Monday, May 23, 2011

Wesak Celebrations and a Trip to the Berlin Philharmonic

On Saturday we celebrated the anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment at Buddhistisches Tor Berlin, beginning with a morning of meditation and mantra chanting. After lunch Vajragupta, who was visiting from Worcester in England, gave an uplifting and very personal talk on generosity. This was followed by some readings from the Buddhist scriptures about the Buddha's path to enlightenment and we concluded the celebration with a puja. Some of us rounded off the day with a visit to the Berlin Philharmonic to see Yutaka Sado conduct From me flows what you call time for five percussionists and orchestra by Takemitsu and Shostakovich's 5th Symphony. Whatever one might think about the music, there is no doubting the Berlin Philharmonic as one of the best orchestras around. Not that I claim to be at all experienced in this field, but I reckon they're a pretty tight combo.

I really enjoyed both works which were very different from each other. Takemitsu's piece is a very contemplative and was performed with a pleasant bit of theatre, as the five percussionists made their way onto the stage shortly after the start of the piece from different directions, each playing finger cymbals and wearing different brightly coloured jackets - the  colours of the five Jinas in the five Buddha mandala. But I was most deeply moved by the Shostakovich piece, in which a clear tension in the music reflects the terrible tightrope which the composer walked throughout his working life, but especially under Stalin's reign of terror, between conforming to the demands of the Soviet regime while at the same time being true to his own creative convictions. And all that for 8 Euros - last minute tickets on the podium directly behind the orchestra. Great to be able to see the conductor's enthusiasm and gestures from the front.

Here is a video of parts of the rehearsal for the concert

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