“Same procedure …”, Simon Rattle called from the podium at his ultimate farewell concert with the Berlin Philharmonic in 2018, and the audience replied with “… every year”. Traditions want to be preserved, which is why Kirill Petrenko also plays the “Berlin Air” on his Waldbühne debut at the end of the Philharmoniker’s Welcome Back Week. And the audience whistles and waves their cell phones to what else.
But, also clear, Petrenko is not Rattle. He develops entertainer qualities in abundance at the desk (also with the mischievously overstretched emergency braking in the first encore, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5). But addressing the audience is not his thing: Not a word to the brave crowd of visitors who defy the adverse weather under umbrellas and hoods.
Even if she still reacts a little hesitantly to the La Ola wave (the traditions …) animated by the orchestra at the beginning. And that despite the fact that the Union and Philharmonic fans mingled cheerfully in the parking lot and climbed into their rain pants in unison before heading for either the Olympic Stadium or the Waldbühne.
That little rain. When Stefan Dohrs Horn sings both works of the 70-minute evening and Petrenko conjures up a delicate, enraptured forest weave in Weber’s “Oberon” overture, you can imagine yourself in a midsummer night’s dream with mild temperatures and mild air. And not under a gray sky, from which it pours a little harder at the beginning of Schubert’s Great C major Symphony.
The disadvantage of a hooded concert visit is less the acoustic handicap than the limited field of vision. The nice thing about a Waldbühne concert consists not least in the all-round perception of a community of many, with the musicians at the bottom of the valley basin, under their double-pointed tent roof. A shared experience that, after almost a year and a half of the pandemic, is more precious than ever.
Whereby the colorful sea of umbrellas, capes and outdoor jackets still gives you familiar feelings, including the Waldbühne professionals with waterproof seat cushions and partner umbrella. After all, rainy Philharmonic Open Airs have also been a tradition for many years.
And Petrenko makes up for it anyway. Even if the intonation drifts apart in the Schubert Scherzo at the latest due to the humidity and a comparison with the acoustics in the Scharoun building is superfluous due to the coarse loudspeaker sound, the Philharmoniker manage, under his direction, to make the forest sound, as it were, from the hypnotically evocative horn calls to sigh intervals and echo effects to the pleading cello chants in the Andante con moto.Petrenko crouches down, dims the dynamics to pianissimo and leaves the strings in the first movement all the more merciless with their harsh downward movement. Stop the third.
Petrenko’s subtlety also arrives at the Waldbühne
Sharp contrasts, a tutti sound without any emphasis, shaky, trembling tremolo layers, gentle string waves on a pizzicato basis, organic, powerful motor skills with galloping dotted lines: Perhaps it is not so important that every nuance is effortlessly audible. Perhaps music is subjunctive per se, the celebration of the possible against the real and its limitations.
In any case, Petrenko’s subtlety ensures concentration and calm in the Waldbühne – even the drumming on the canopy gives way to a fine drizzle in the final movement. Appeasement, we can also use that well in these times. Until the “Berlin air” heats up shivering hearts again. I would have laughed if you weren’t sent home with a catchy tune this time too.