A Ringing Celebration

8 September 2016
Martin Piechotta

Martin Piechotta



“See, Mr. Piechotta, Brahms, that must ring”, said my timpani professor now nearly 30 years ago, pushed between me and the smallest one of four kettledrums – he was in the habit of doing this now and then – and laid his hand fatherly on my shoulder.

The kind of the gesture and the sound of his voice – no other explanation was needed... 

With this and quite a lot of my own experience in my luggage, I go to Dortmund, an assortment of differently weighted, predominantly wooden-cored mallets packed in my suitcase, for a powerful, voluminous timpani sound.

Late-summery, soft morning light welcomes us travellers on the way to the first rehearsal in the Orchesterzentrum, sets the tone for three days of work together on this marvellous repertoire, in joyfully tense expectation of the first meeting with conductor Rafael Payare and pianist Denis Kozhukin.

Quickly, unexpectedly quickly, things come together, few words have to be spoken, immediately there is a connection which does not control, but promotes free play.

Change of location: Cologne, Friday midday. It seems as if building sites and gastronomic companies have increased inexorably. The throng in the streets reminds of swarms of mosquitoes which anticipate that the summer is coming to the end.

So I enter the whirring and buzzing of the city, in the familiar parts of the town: Nippes and the Agnesviertel. After lunch, I arrive at the Eigelsteintor in the city centre.

I find rest, finally, in the artist’s area of the concert hall. Subdued light in the corridors. Still I am virtually alone, I have a look by the open stage doors and am impressed once again by the widening hall, the rows rising like an amphitheatre, forming around the stage plateau.

The first technicians begin with the construction of the orchestra seats, the positioning of cameras and microphones and I discover a former fellow student who now works for the television.

Happy greetings, short exchange, then he goes back to his work and I to a short siesta.

In the evening, the concert is a climax of our journey: celebrating its 30th jubilee year, the Philharmonie, which accommodates more than 2000 listeners, is almost sold out, audience, conductor, soloist and orchestra assemble under the futuristic, blue-illuminated ceiling construction of ten radial diverging steel frameworks, for a delightful and fruitful experience.

This evening finds its harmonious conclusion once more with shared food, music and cheerful conversation rounds in Café Ludwig.

Many thanks for the wonderfully generous invitation of our so loyal and open host for many years, the Cologne Philharmonie and its director Louwrens Langevoort!

Photo: Geoffroy Schied