Orchestra members who are celebrating anniversaries in 2020/21

“What, has it already been that long?” That is what most of the eight musicians asked when we spoke to them about their anniversaries with the orchestra. We asked them to look back on the past years, to summarize them briefly and recall their finest moments. As different as the answers were and regardless of whether they had been in the orchestra for 25, 30 or 40 years, their happiness with their profession and the Berliner Philharmoniker was obvious in every word. We introduce the members who are celebrating their anniversaries with the orchestra in 2020/21.

25 Years

Olaf Maninger – Principal Cellist, Media Board member and managing director of the Berlin Phil Media

Musician and manager – Olaf Maninger combines two talents. When he joined the orchestra 25 years ago, he was soon able to demonstrate both in a leading position: as principal cellist and as Media Board member, member of the Foundation board and initiator of the Digital Concert Hall, of which he has been managing director since 2008. “To make music at the highest level and at the same time assume managerial responsibility – that would not have been possible in any other orchestra. I am eternally grateful to the Berliner Philharmoniker for that.”

Aleksandar Ivić – 1st Violin

Aleksandar Ivić, who studied with Kristijan Petrović, Igor Ozim and the Amadeus Quartet, began his career as an orchestral musician with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne in 1988 before joining the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1996. For him, playing in this orchestra means “commitment and happiness! It is a privilege for me to be able to make music with these outstanding colleagues every day, to learn from them, to be inspired by them. This friendly mutual challenge, with dedication, precision, homogeneity, keeps our playing fresh and alive beyond the daily routine. As a member of the orchestra I also have the privilege to play in front of enthusiastic audiences throughout the world. That spurs me on every evening to rise above myself.”

David Riniker – Cello

Originally David Riniker “only” wanted to apply for admission to the Karajan Academy in 1994. At his audition he was asked to participate in the auditions for a vacancy in the cello section of the Berliner Philharmoniker the next day. One year later he was a member of the orchestra and one of the celebrated 12 Cellists; during the following years, he also performed with many other chamber music ensembles. “This opened up completely new paths for me in chamber music – not only as a musician, but also as an arranger. In the meantime I have arranged numerous works for various ensembles. Thus I have once again found an entirely different approach to music.”

30 Years

Zoltán Almási – 1st Violin

From Budapest to Berlin: At the end of the 1980s, Zoltán Almási, the concertmaster of the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra, travelled to Potsdam for the winter rehearsal period. One of the teachers was Leon Spierer, at that time first concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker, who advised the young Hungarian to have training at the Karajan Academy. “I was thoroughly prepared for the audition for my position there – and won! What thrills me to this day about the Berliner Philharmoniker is that we musicians come from so many different countries, a fireworks display of heterogeneous impulses emanates from us, but because of our dedication to music we always find a common expression, a common language. For me, music is the most beautiful thing in the world; it is a great honour to play in this orchestra.”

Eva-Maria Tomasi – 2nd Violin

Eva-Maria Tomasi encountered Herbert von Karajan for the first time as a music academy student in the opera pit of the Salzburg Festspielhaus during Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Easter 1987, three years before she joined the orchestra: “A legendary event for me as a native of Salzburg, which was followed by many other impressive experiences under chief conductors Abbado and Rattle. Kirill Petrenko promises that the years until my next anniversary will also shine with musical highlights! The most wonderful human experience during these years – except for starting my family – is the increase in the number of women in our orchestra and, with it, the growing understanding that in addition to career there is also family . . .”

Ulrich Knörzer – Viola

Violist Ulrich Knörzer is a member of the string section which forms the musical centre of the orchestra and cultivates a unique, unmistakable sound ideal that at the same time often makes him think of his esteemed violist colleague Martin Fischer: “Martin had the wonderful habit of laying a package of Aachen gingerbread biscuits or gingerbread dominoes on the table for each of his viola colleagues every year on St. Martin’s Day. He wrote on the package by hand: ‘Dark, sweet and succulent – like a viola note!’ After 30 happy years in the orchestra, I have completely internalized this sound ideal and made it my own. And, incidentally, I can’t think of a better way to establish and maintain traditions . . .”

40 Years

Alessandro Cappone – 1st Violin

Alessandro Cappone discovered his love for classical music as a six-year-old, because his father, who was principal violist of the Berliner Philharmoniker, took him along to concerts. At the age of eleven, he felt the desire to study the violin and later join the orchestra himself. “I still had the good fortune to meet the ‘old gentlemen’ of the orchestra, many of whom had played under Furtwängler. They preserved old traditions that still continue today. When I won the audition in 1980, a dream came true. It was not easy to prove myself in front of those men, especially my father, who was probably the most nervous. I owe him a great deal: he gave me the most valuable advice. I sat on the stage with him for five years – they are some of the best years of my life with the orchestra.”

Rüdiger Liebermann – 1st Violin

“I am probably the only violinist who was not chosen during an audition for violin,” Rüdiger Liebermann says with a smile. In 1980 the musician, who was Saschko Gawriloff’s assistant at the time and was already appearing successfully as a soloist, could not attend the violin auditions because he was in the finals of the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Conservatory Competition. The orchestra gave him the chance to participate a few days later, however, before the auditions for the position of principal oboe. “I am very happy that I was chosen. The wonderful musical soundscapes that opened up to me with the Berliner Philharmoniker made an overwhelming impression on me. I was able to get to know four chief conductors who had and have a formative influence on me and the artistic development of the orchestra.”