The year is drawing to its end and I remember a singular scene in connection with classical music. It must have been over a year ago that I sat in an airport terminal waiting for my gate to open – and I was alone. I was like half an hour before boarding time at the gate – it was the right one – and the whole terminal was empty. A bizarre atmosphere. It gave my departure a solemn touch; I felt like being the last one ever to leave this place. Very strange. And since I had nothing to do, I put on my earphones and listened to a charming piece of chamber music: Julius Röntgen’s String Trio No. 5, performed by the Lendvai Trio.
A flying carpet. I close my eyes. Lift off to the sound of… that will remain a secret for a while. Heading towards the land of the Turkmen. A magical mystery tour is about to begin. Going farther east. The endless empty steppes of Central Asia, There – minarets! Samarkand. A wealth of culture. Following the Silk Road. Bliss. A promise! Modernity. Blistering skyscrapers. The sea. Traders. Dhows and container ships. Interaction, connection. Past and present. New sounds, new rhythms, innovation. Curiosity.
Chamber music is chamber music, but then again it is not. Nothing is like it appears, especially not if Arnold Schönberg is involved. In 1906 he wrote a fascinating piece he called “Chamber symphony for 15 solo instruments”. It is futile to discuss, whether this title makes any sense if you care to listen to the recording of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group under Sir Simon Rattle. Two things will happen then. Upon the first bars you will be tempted to ask: What, this is Schönberg? Of course. And you will concur with me that this piece is exceptional.
Brother. The first time someone outside my family called me “brother” – well, that was a memorable moment. Some 25 years ago, while I studied political sciences in Munich, I had picked up a stranded student from Nigeria, well dressed in a suit, not knowing anybody in Germany, not speaking a word of German and naively hoping to begin his engineering studies within a few weeks. Or was it me who was naive? Anyway, my sense of solidarity compelled me to help him out with a warm meal, that he insisted to pay back, with directions as where to find the university, the dining hall and the Studentenwerk. And I tried to find some Nigerian expats who could guide him through the first weeks in Germany.