Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Day the Music Burned

I realize there are worse tragedies happening in the world. No one got killed in this one. I'm still really sad about it.

Photo by Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters; I swiped it and hope no one will mind.

Today the Berlin Philharmonic hall suffered a severe fire, which apparently started while welding work was being performed. The International Herald Tribune reported:
Musicians described a frantic evacuation. Sarah Willis, the 2nd horn player, said she had been in the warm-up room when she "smelled something like lunch was burning."

"A few minutes later, someone burst in and said we have to get out now," she said, speaking on her cellphone as she watched smoke billowing from the building. "Double basses were on stage and many valuable violins and cellos were in lockers. The stagehands were allowed to take them out." ...

"It's really sad," she said. "It's the best acoustic in the world. We just don't know what it's going to look like."
She's not exaggerating. I was lucky enough to hear probably a few dozen concerts in this hall when I lived in Berlin. The acoustics are astonishing. Even the "standing room" seats behind the orchestra are fantastic.

For me, this is also personal. The Philharmonie has been almost a character in my life. I met my husband at the Schauspielhaus in East Berlin in 1991, when the Berlin Philharmonic had to relocate during asbestos removal from the Philharmonie. A concert at the Philharmonie was our favorite thing to do on a date, and we almost always scored inexpensive last-minute tickets. I went there with dear friends and relatives when they made the trek from California to visit me in Berlin. I heard Mahler's 7th at the Philharmonie while I was hugely pregnant with the Bear and thought I was going into labor early. Apparently he was signaling enthusiasm or exasperation at all the Sturm und Drang. (He likes Mahler now, for what it's worth.)

I hope the roof can be repaired in a way that preserves the acoustics. I hope it can happen even though the city of Berlin is in the direst of financial straits. And I hope that, while the repairs are being made and the orchestra is again displaced, some other young couple will find each other while waiting for the music to begin.

No comments: