Mu­sic To The Ears

From clas­si­cal sym­phonies to con­tem­po­rary jazz to in­die rock, Ber­lin has some­thing for ev­ery kind of mu­sic fan. Hilda Hoy sums up the best venues and events of the month.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS - BY HILDA HOY

Up­lift­ing beats and melo­di­ous sounds from Ber­lin's mu­sic scene.

M arch is al­ways a mu­si­cal month in Ber­lin. Spring is around the cor­ner, and as the city be­gins to emerge from its long hi­ber­na­tion, there’s noth­ing bet­ter to up­lift the soul and en­liven the spirit than the melo­di­ous sounds of mu­sic. From world-renowned sym­phony halls to dark, cozy bars host­ing ex­per­i­men­tal elec­tron­ica and im­prov jazz, Ber­lin’s vast yet ac­ces­si­ble mu­sic scene has some­thing for ev­ery kind of mu­sic-lover – you just have to know where to look. For starters, there’s this month’s Maerz­musik fes­ti­val (16–26 March, www. maerz­, a thought-pro­vok­ing an­nual event ded­i­cated to us­ing mu­sic in all its forms to ex­plore press­ing con­tem­po­rary themes, from global po­lit­i­cal af­fairs to com­mu­nity is­sues. In ad­di­tion to sound in­stal­la­tions, film screen­ings, and work­shops, this year’s pro­gram in­cludes the Ev­ery­thing is Im­por­tant per­for­mance on 19 March at Haus der Ber­liner Fest­spiele, fea­tur­ing sev­eral bound­ary-push­ing string quar­tets, play­ing in part in com­plete dark­ness. The fi­nal two days of the fes­ti­val will fea­ture The Long Now, a con­tin­u­ous, 30-hour live mu­sic in­stal­la­tion in the jaw-drop­ping set­ting of a for­mer power plant. At­ten­dees can linger and lis­ten for as long as they like, even spend­ing the night on pro­vided cots.

An­other mu­si­cal high­light of the month is the grand open­ing of the Pierre Boulez Saal (Franzö­sis­che

Str. 33D,, a new world-class con­cert venue de­signed by the ven­er­a­ble Frank Gehry. The Saal is part of the Baren­boim-Said Akademie, a mu­sic academy co-founded by renowned con­duc­tor Daniel Baren­boim and in­flu­en­tial writer Edward Said. Through­out the month, the brand-new venue will host nu­mer­ous top-cal­iber con­certs from the Boulez En­sem­ble, amongst oth­ers. Daniel Baren­boim him­self will ap­pear on stage sev­eral times, daz­zling on the pi­ano with ren­di­tions of some of Schu­bert’s great­est com­po­si­tions.


For fans of clas­si­cal mu­sic, Ber­lin has so much more in store. The city’s Phil­har­monie (­er­phil­har­ for ex­am­ple, is al­ready known far and wide. High­lights at the con­cert hall this month in­clude pi­anist Martha Arg­erich play­ing on 2 March with the Kre­mer­ata Baltica cham­ber or­ches­tra, and an East-meets-West con­cert on 4 March with the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic per­form­ing a com­po­si­tion by late sitar artist Ravi Shankar. The beau­ti­ful neo-clas­si­cal Konz­erthaus (www.konz­ right on Mitte’s Gen­dar­men­markt square also reg­u­larly hosts clas­si­cal mu­sic greats. On 24 March, hear the Ber­lin Ra­dio Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and the RIAS Cham­ber Choir per­form sev­eral works by Mozart.

For a one-of-a-kind mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, an even­ing at Pi­ano Salon Christophori (Ufer­str. 8, www.konz­ert­ is an ab­so­lute must. In the charm­ingly post-in­dus­trial set­ting of a for­mer sub­way train work­shop, the salon hosts in­ti­mate, do­na­tion-based con­certs fea­tur­ing both small- and big-time pi­anists. An equally strik­ing venue is the Spiegel­saal ball­room on the up­per floor of Clärchens Ballhaus (Au­gust­str. 24,­saal-ber­lin. de), which has been welcoming mu­sic and dance lovers since 1913. The gor­geous, can­dlelit, mir­ror-lined ball­room hosts oc­ca­sional con­certs that are an­nounced spon­ta­neously – check www. son­ntagskonz­ for pro­gram up­dates. And for a taste of what the next gen­er­a­tion of clas­si­cal mu­sic will have to of­fer, check out the con­cert pro­gram at the Hochschule

Hanns Eisler (Schloss­platz 7, www.hfm­ber­ Stu­dents of the renowned mu­sic col­lege reg­u­larly play free con­certs to show off their grow­ing tal­ent.


