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, who 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!