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The Berliner Philharmoniker in Asia

A film by Magdalena Zięba-Schwind

27 min.

Herbert von Karajan had already recognised the potential of Asia for the future of classical music: in 1957 he performed for the first time in Japan with the Philharmoniker, followed by the first appearances in China in 1979. Both countries were also on the itinerary of the last Asia tour undertaken by Sir Simon as chief conductor with the orchestra. plus there were concerts in Seoul in South Korea.

The repertoire consisted of two concert programmes which included Brahms’ fourth and Rachmaninoff’s third symphonies, piano concertos by Béla Bartók and Maurice Ravel, and two central orchestral works of early Modernism by Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky. It was particularly moving for the South Korean composer Unsuk Chin to experience the performance in her home town of Seoul of her own piece Chorós Chordón, which had recently received its premiere in Berlin. The soloists, standing in for an indisposed Lang Lang, were Seong-Jin Cho and Yuja Wang, two internationally acclaimed artists who are among the most talented and virtuoso pianists of the present day.

In the form of a cinematic diary, this short documentary by Magdalena Zięba-Schwind shows the Berliner Philharmoniker during rehearsals and performances, master classes and school visits, and accompanies the orchestra members on their explorations of gigantic metropolises such as Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Wuhan. Among the musicians expressing their impressions are a young Karajan Academy musician on his first trip to Asia, and the Philharmoniker’s horn player Fergus McWilliam who can look back on more than 30 years of concerts in the famous Suntory Hall in Tokyo.

The viewer learns that vinyl recordings by the Philharmoniker are part of the standard stock of an antique shop in Shanghai, and meets a music fan who has not wanted to miss a single concert by the orchestra in Japan since the 1950s. Exactly ten years after the successful film Trip to Asia, we can once again join the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle as they meet the passionate fans of the orchestra in the Far East.

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