If jazz, not clas­si­cal, is what floats your boat, there are clubs and bars dot­ting the city where jazz fans of any stripe can get their fix. One of the most well known is b-flat just off Alexan­der­platz (Dir­ck­sen­str. 40, www.b-flat-ber­, where the nightly con­certs run the gamut from old-school big-band tunes to mod­ern, Latin-tinged, or soul­ful vo­cal jazz. Kreuzberg has Yor­ckschlöss­chen (Yor­ck­str. 15, www.yor­ckschloess­, a laid-back neigh­bor­hood pub that hosts jazz, blues, and swing con­certs sev­eral nights a week. It’s a welcoming spot to have a bite and a drink while en­joy­ing some tunes, with a chilled-out at­mos­phere bor­rowed from the jazz honky-tonks of New Or­leans’ French Quar­ter. Char­lot­ten­burg’s Quasi­modo (Kantstr. 12a, www.quasi­ has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing one of the city’s old­est jazz clubs, with big names like Bran­ford Marsalis and Prince hav­ing made an ap­pear­ance over the years. It’s just one of a clus­ter of venues that make Char­lot­ten­burg the city’s jazz cen­tral: Nearby is also A-Trane (Bleib­treustr. 1, www.a-trane. de), an­other clas­sic jazz club dat­ing back more than 20 years. This snug cor­ner bar just off

Sav­i­gny­platz is the per­fect spot to take in some lively tunes, with shows held ev­ery even­ing. Night owls will love the free latenight jam ses­sion on 4 March, start­ing at mid­night and go­ing well into the wee hours. The third venue in the Char­lot­ten­burg jazz tri­fecta is The Hat (Lotte-Lenya-Bo­gen 550, www.the­hat­, a 1920s-style jazz bar with a cool film Noir vibe, lo­cated in the arches un­der the S-Bahn tracks. As trains rum­ble over­head, sip some whiskey or a clas­sic cock­tail and en­joy the hot jazz sounds em­a­nat­ing from the tiny stage. The mu­sic is free, the drinks strong, and the at­mos­phere chill – what more could any­one want?


While Char­lot­ten­burg may the cen­ter of Ber­lin’s jazz scene, Kreuzberg is where it’s at when it comes to pop, rock, in­die, and other con­tem­po­rary gen­res, with busy venues like Lido (Cu­vrystr. 7, www.lido-ber­ Since 2006, this one-time cin­ema space has been a go-to venue for fun, rowdy shows from bands big and small, lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional. On week­ends, they host par­ties like Soul Ex­plo­sion, Balkan­beats, and Para­noid, a garage rock and ‘70s rock smash­fest where you can head­bang to your heart’s con­tent. Just down the street is Fest­saal Kreuzberg (Am Flut­graben 2, www.fest­, a long­time mu­si­cal in­sti­tu­tion that had to close in 2013 af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing fire. Just last month, it was fi­nally able to re­open in the space once oc­cu­pied by White Trash Fast Food, an­other leg­endary mu­si­cal lo­ca­tion. The con­cert pro­gram is slowly be­ing built up again, so check the web­site reg­u­larly for up­dates. Fans of in­die and ex­per­i­men­tal mu­sic will be right at home at Madame Claude (Lübbener Str. 19, www.madame­, a fun and funky mu­sic bar housed in a for­mer brothel. De­scend­ing the stairs into the base­ment space, you might start feel­ing a lit­tle topsy-turvy – thanks to the liv­ing room’s worth of fur­ni­ture at­tached up­side-down to the ceil­ing. There’s some­thing hap­pen­ing ev­ery night of the week, from kooky Ex­pe­r­i­mon­tag Mon­days, Camp­fire Ses­sion Tues­days with chilled-out singer­song­writ­ers, and Freaky Fri­days (no ex­pla­na­tion needed). Feel­ing par­tic­u­larly in­spired? Join one of the Sun­day even­ing open mic ses­sions and share your mu­si­cal side with an au­di­ence of fel­low afi­ciona­dos.

Above: Yoga in­side the Konz­erthaus. From far left: The façade of the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler; the Phil­har­monie; the new lo­ca­tion of Fest­saal Kreuzberg.

Top pho­tos: The Hat; this photo: the Pierre Boulez Saal of the Baren­boim-Said Akademie.

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