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Nixon in Berlin with the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Thursday 13 September 2012, 16:45

Phil Hall Phil Hall BBC Symphony Orchestra

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Picture of the Berlin Philharmonie

The Berlin Philharmonie

BBC Symphony Orchestra sub-principal viola Phil Hall and his colleagues have been in Berlin this week. Phil sends this report from Number 1, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße (aka the Philharmonie) ...

The Maritim hotel near the famous Philharmonie is large. I know it's large because my room number is 4129 and it is so far from the lift it's practically in Leipzig... I wonder about hiring a bike to get to breakfast ...

Usually after the Last Night of the Proms, the BBC Symphony Orchestra gets a short break but this year we have to wait a little longer for our post-Proms recuperation. As I arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Sunday afternoon I meet several bleary-eyed colleagues feeling a bit battered from the night before. We are off to Berlin to give the premiere there of Nixon in China. Unfortunately the legendary German efficiency breaks down upon our arrival: 'The bus is broken. We will bring another to jump-start.' Another bus comes but fails to breathe life into ours. 'We will try a Biggerbus...' The bigger bus also fails to resuscitate our bus. So we take all the suitcases off and pile on to the working Biggerbus.

The cast of Nixon in China (photographed at the Royal Albert Hall)

The cast of Nixon in China (photographed at the Royal Albert Hall)

At the rehearsal, John Adams is still full of energy (how does he do it??) and praise for our efforts in the Prom last week which he describes as 'a gas'. The stage is smaller than in London and the strings are all reduced by a desk. The acoustics of the Philharmonie are incredibly lively and everything seems too loud after the Albert Hall. But gradually we adjust to the hall as John tops and tails the awkward corners his multiple time signatures throw up, and some small adjustments are made to the stage directions.

We seek lunch near the Brandenburg Gate in beautiful late summer sunshine and my tour guide (principal viola Norbert Blume) chillingly confesses that he is lost as we have strayed into the former East Berlin, a place he was forbidden to go when growing up in the city. There is just time for a reviving nap and back to the hall. I peruse the Berlin Philharmonic notice-board (they have the luxury of playing every concert 3 times it seems) and bump into Sir Simon Rattle. He comes to the concert and loves it. As do we. It has been fun working with John again and the orchestra and singers give him a cheery farewell on the plane as he heads back to New York and then home to San Francisco.

Looking back over the whole Prom season this last week stands out as not only one of the busiest but also as quite an emotional one, what with the Olympian Last Night and Jiri Belohlávek's departure. I think I'll need a few days off to recover before we go to Bucharest at the end of the month.

The Olympians and Paralympians join the Last Night of the Proms

The Olympians and Paralympians join the Last Night of the Proms

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