My Life at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong 2011-2013

Music for the President

Every year the president of Germany gives at least one charity concert in one of the German states. Of course, he doesn’t play himself, even though that would be an interesting idea, if we should ever have a president, who is also a musician ;) These concerts have been a “presidential tradition” since 1988 and in each state, the incomes of the concert are used to support an organization or initiative that has been chosen beforehand. This year, the charity concert took place in lovely Dresden and supported the initiative “Wellcome“. Wellcome is based on volunteers, who take care of young parents and their children in the first weeks after the baby’s birth to help the family to structure their new life and adapt to their great new responsibility. The work of the initiative is based on sponsorships and these sponsorships were supposed to be won through the presidential charity concert. Before the concert started, a mass of people of every age had gathered in front of the opera in Dresden and waited for the president of Germany, Joachim Gauck, and the president of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich. Gauck arrived in his black car, the president’s flag waving on the cowl, and quickly entered the Opera. We were a bit too early, so we could marvel upon the beautiful architecture of the Opera house, that I haven’t seen for so long: white stucco, gilded wall decorations and colorful marble columns – every time again it’s a delicacy for one’s eyes!

In Dresden, the concert was given by the Dresden Staatskapelle (the Saxon State Orchestra), which is one of the oldest orchestras in the world (founded in 1548!) and conducted by Christian Thielemann, who will be the chief-conducter of the orchestra starting in the term 2012/2013. Already when the orchestra entered, the musicians were showered with loud applause by the excited audience. I personally always enjoy the few seconds when the instruments have to be tuned – this glimpse of chaos before the harmony of music starts is just wonderful! Thielemann made the orchestra stand up before he himself bowed to the audience. Then everybody waited in silence. He was announced over speakers: “Ladies and Gentlemen! The President!” Everybody was ready. People stretched from their seats, looked around and held their cameras ready and tight – but the dear president was nowhere to be found.

Murmurs started and the audience started giggling, disrupting the awkward silence. But then, after 15 long and torturing seconds, he entered, followed by a horde of security men: Joachim Gauck, former pastor and civil-rights-activist in East-Germany, a “tireless advocate of freedom, democracy, and justice” (as said by Angela Merkel), and now, since March 2012, eleventh president of Germany (after the preceding president, Christian Wulff, resigned from the position because of several allegations of corruption). He is after all rather small, our president: when the concert audience stood up to greet him, he simply vanished behind the crowd. The audience stayed standing and the orchestra started to play Germany’s national anthem in such a beautiful, thrilling and  moving way as I have never heard it before. The audience and even Mr Gauck were visibly very touched by this interpretation of the anthem – maybe another reason why not everybody sang with the melody.

The national anthem was followed – how could it be different – by two speeches given by the presidents of Germany and Saxony. Gauck explained that these charity concerts of the president were a wonderful way to move through Germany and to get to know different styles and traditions of music. He also said, he’d learn a lot about German civil social engagement. “In Germany we have a very broad cultural and political space to use,” he remarked, “and Dresden’s art and culture enjoys immense fame all over the world.” Our minister president of Saxony could just agree with that and further explained that this concert in Dresden would be the ideal combination of cultural event and social engagement and stood as representation for all, who cared for the community. He then announced the start of the concert with a quote by a music critique: “Each symphony by Bruckner is an existential experience. Enjoy!” Bruckner’s eighth symphony, the one we were about to hear and which lasts nearly 90 minutes, can not be described in any better way.

It was music, that simply touched the audience’s heart. Not even after ten minutes of listening my skin was absolutely full of goosebumps – and the opera hall was indeed not very cold! Thielemann himself seemed to enjoy the conducting a lot: he jumped around and was so passionate about the music that he seemed to float above his small podium. Nobody dared to make a sound while the music was playing and between each movement of the piece, people coughed and sneezed after the had held it back for so long. The orchestra and Thielemann himself did a wonderful job: each crescendo was just perfect, deafening fortes and sweet, tender adagios and pianissimos alternated constantly in flawless harmony and ultimate perfection. Additionally the opera had an overwhelming and unique acoustic. The last movement of the symphony, which lasted for nearly half an hour, was so ceremonious and so magnificent, that it was hard to bear the music without jumping up and … well, I honestly don’t know!

I’m sure everybody know’s that feeling when you are just overcome by joy and pride and you feel so ceremonious and majestic that you think you could just totally do something great and change everything you want to right now. This music evoked exactly that feeling in me. It was purely amazing and beautiful. I simply lack words for it. The standing ovations didn’t end. Thielemann had to step out of the shadow’s next to the stage over and over again, he shook hands with all the “first musicians” and hugged the first violin, he made every single musician group bow – first the drummers, then the brass players, the ladies with their harps, the violinists … and the audience still did not stop cheering, clapping and stomping. Mr Gauck himself was deeply moved by the symphony too: I could see him on the “big balcony”, giving standing ovations and continuously smiling, too. The audience was absolutely content – with Mr Thielemann, the musicians, and their president.

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