharmonic Kammermusiksaal about to listen to a Haydn String Quartet. The members of the Delian Quartet walked onto the stage, the audience politely applauded, they took their seats and began to play. I love Haydn's quartets and I mistakenly thought they were going to play one I wasn't familiar with. But to my surprise they began playing an Opus 76 quartet, Op 76 no. 2 to be exact. The six quartets comprising Haydn's Opus 76 are among my absolute favorites! I know every note in that piece. It was all I could do to stop myself from audibly humming along with it, or worse, whistling an accompaniment like I do in the car or at home.  At the end, people rose from their seats, as did I, shouting Bravo! Bravo! I was totally thrilled.

Next they played a quartet by Shostakovitch. His dark and moody music has never appealed to me but I listened and tried to savor the moment. A brief intermission followed during which I mixed with the Berlin concert-going crowd and had a glass of wine. I decided against bringing my camera along and I regret it now. The interior of the auditorium was impressive, very modern with an interesting layout; stairways going every which-way and fancy hanging lights everywhere.

The second half of the concert was the Brahms Piano Quintet in F with Menahim Pressler performing the piano part. I hurried back to my seat. Never heard of Mr. Pressler? Well, much of the chamber music I love is piano trios. Piano trios by Mozart and Beethoven especially. For many years the famous Beaux Arts Trio recorded some of the finest renditions of these great masterpieces available. Menahim Pressler was, and maybe still is, the keyboard player for that illustrious group. I'm a bit out of touch with what's happening in the world of chamber music these days.

Again the Delian Quartet players trouped out. They were followed by a diminutive old man who was wearing a tuxedo whose cummerbund I swear came to within 12 inches of his neck. He was tiny, and round. But when he sat before the huge grand piano and started the powerful first movement of the piece, the sound filled the place totally. The Brahms Piano Quintet is another of my favorite pieces of music. Fantastic! Again the audience applauded with gusto. The performers came out for an encore. Pressler played a short and beautiful piano solo while the quartet members looked on politely. Obviously, he was the maestro, the star, for the latter half of the program; an awesome artist probably nearing the end of his career, taking his bows, the other players acknowledging his stature by remaining seated.

How could I have been so lucky as to have obtained tickets to a concert, in Berlin no less, and at the precise time I was visiting Berlin, that contained not one but two of my favorite pieces of music? Two massive works by German composers, performed in Germany. Go figure.

I emerged from the concert hall into the warm Berlin evening and counted my blessings, again. The brief walk back to Jana's was the perfect end to a totally enjoyable day.