Author: Luisa Aha


Before the Berliner Philharmoniker can even begin to play, there’s one thing that has to be there: sheet music. Deep in the heart of the Philharmonie, two colleagues in our orchestra’s music library take care of this. Every season, they order, maintain and archive vast quantities of scores, parts, and piano scores, and ensure that every music stand is appropriately equipped, even on tour.

For weeks now, the staff of our music library have been tirelessly ploughing through the parts of Richard Strauss’ Elektra with a sharp pencil - Inger Garcia de Presno and Sebastian Schüßler are meticulously transcribing notes from chief conductor Kirill Petrenko into the sheet music for the orchestra. Upbows and downbows for the string instruments are also labelled with symbols.  This not only ensures that the bow movements are beautifully synchronised; it also has an impact on the volume, timbre and articulation.

The transfer of performance markings needs to be extremely accurate...
and is made with extremely beautiful tools!

Once the sheet music has been prepared, it is time to compile the 500 part books, piano reductions and scores that will be needed for the opera and the various symphony and chamber music concerts during the Easter Festival. This includes the copies from which the music is performed, as well as spare and practice parts and replacement scores - just in case something gets lost. Additional scores or piano reductions are often required by the production team or individual musicians during the Easter Festival. The scores and orchestral folders fill one of the large trunks that travel to Baden-Baden by truck - along with 179 others.

A second trunk contains the working materials: lots of paper in special formats that can be used to produce stage-ready sheet music, a cutting machine, a hole-punching machine, adhesive tape, everything for spiral binding, scissors, pencils, etc. Perhaps the most valuable single item is a USB stick on which everything is available in digital form in case access to the home servers at the Philharmonie is not possible or something else unforeseen occurs.

Once all the sheet music, working materials and the USB stick have arrived at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, the colleagues work in shifts to ensure that someone is always onsite. After the rehearsals, they have to compare notes with Kirill Petrenko, copy, sort and rebind the sheet music ... and after the last performance, send it all back to the publishers in the best possible condition. Did you know that most of the parts are only on loan?