Friday, February 11, 2011
Last night Anne and I went to St. John's cathedral for a concert by the Kammerphilharmonie Köln. As the name, implies, it is a chamber orchestra from Cologne, Germany. Having a chamber orchestra in such a large venue is slightly odd but the acoustics at St. John's are on the brilliant side -- all that bare stone -- so it worked well.
The program was (with one exception) some classical favourites by Bach, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Handel. That was obviously popular -- as the whole of the nave of the cathedral and most of the transept was taken up by the audience. And St. John's is a large cathedral.
There were about 10 musicians on hand but not all were on stage at the same time. Who appeared depended on the piece. As is common with chamber groups there was no conductor. The finale of an excellent concert was Handel's beautiful "Ombra mai fu" (a largo from the opera "Xerxes"). It was well sung in Italian by the soprano. It's probably as well that it was in Italian as it actually a song in praise of a tree!
For me an interesting question was what has become of Volker Hartung? The occasion at St. John's had all the hallmarks of one of his ventures but he was not mentioned in the program notes nor is he mentioned on the orchestra's site.
When it was run as the Junge Philharmonie Köln he was the founder and director but something seems to have changed in 2003, when the new name was adopted. Was there a parting of the ways or has he simply retired behind the scenes? Maybe he has just gone on to other challenges. He seems to work as a professor of conducting and chamber music in Singapore these days: A long way from Köln for a Kölner!