Monday, September 23, 2013

Bigger isn’t Better … or, a visit to a Ballhaus

Well, my concert-going disappointment didn’t last long. Within twenty-four hours of my tangle with the Slaughtered Strauss at the Konzerthaus, I was back on top of the musical world with a very different type of concert at a very different type of venue.

 Clärchen’s Ballhaus is a wonderful time-warped dance-house, within walking distance of my flat. It made me think of the Blackpool Tower’s ballroom, though alas, in this day and age, the dancers shuffle and glide to recorded music. And like Blackpool, it has extras.

 One extra is a restaurant serving splendid blutwurst with beetroot and cabbage, after having devoured which we proceeded to the main feature of our evening: the concert in the Spiegelsaal. Yes, the hall of mirrors. What a great place for a concert! A deliciously characterful room looking as if it dated from the C18th, decorated with big old mirrors, holding chairs for about 150 and equipped with a fine grand piano and a nice little bar…

The audience lolled with their glasses of wine, and listened to Bach, Kuhlau, Prokofiev and, good heavens, Eugene Goossens jr beautifully delivered by a piano-violin-flute trio. The trio is normally made up of the three young Dan brothers, from Roumania, but tonight the pianistic brother was ‘off’ and we had a remarkably adept deputy (Naaman Wagner).

What can I say? The three players played really splendidly, separately and together, producing lovely warm tones from their instruments (the flute and fiddle never squeaked and shrieked, they sang, mezzo-soprano) and their programme was really well arranged: beginning with the oldest piece and finishing with Goossens and a grand morceau written by Aaron, the flute brother.

The lively, tuneful Kuhlau piece was a revelation – I played Kuhlau half a century and more ago, and haven’t heard him mentioned since! – I didn’t realize that Goossens the third had written such pretty, filmic stuff and the home-made piece was my treat for the evening. Lovely! The Prokofiev was written for flute or violin, so Georg, the violin brother played two movements and Aaron the flute the other two, giving an intelligent variation to the entertainment.

Because that’s what it was. Pure and heartwarming entertainment. As music should be. A thoroughly grand evening out, in a grand place with grand music …

 One complaint. The Spiegelsaal only operates in the ‘season’. This was the first concert of this season. So I – who leave for the other hemisphere when October arrives -- am not going to be able to visit as often as I would like. Except for the blutwurst!

But anyone who reads this, and is in Berlin in the coming months: put ‘dinner and concert at Clärchen’s’ on your Must list.  Of course, you can dance too, if you like…

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