Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra

Volker Hartung, Artistic Director

Fanfare's review about Brahms album

Jerry Dubins, music critic from „Fanfare Magazine“ in USA has written a fabulous and legendary review about our recent 2-set album of Johannes Brahms’s piano concertos with Italian pianist Filippo Faes and the Cologne New Philharmonic under the direction of Volker Hartung
Here is the link:


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!

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.

Concert in Lancaster, UK

The Virtual Lancaster, UK
played the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at
St.Peters Cathedral, Lancaster (UK)

Magical, moving Mozart

...The fact that St Peter's Cathedral has wonderful acoustics for both words and music, and that the performers were German added even more tempting authenticity.
I was not disappointed. First on the programme was the Bassoon Concerto K191 in B flat, which Mozart wrote when he was a mere eighteen. There was some lovely light and shade in the limpid second movement, Andante ma adagio, which has a theme the composer would later use as one of the heart stoppers in The Marriage of Figaro. By the third and final movement, Rondo tempo di menuetto, the wonderful dramatic tension that the Phil's conductor Volker Hartung managed to evince was palpable. The solo part in this, the first orchestral concerto from Mozart's pen, was beautifully played by a young Romanian Dejan Topchiev, to the well articulated ensemble playing from the ripieno. The size of the orchestra, with seventeen players, ensured a ravishing, clear and sharp sound..
You don't get that clarity or sense of intimacy, or such a well judged dynamic range, from many larger orchestras.
Or from many contemporary 'early music' ensembles who, sad to say, so often deliver stilted, spineless readings on disc, on the radio and in the concert hall. I was particularly impressed with Hartung's idiomatic and polished style, and the superb cadenzas, which captured the sheer joy of Mozart's very operatic music without ever lapsing into vulgarity.
Second on the programme was his best known Symphony, no 40 in G minor K550. Again, another passionate performance, racy tempi and full justice done to the piece's dramatic and sometimes daring textures and melodies.

But the highlight of the evening was the titanic Requiem in D minor, K626, from late 1791, at the very end of the composer's life. Here the now larger orchestra (more brass) was joined by the University of Medical Sciences Mixed Choir of Poznan, in the west of Poland. Numbering around two dozen, their size was well matched to the players, and their butch, clear and robust Eastern European consonants (and vowels) along with their exquisite diction contributed to a wondrous sound.
Some would have demurred from the use of a performing edition of the Requiem based on Süssmayer with its very full and perhaps over-heavy orchestration. But Hartung and his players were not fazed by this; there was still great clarity and more wonderful articulation.
Despite the ticket prices the Cathedral was packed. It is Lancaster's finest venue for a concert of this nature and scale. You could have heard a pin drop. The atmosphere was electric. I was moved to tears by this stunning performance.
Lancaster was richly blessed with a superb concert in such wonderful surroundings.
(Virtual Lancaster: Michael Nunn)