Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra

Volker Hartung, Artistic Director

Orchestra locked in one´s heart

By Dorothee Philipp
Monday, 8th January 2018
Muellheim/Baden, Germany


Well-attended concert with the Cologne New Philharmonic and conductor Volker Hartung in Muellheim/Baden.

MUELLHEIM. The New Year's Concert in the Muellheim Burgerhouse with the Cologne New Philharmonic is the first highlight in the local cultural calendar. The audience has taken the young orchestra with its conductor Volker Hartung in their hearts, as evidenced by the increasing number of visitors: last year there were about 500, this time over 600, who were enchanted by the lively sounds. Once again Hartung did not forget to praise the Burgerhouse as a „phenomenal concert hall", in which there is always such a great atmosphere.

With the three powerful trombone chords that initiate the overture to Verdi's opera "La Forza del Destino", the orchestra immediately received the full attention of the audience, who could then sit back to enjoy the drama of the action that anticipates with this overture in thrilling tone-paintings.
Hartung conducts wide awake, precise and inexorable, keeping a close telepathic contact with every desk, letting the baton dance, painting the music with an inexhaustible gestural repertoire. To watch it is pure joy. Also because he combines this with a relaxed nonchalance, which makes one feel all the time a warm love for his musicians. Volker Hartung moderates his concerts sparingly, charmingly and with witty anecdotes that carry information along the way. After Verdi, the „Morning Mood" from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite gave the austere clarity of the high north a restrained pace and a richly graded dynamic that made light and colors bloom. This richness of color later unfolded in four numbers from Tchaikovsky's „Swan Lake Suite".

A Noah's noisy ark

But what would a New Year's concert be without Johann Strauss? The „Voices of Spring“ waltz, the „Beautiful blue Danube“ and the overture to the „Bat" awakened in Müllheim beautiful memories of the opulent operetta spectacle on the Markgräfler Platz. In the humorous „Perpetuum Mobile", in which the conductor makes off in the midst of boisterous music making, the audience was delighted.

As always there were outstanding soloists, this time in a very international composition. First, the young concertmaster played the „Havanaise" by Camille Saint-Saëns for violin and orchestra with his fine, singing sound up to the highest notes gave a most delicate listening pleasure.

And then pan flutist Ion Malcoci from Moldova, who two years ago had enthralled the audience in Muellheim with his virtuoso playing. This time he played a piece by Georges Enescu, a Romanian rhapsody for orchestra, arranged in a solo part for panpipe. In the end, one could hardly believe his ears: at that moment, one heard the sound of birds singing, then a woodpecker knocked and somewhere a cuckoo called. Was not that just a horse that was grazing? And where did the deep cow of a cow come from? The finale evolved into a Noah's noisy ark, even with trumpeting elephants - great fun!

The third soloist of the evening was the South Korean Chan Pak with a gorgeous solo on the xylophone. „Remembrance of Circus Renz" was the title of Gustav Peter´s piece for xylophone and orchestra. The little clappers raced like a storm wind over the wooden sticks, rhythmically hyper-precise, a small, sounding New Year's Eve fireworks, which was also noticeably fun for the soloist. The „virtuoso encores" are always included in the New Year's Concert with the Cologne New Philharmonic. Once again Strauss had his say in the fast-paced fast polka „Under Thunder and Lightning", performed virtuosic and light-hearted. Then there was a huge cinema of emotions with „The Lonely Shepherd", a tune by James Last, in which Ion Malcoci sang and dreamed his panpipe and literally enchanted the sweet-tuned people with his sweet melodies.

The change of scene required the orchestra to perform with a slick but easy-going Radetzky march, in which the audience of Hartung received humorous gestural instructions for clapping the clock in the right places. One would like to reserve tickets for the next year!

Press Review Ne Year's Concert 2018

From: Markus Bienwald

Ubach-Palenberg, January 15, 2018

If music, as Mayor Wolfgang Jungnitsch put it in the words of Carl Ludwig Schleich, "is the description of the world without words and concepts", then the New Year's concert in Übach-Palenberg was a huge, all-encompassing description that was hard to beat.

In turn: Because what should develop in the course of the evening to a maximum sound enjoyment, began with simple facts.

Firstly, the Cologne New Philharmonic under the proven and incomparable direction of conductor Volker Hartung once again found a gap in the bulging calendar to deliver a real highlight at the beginning of the year. Secondly, the city continued its cooperation with the adult education center of the district of Heinsberg, which gladly stood by as partner of the concert series at the beginning of the year. And thirdly, the consistently well-tuned musicians offered an inspiring impression from the very beginning.

The opener was deliberately chosen dramatically: the overture to Verdi's opera "La Forza del Destino". "Normally we do not do that," Volker Hartung commented, but given a world that is currently moving in many wild waters, one could easily start with such a dynamic masterpiece. The story that the composer was driven to St. Petersburg in an open sleigh for the performance of his work in order to be subject to the 43 different stage designs and a plethora of effort, was adding a great story for the enthusiastic guests.

Sold out Auditorium

That the microphone for the announcements of the equally charming conductor, who delivered anecdotes from a musician's life in nearly four decades had little understanding and only stubbornly wanted to follow the spoken word, was a side note. With a dry, well-defined blow to the bottom of the unit, Hartung corrected the disruption, and his "Let's go" racked the guests with laughter.

But they did not only rejoice in such moments when they found themselves in a sold-out auditorium in record-breaking time. It was, above all, the mood of the event, which the conductor Hartung and the ladies and gentlemen with their noble instruments inspired so delightfully.

Finely articulated flute tones as in the famous beginning of the „Morning mood“ from „Peer Gynt“ by Edvard Grieg were just as much as the sweeping „Voices of Spring waltz" by Johann Strauss.

In the second part of the program the “Swan Lake Suite“ by Tchaikovsky played a role, the „Memories of Circus Renz" contributed to the composer Gustav Peter, and with the classic "On the beautiful blue Danube" the dance finished the concert.

Not only the nuances, but a dynamically finely graded sound, which seemed to emerge from nowhere and on a tip with the conductor's baton also disappeared there again, made the guests cheer with ecstasy. And in the end, it was the many smaller mosaic pieces of a program composed with knowledge, the instinct for fine concert experiences and the love of music, that made a special, sonorous trip possible. There was quite rightly excessive applause and the definite desire for a repeated experience in the coming New Year.