Alban's Blog

Beautiful Cities – Berlin and London

With Sean Rafferty at IntuneWhile waiting for my manager Angela at a restaurant in London near Hyde Park I take advantage of my plane having arrived 25 minutes early (!) and write a little bit about the beauty of these two cities. Well, these past few days have been splendid all over Europe, I guess, and that helps to put everything into a nicer light, but I must admit, London with its old Victorian town houses and these many little side-streets has an enormous charme which I just experienced while walking the 15 minutes from Paddington Station to the little Italian trattoria. And if you take the cultural and the party life into account you are wondering which city could surpass this attractive beauty!?

London has one big problem though: It is as popular as New York and thus almost unaffordable to live, at least live well. Everything is so expensive, housing, restaurants, public transportation – I really don’t know how people manage to effort this, but they do. I just read that the British people in general are in debts, similar to the Americans. Maybe that’s the way to afford to live in a place like this. Or not?

How about Berlin? Yes, I agree, it hasn’t got the same old charme as London, since it has been much more destroyed in the war, but especially in what was formerly West-Berlin (where I was born) they took advantage and made this city fit to the 20th century, something one can’t necessarily say about London; in Berlin we have the so-called “city-highways” with tempolimit 80 km/h, but they get you around without destroying the image of the city. Most important streets have four lanes, some even six, so we don’t suffer of the same traffic collapse London does. Is this beautiful? No, this is not what I meant by calling Berlin a beautiful city. It has its beauty, but it is definitely not a sight-seeing city as London. But it is absolutely gorgeous to live here.

We live in a very affordable apartment (3-bedroom, 2 Bathroom, huge kitchen and a lovely balcony) for a price you couldn’t even buy yourself a bathroom in central London. And yes, this one here is very central, for me the perfect location – and this is only possible in Berlin as far as I know: 3 minutes walk from our sons school (Spanish-German Europe-School), the choice of many very nice restaurants (Italian, Austrian, Suisse, Cuban, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Chinese) within 2 minutes walk, music store and supermarket 1 minute etc. Then the airport: 12 minutes by car, main train station 9 min by public transportation (S-Bahn, kind of tram, 1 minute walk), Philharmonic Hall and entertainment district 12 minutes by car, and the best of all: 15 minutes by bike, and you are in the most beautiful forest in which you can get lost for ever.

Just take this weekend: After returning from Korea I had reserved Saturday/Sunday for playing with my son Janos (my wife had a concert in New York, so it was just father-son-fun), and we took full advantage. Won’t bore you now with every little game we played (tons of soccer obviously) and the meals we cooked together and consumed on the balcony, but we took a motorbike trip to the Berlin “beach” – actually really beautiful beach, great sand, tons of sun, very big, at the Wannsee, which is more than just another lake. It’s huge, many sailing boats on it, trees everywhere (except the beach J), rather clean water – paradise. And the best thing: it is only 15 minutes from where we live. And this is the beauty about Berlin (or at least the former West): everything seems very close together, you don’t loose time getting from Y to Y, unlike in London or New York. And culturally Berlin is one of the most exciting cities anyway (tons of Theaters, 10 Symphony Orchestras, three fully established Opera Houses, 50 Museums and lots of sub-cultural activity).

No, for tourists it isn’t the greatest city, but to live and to raise your children, yes, I love it!
Now I have to run, have to play two little encores at the BBC’s very funny “In Tune” with Sean Rafferty. Well, I hope I will be playing in tune enough – fingers crossed…


  • Bob Huenefeld

    It’s good to hear from you!When are you going to play in Ohio again?When is the scheduled release of thew Vieuxtemps Cello Concerti?I am truly looking foward to latter!

  • Alban

    Hi Bob, unfortunately Hyperion isn’t interested in the Vieuxtemps right now, they want to do the Offenbach Concerto first. Next release will be the double-cd with everything by Reger for cello solo and cello and piano. Ohio? Sorry, nothing in the books yet 🙁

  • Pablo Hernandez-Pagan

    Hello Alban. How are you? It is great to hear from you. I start to be interested in your cello performance some years ago, but when I read that you are married with a puertorican woman, I get even more interested in your cello performance, because I am also from Puerto Rico, the country and the culture I love. But I also like Germany’s culture and of course, its composers and many great musicians, like you. Will you schedule any performance in Puerto Rico in the future again? I would like you to do it, because I want to see you playing the cello, and if it is possible, to take also a cello class from you. I play the cello since I’m eleven years old. Well, congratulations for your great performance of the cello and thank you for your attention to my comment.

    Best wishes for you,
    Pablo Hernandez-Pagan
    Cellist (Now a proffesional photographer)

  • George

    I am looking forward to the Reger recordings!! I just received the first “blog entry notice”‘ nice feature..I hope to get to London one of these days. I have met quite a few people who have lived there..It seems like a place that breeds ART and artistry…It is indeed a cultural mecca of sorts given it’s history…I would also like to visit Berlin…and Amsterdam…and Paris…well you get the picture!

