Orchestral musicians in training

Guest appearance in Berlin by the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie

Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
(Photo: Achim Reissner)

It is seen as a training ground for young orchestral musicians: the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie gives instrumentalists aged 18 to 28 the opportunity to gain their first experience in an orchestra at a professional level. The members, who have to pass an audition to qualify and who all study at German conservatories, are among the best in their field and all want to be orchestra musicians. But that's not all: according to violist Gabriel Müller, the musicians want to inspire their peers in particular with their enthusiasm: “We see it as our mission – and also an opportunity – to make classical music more accessible to young people and to familiarise them with the instruments and the orchestra.” Several times a year, the orchestra comes together for intensive rehearsals in preparation for their spring and autumn tour programmes. In this way, the young musicians can prepare themselves for their future careers. The Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, founded in 1974, is also an orchestra in which the members are democratically involved in the programming and the choice of conductors and soloists. Contemporary music is an important focus of the repertoire and a must for almost every concert programme.

Distinctive programming

The concerts that the orchestra has given in the Berlin Philharmonie are a testament to the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie’s distinctive programming. For its first appearance at the invitation of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation in 2002, the programme included excerpts from Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and Hans Werner Henze’s Tristan Préludes in addition to Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 45. Since then, the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie has been a guest at the Philharmonie every year. Last year, it presented an all-French programme entitled Madness and Reality. In addition to Hector Berlioz’ Symphony fantastique, the orchestra – under the direction of David Afkham – performed works by Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux. The soloist was the cellist Steven Isserlis.

Jörg Widmann – a threefold talent

This season, the orchestra appears with Jörg Widmann who takes on three roles: that of conductor, clarinettist and composer. The programme is the Andante from the clarinet sonata in E flat major by Felix Mendelssohn which Widmann has arranged for clarinet, string orchestra, harp and celesta, plus Robert Schumann’s Second Symphony and Jörg Widmann’s own Mass for Orchestra. In preparation for the collaboration, Widmann wrote a letter to the young musicians in which he gave them tips on how to prepare certain passages in Schumann’s work: “You’ll have to rehearse the Schumann-style orchestral sound much more than the Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was a practitioner and stood in front of an orchestra every day. Schumann’s orchestration is – contrary to persistent prejudices – brilliant! But you have to work happily and manically on this very particular orchestral sound,” as he says in an interview. With regard to their rehearsals together, his credo is: sing more! “Every composer knows how difficult it is to make a soloist or section, let alone a whole orchestra, sing. Whether in the slow movement of Schumann’s Second Symphony or in my Mass, we want to investigate the fact that music takes place between the notes. Playing a simple legato in a simple rhythm, making it both effortless and intense, is one of the most complex challenges!”