Author: Oliver Hilmes
ca. 3 minutes

Hande Küden | Picture: Sebastian Wells, Ostkreuz

In this section, we introduce members of the Berliner Philharmoniker and their extramusical passions. Today: Violinist Hande Küden, who plays Tennis on the Table.

Hande Küden inherited her passion for table tennis from her parents. As students, they had passed the time between lectures with it, and even later, when the two had already held professorships at the university for a long time, this sport was their favourite way to relax. An infectious example. Hande Küden picked up a table tennis racket for the first time as a nine-year-old during summer holidays – and already won a tournament after two weeks. “It was just a small event between the people who were on holiday there. But it gave me a great sense of achievement.” At almost the same time, Hande Küden discovered another passion: playing the violin. “I saw a young violinist at a concert, and I immediately fell in love with the instrument. I knew I wanted to do exactly what the musician was doing up on the stage.” Her mother tried to persuade her to take up the piano because it was easier to learn. It was no use. Her daughter was determined to play the violin, and that was that!

She studied both professionally – playing table tennis and playing the violin. She quickly became so good at table tennis that she could almost outdo her trainer. A professional sports career was definitely within the realm of possibility. “I was already very ambitious in this sport,” she says. The feeling of achievement didn’t come as quickly with violin playing; it required patience and perseverance to reach a certain level. Hande Küden had both, because she loved the special sound of the violin so much from the beginning. And so, despite her progress and successes at table tennis, she finally decided on a career as a violinist. What tipped the scales in this decision? “Table tennis is about playing against each other. I compete to beat an opponent and win myself. It is always a competition. That’s not the case with the violin: I play it primarily for myself. I can play alone, but also together with others. Music is based on cooperation, not opposition.” Hande Küden enjoys making music with others and playing in an ensemble and the orchestra very much.

Table tennis provides an important balance mechanism for her, however, because the physical demands are completely different than with the violin. “The left hand, which plays the notes on the violin, plays no role at all in table tennis. Only the right hand is important. For table tennis, I need a lot of strength in order to be able to control the ball. Violin playing, on the other hand, requires delicacy and sensitivity.” As a result of her athletic activity, Hande Küden has also learned some things that are beneficial to her in her musical career, for example, how to pace herself. “During a game, I can’t give everything from the start, but instead I have to calculate how to conserve my energy until the last stroke. It’s the same during a concert, when I play a Mahler symphony for an hour and a half without a pause.”

After Hande Küden saw the broadcast of a New Year’s Eve concert by the Berliner Philharmoniker on television in her native Turkey, she felt a great desire to play in this orchestra herself, and she single-mindedly tried to make her dream come true. In 2012 she came to Berlin to study, then later became a scholar at the Karajan Academy, deputy concertmaster in the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and finally a member of the Berliner Philharmoniker. In Germany, as well, table tennis provides her with a welcome distraction from the everyday orchestra routine. She is happy that the city is full of concrete slabs on which she can regularly play table tennis – in the Tiergarten, in the courtyard of her building. “I have heard that there was supposedly even a table tennis table in a room of the Philharmonie where the musicians could play during breaks.” She hasn’t found a club in Berlin yet where she can contribute her athletic talent, however, because – as it seems to Hande Küden – the majority of the teams are for men. A few of her colleagues share her enthusiasm for the sport, however. And who knows, perhaps a table tennis table will even be set up again sometime in the Philharmonie.