    Best Regards


  • Frnacisco F. Martin del Campo

    Estoy completamente de acuerdo contigo en cuanto a las dos ciudades de Londres y Berlin.
    Disfruto recordando Covent Garten, Komische Oper, etc.,

  • Josh Rappaport from Harrisburg Pennsylvania

    Yes, Alban. Thanks for informing us about those cities. What concert hall did your wife play in in New York though?

  • Charles Kohn

    Dear Alban:

    It is with great pleasure to hear you are doing great, I would hope that you instruct your manager for you to play in New York, Nice, Monaco where I am generally, and would be if you are giving a concert there.

    You might know it, but the Barge Music let go of all their old players including Mary Ann McDermott, I just head her in a concert in Town Hall. :-}}

    Best Regads, Charles Kohn

  • Alban

    Hi Pablo – I am very well, thanks, just returned from playing Brahms Double in Manchester with a wonderful Italian conductor, Gianandrea Noseda, phenomenal! Unfortunately no plans to play in Puerto Rico any time soon, which makes me sad, but somehow they don’t realize that they could have me every year, since it would give us a chance to visit my wife’s family. I love Puerto Rico, and I am always happy to come and enjoy life there! Keep the cello up, and maybe there will be a class in the near future… Best wishes from Berlin!

    Dear Charles,
    well, I have played at least every other year in Monte Carlo in the past 8 years, and New York will be coming up end of January 2008 – you missed me 🙂 Oh, I remember Barge Music, have the fondest memories of the concerts there. Too bad they got rid of all the musicians. All best!

    Hi Josh,

    my wife sang at the Nuorican Cafe, which is a Latino Jazz Club, I guess…

    Hi George – yes, you have to come visit all these beautiful cities, Amsterdam is definitely part of it, so is Paris. Enjoy!!!


  • Peggy Schmidt

    Lieber Alban,

    habe gerade Dein Video auf youtube gesehen – ist wirklich schoen! Und die Beethoven Sonate, die ich gerade von Dir hoere, ebenfalls.

    Liebe Gruesse und bis ganz bald,

    Deine Peggy

  • Alban

    Liebe Peggy,

    vielen Dank für die lieben Worte! Ich hoffe, wir sehen uns dieser Tage. Den Blog oben habe ich übrigens geschrieben, weil ich Dich in London nicht sehen konnte… 🙁

    Viele Grüße aus Genf,
    Dein Alban

  • Dita Ludwigs

    Lieber Alban,
    Wann kommen Sie nach Athen wieder? Ich moechte die Brahms Cello Sonaten von Ihnen mal hoeren!Der Abend mit dem Haydn Cellokonzert war wunderschoen. Uebrigens spiele ich sehr viel Klavier und lerne ich weiter mit einer Lehrerin die 40 Jahre alt ist ! Sie koennte meine Tochter sein ! Trotztdem bin ich immer wieder vom Cello fasziniert und bin fast ueberzeugt dass das Cellospielen verlangt einen sehr sehr guten Cellist! Sie sind einer sehr guter Cellist und Interpreter! In meinem naechsten Leben ….. werde ich mein Bestens tun um Musiker zu werden. Ich liebe Musik sehr! Aber das Leben von einem Musiker ist gar nicht leicht ! Man muss so viel ueben und so viel opfern!
    Berlin ist eine fantastische Stadt und keiner kann sich dort langweiligen! London ist was besonderes aber Paris und Rom sind faszinierenden Staedten! Eigentlich jedes Land hat sein eigenem Charme!
    Ueber das Thema “Dirigenten”, kann ich nur sagen, dass je nachdem wie gut oder schlecht sie sind, koennen die Musik und das Orchester zum Himmel bringen oder uns Kopfschmerzen anschaffen!
    Vielen Dank fuer Ihre Zeit und ich bedanke mich ganz herzlich dass waehrend des Emails schreiben war es moeglich solche gute Musik zu hoeren.
    Mit freundlichen Gruessen
    Dita Ludwigs

  • Alban

    Liebe Dita,
    leider gibt es keine Pläne für eine Rückkehr nach Athen, so gerne ich auch wiederkommen würde – tolle Halle, warmes Publikum, ein Traum für jeden Musiker!
    Ach, das Leben eines Musikers ist nicht so schwer wie es scheint – die Opfer sind bei weitem nicht so groß wie bei anderen Berufen, wo das alltägliche Leben die Leidenschaft töten kann.

    Stimmt, Paris und London sind auch großartig, New York auch… Aber ich saß halt gerade in London und war ganz glücklich 🙂
    Beste Grüße aus Berlin,

  • Thomas

    Wann wird die Doppel-Cd mit Reger erscheinen? Freu mich schon Drauf 😉
    Viele Grüße

  • Alban

    The Reger cd won’t be released before the end of the year, I am afraid – I haven’t seen any first edit yet, actually, I should check on this…
    Best wishes, und freuen Sie sich nicht zu früh 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *