In this section, we present Berliner Philharmoniker musicians and their extra-musical passions. Today: violinist Anna Mehlin, for whom perfection and dedication are important not only in music.
“Dance ... dance, otherwise we are lost”, the famous choreographer Pina Bausch used to tell her dancers. Anna Mehlin probably wouldn’t go that far, but she too is fascinated by ballet. “In a way, I grew up in the opera house,” she says at the beginning of our conversation, which took place between two rehearsals with Kirill Petrenko at the Philharmonie.
“My mother is a violinist with the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker. She often took me backstage where I could watch the members of the ballet company. The atmosphere there, the warming up and stretching before the performance, the graceful elegance of the bodies – it all appealed to me very much.”
Anna Mehlin began dancing herself at the age of five, and a year later she received her first violin lessons from one of her mother’s colleagues. When she was accepted as a junior student at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in her home town of Düsseldorf at the age of 14, there was less and less time for ballet.
Anna Mehlin decided on music, studied first at the University of Music Franz Liszt in Weimar and later under Antje Weithaas at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin. In 2015, she became a scholarship holder at the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Karajan Academy, and the year after, she won the audition for a position in the second violin section, where she has now been a member since January 2017.
For the past three years, Anna Mehlin has also been dancing again. “It’s very important to me to have a physical counterbalance to my work in the orchestra,” says the 27-year-old. She attends a ballet school about two or three times a week, and her great passion is dancing en pointe. Her goal is to “get back on pointe”, which she managed to do before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic.
The great art, Anna Mehlin explains, is to make the difficult seem effortless. This is a parallel to the art of music, says the violinist, because ideally you shouldn’t be able to tell from a musician on stage that a certain work or passage is devilishly difficult.
In both artistic disciplines – ballet and music – there is no getting around hard training. “My ballet teacher is relentless,” says Anna Mehlin, "she demands a lot and encourages me to overcome my limits. It’s incredibly fascinating. You get to know yourself and your own body in a whole new way.”
Would ballet ever have been an alternative profession to music? Anna Mehlin shakes her head. “As a member of a ballet company, when you reach your late thirties, you are usually consigned to the scrap heap. The idea of no longer being able to express myself artistically always put me off, despite all my fascination with dancing.”
Anna Mehlin looks at the clock, the afternoon rehearsal begins in a few minutes. The programme is Franz Schubert's Symphony in C major – the “Great”. At the end of our conversation, she says: “I’m in the wonderful situation of having a hobby that allows me to live out my passion for music in a completely different way. What more could you ask for?”