Berlin Philharmonic offers virtual concerts

Starting from today, it’s possible to hear the concerts of the Berlin Philharmonic in its Digital Concert Hall, either as a live stream or as video-on-demand. The first live concert is on January 6, with a programme of works by Dvorak and Brahms conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Tickets can be bought for the live events: for the opening concert the price is 5.5 euros, and for subsequent live events it will be 9.90 euros.

Kristallnacht concert

Tomorrow, November 9, is the 70th anniversary of the Reichskristallnacht, the Nazi-inspired pogrom throughout Germany and Austria in which more than 91 Jews lost their lives, more than 1,000 synagogues were damaged and some 7,500 Jewish businesses were ransacked and looted.

The British violinist Daniel Hope has organized a concert in Berlin to commemorate the victims of Kristallnacht. From Daniel Hope’s website:

I came across Gilbert’s book recently, and while I knew about the “Reichskristallnacht”, it wasn’t until I read the book that the historical consequences of that night’s events became clear to me. The horrifyingly meticulous description of the violence against the Jews was utterly overwhelming. Since then the question as to what I would have done in such circumstances has begun to haunt me.

“Reichskristallnacht” took place 70 years ago and yet its consequences are still reflected in today’s society. Situations that require civil courage, individual or collective, continue to arise, whether it’s an individual attack on a defenseless fellow human being or the brutality of groups such as rightwing radical skinheads. Remembering the 1938 pogroms is a much-needed symbolic action in our society today. It echoes a call to all civilized people never again to ignore unacceptable violence by inaction.

For Hope, whose family was forced to flee Berlin and the Nazis, the event has urgent political importance as well as obvious personal significance. Throughout his career, Hope has advocated – both in live performance and with recordings – the music of the so-called “Entartete” composers – those composers deemed “degenerate” and subsequently destroyed by the Nazis.

More on Iceland

Actions and statements from around the world about the crisis in Iceland continue to be characterized by excessive rhetoric and harshness. The Danish economic analyst Carsten Valgreen has said that Iceland will soon be “the Zimbabwe of the North Atlantic”, presumably referring to Iceland’s economic situation, and not to its excellent human rights record. Meanwhile, a tour of Japan by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra has been cancelled by the Japanese organizers, apparently on the grounds that they fear not enough Japanese concertgoers will attend the performances.


RFE/RL’s Sofia Kornienko has interviewed the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli at his home in Antwerp. The interview is remarkable for the insight it gives into the nature of the relationship – and the disconnection – between the arts, including music, and political thought and action. In a series of what amount to reflective miniature essays, Kancheli expresses his sadness at the terrible events of August, which in addition to killings of civilians and ethnic cleansing have included apparently gratuitous acts of calculated nihilism, like the torching by Russian forces of large areas of beautiful Georgian forest land. Kancheli also expresses bewilderment at the actions of his Ossetian friend and colleague the conductor Valery Gergiyev, “who didn’t — as he should have — dedicate his performance of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky to fallen Ossetians and Georgians as well.”

One or two excerpts from the article and interview:

The following is a note the 73-year-old composer included in a dedication to Mariinsky Theater director Valery Gergiyev on his 50th birthday:

“Dear Valery,
“Our creative and personal relationship, which has endured many years, has filled me with hope that the powerful energy you possess will travel the globe and return, like a boomerang, to the symbolic circle Bertolt Brecht called ‘the chalk circle of the Caucasus.’ This piece, which I have dedicated to you, I named an Ossetian word, ‘Ouarzon,’ which means ‘love.’ When I transcribed this word in Latin letters it turned out, to my surprise, that it sounds like ‘war zone.’ Unfortunately, this transcription reflects the reality of events transpiring in the Caucasus. It is commonly known that the difference between love and the creation of a ‘war zone’ is just one poorly thought-out step. The way back, on the other hand, is long and difficult.”I embrace you,

“Giya Kancheli”

That was in May 2003.

– – – –
I cannot go there [to Russia] because people who were very close to me have believed this propaganda, and it’s very unpleasant for me. But my attitude toward these people has remained the same, because they are innocent! I repeat this over and over: if these people had had the power to decide, then everything would have been all right.

I can see before my eyes scenes of Georgians being expelled from Moscow, transported out like cattle. I saw that giant military plane land and open its rear entrance, and people walked out, after having stood for two hours because there were no seats. Just like they transport cows, so they deported the Georgians from Moscow.

And in spite of all this, relations between ordinary people remained normal. They are still normal, and they will continue to be. They definitely will be! But some time has to pass, that’s all. Some time has to pass, and I think something will change in Russia. Won’t there be a time when Russia will go down the path of civilized life?


Kancheli: You know, since Pushkin’s time it has been a bit freer in Tbilisi for all the great men who have come there, and lived there. I won’t list them. I would only like to recall the surnames of recent geniuses who could not live without Tbilisi, like Pasternak.
RFE/RL: What do you think he would say right now?
Kancheli: You know, when I saw what happened, when I felt it, I thought, “How lucky are those who did not live to see this and left life before it happened….” Boris Leonidovich Pasternak is among those fortunate ones. I don’t think any of them could have imagined it. But it’s normal: Pasternak could not imagine what Vladimir Vladimirovich imagines.

The Other Concert

In his Window on Eurasia blog, Paul Goble writes about a concert that was held in Tallinn, Estonia, last week to celebrate the anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence in 1991 and to declare solidarity with the people of Georgia in the face of Russian aggression:

Unlike the Tskhinvali event, what happened in the Estonian capital has attracted little attention. It deserves to be better known.

More than 120,000 people assembled in the Song Festival grounds on the outskirts of Tallinn, to listen to Estonian and Georgian music groups, to wave Estonian and Georgian flags, and to listen to and cheer an address by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (, including a link to video of the event).

The Georgian singers expressed their gratitude to the support Estonia has given Tbilisi – Ilves joined the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in travelling to Georgia following the Russian invasion – and the Estonians in the audience cheered the Georgians. But the most important part of the concert in terms of its message was Ilves’ speech.

Read it all.