By naming Kirill Petrenko its next music director, the Berlin Philharmonic has made both a wise musical and political choice. Benjamin Ivry delves into the history of the young Jewish conductor.
Amalia Beer was one of 19th-century Berlin’s preeminent salonieres. The Brothers Grimm and Humboldt, the poet Heinrich Heine and composer Felix Mendelssohn were all regular guests at her famous soirées. On May 6, this vanished world was briefly resurrected in the confines of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Chamber Music Hall with a program that combined music and spoken word performance. The packed concert, which will be repeated May 13, was titled “Soirée at Amalie Beer’s, Berlin 1820” and presented a loving portrait of the fascinating Jewish woman who once stood at the center of the city’s musical and intellectual life.
In tandem with three New York concerts given by the Berlin Philharmonic in February, New York University’s Deutsches Haus has opened an exhibition of Holocaust survivor David Friedmann’s “Lost Musician Portraits” from the 1920s. These sketches of Berlin Philharmonic members were drawn from life, and captured each of the artists in the act of performing. Before World War II Friedmann’s sketches of various personalities in all fields appeared in hundreds of newspapers, but have only recently been rediscovered. His talent helped him survive Auschwitz, where he drew portraits of SS guards, their families, and even their dogs.