As an instrument for solemn, dramatic or threatening moments, or as a source of rhythm or to set the tempo, the timpani is an indispensable element of the symphony orchestra. In this film portrait, Wieland Welzel, who has been timpanist with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1997, explains what nerves of steel are needed to ensure that each entry on what are always exposed cues is precise, 100% of the time. The musician talks about the warm, reverberating sound required in Romantic compositions and what opportunities there are to make the timpani “sing”. Welzel, who studied at the University of Music in his home town of Lübeck and is also a keen jazz player, is shown here visiting his instrument maker (Welzel plays an instrument from the family of the “Berliner Pauken”) and in musical excerpts from works by Richard Strauss and Anton Bruckner.

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