News from Berlin

First, thanks to everyone who came out today to hear my Berlin recital.  I had a great time playing the Brahms Sonata No. 1 in E, and Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces and Five Pieces in Folk Style, with my pianist and collaborator Andreas Boelcke, at whose Piano Academy Berlin I have been in residence for the past few days for intensive rehearsals.

I would anticipate having some photos up soon, but in the meantime, just to prove I’m serious, here is my much more deliberate rendition of the Brahms finale as recorded with a very different pianist, Robert Jorgensen, in Olympia, Washington in spring 2010.  The interpretation with Andreas is substantially faster, and has the advantage of being done on my German violoncello, which is itself German, and old, and has big guts (e.g., an older and more robust tone than the modern American instrument in this recording):

Anyway, metronome markings and old recordings be damned: you get the point: concertizing with German Romantic repertoire in the German capitol.  Im Hauptstadt!

Of course, in between the Germanic musical progress, there has been reading of the German press, of which I am an enthusiast if not an expert.  And being as I am a Sinologist, my tendency is to orient myself toward the Orient in said reading.  Fortunately there has been a great deal of fodder of late: Ai Weiwei was released on parole, Wen Jiabao and thirteen (13) Chinese cabinet ministers are on their way to Berlin for meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

Thus, to some mini-extracts from the German press, as translated and summarized by yours truly:

Bild, 24 June 2011 — This right-wing (relative to Germany, anyway) equivalent of the New York Post has a reporter in Beijing and a headline: “China is so Dangerous for Us.”  On the back of the A section is a full page story reported from Hanno Kautz in Beijing, entitled “The China Invasion: A New Major Series from Bild Describes How the Biggest Economy in the World is Rolling Over the European World and How Dangerous This Can Be for We Germans.”   After the standard “China in Figures” sidebar in which it is described how many kilometers of rail China is laying every year, or how many new coal power plants go online (“one every other day!”), the Joe Blow German reader gets to the article:

July, 2010: In a Teahouse of the Chinese Regime in Peking:

Chancellor Angela Merkel sits with German and Chinese CEOs together.  Participants describe the scene this way:

The head of the biggest Chinese shipping company asks “Mrs. Merkel, when can you deepen the shipping canal in Hamburg so that we can get larger container ships in there?”

Merkel: “Well, this is not the responsibility of the Federal government, instead it falls under the provincial government in Hamburg.  There, we have a governing coalition of my party, the Christian Democrats, and the Green Party.  But they have a big problem right now with education reform.  To deepen the canal right now would be very difficult.”

The Chinese CEO: “But that is objectively not relevant.”

Merkel: “Yes, as I said….”

One year later, the Elbe has not been deepened, the Black-Green coalition in the provincial government in Hamburg has been broken.  And the Chinese companies have purchased a whole port in Greece.


China is rolling over Europe: Greece, Portugal, Poland, Ukraine and the Balkans.  Then into the interior, into the heart.  Toward Germany.

Why?  Beijing is hungry for growth.  Only growth creates jobs.  And only millions of jobs each year can keep the regime stable, and can let the old men who run the government sleep peacefully at night.

… More later on the Ai Weiwei situation.  Word has it I will be attending a soiree with some German writers about the release of Ai Weiwei tomorrow night in Berlin…That is, after spending the morning writing about North Korea and the afternoon rehearsing Chinese contemporary music for cello and piano.  Something about this country aids in the production of work…


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