Alban's Blog

Schumann Concerto with Berlin Phil and Thielemann

thielemann.jpgWhen I was about 20 years old, I had horrible problems with my nerves, bow shaking, sweaty fingers, the full monty. By taking myself out of the center of my attention rather consciously, I managed to overcome this difficult situation, but in special stress situation I still experienced bad nerves which made me play worse. The concerts I am doing right now kept me in suspense for a couple of days, could hardly think about something else: Berlin Philharmonic, the orchestra of my dad, the orchestra I grew up with.

I don’t know if I was more nervous for playing with them or just afraid and nervous of my nerves themselves. What could I do to avoid a collapse? I prepared myself for the worst case scenario: everybody would be very hostile, the conductor, Christian Thielemann, would not agree with anything I am trying to do, I’d loose all my self-confidence and really play badly. Paint the mammoth to the wall before trying to fight it…

For a long time I didn’t have such a stage fright like before the first rehearsal, especially since I didn’t even have a two-minute talk about the piece with the conductor beforehand. Friday morning at 10:30 am was my call, I walked onto the stage in the big, beautiful Berliner Philharmonie (where I must have heard hundreds of concerts in my life), and Thielemann, after welcoming me, just started. How did it go? No recollection, I was just soooo relieved, when this first rehearsal was over, and people at least pretended to have liked me.

My father, who is leading for this concerts the 2nd violin group, gave me some good points afterwards (don’t force…), and I went home to play some basketball and soccer with Janos. This morning the dress rehearsal was already much less stressful, and the concert I just came back from, was not really a joy-ride, but I felt that my trembling nerves didn’t affect my playing in a negative way. I felt very free, at points too free for my taste, but Thielemann was incredibly supportive and constantly encouraging me to take time. We had a very close contact, and he and the orchestra carried me through this rather difficult piece.

To tell you the truth, it was for me a rather magical experience – when I looked to my left, I saw my father, who will retire next year, and it brought tears to my eye, since this will be the last chances I have to perform with him. As long as I could remember, he was a young member of Berlin Phil, and now he is the oldest! The performance was well received, the concertmaster Daniel Stabrawa even encouraged me to play an encore (played the Fuga of the 3rd Suite of Reger) which the audience liked even more.

But you have no idea how relieved and light I felt after coming off stage, receiving friends and family, having proved to myself that I wouldn’t collapse in the face of the biggest and most scary concert in my life. I even had the honour of Sir Simon Rattle with his wife Magdalena Kozena congratulating me afterwards – I was in heaven, because in retrospective I must admit, that the older I got, the more nervous I got playing in my hometown Berlin, and today I broke the spell of scared Berlin performances 🙂


  • alfons

    hallo, gestern abend war ich mit freunden zu dem konzert. es war grossartig!!!

  • Josh Rappaport from Harrisburg Pennsylvania

    Alban, I once saw a concert with Julia Fischer as soloist for a New York Philharmonic. She didn’t announce the encore. I’m willing to guess she doesn’t speak a word of English. Do you think I’m telling the truth when I say that? If I tried to speak to her, she probably wouldn’t understand me because she doesn’t know English. That has happened a lot in New York concerts, even at the MET, with people like Marianne Hamre or Jan-Hendrik Rootering or even Vesselina Kasarova. Is there any way you could teach this famous violinist Julia Fischer English?

  • Alban

    Hi Josh, Julia Fischer speaks very well English, French and a bit of Slovak, besides being a native German speaker. I think she might not have announced the encore because she thought everybody knew it. She has a webpage, so feel free to write into her guestbook that you would have liked her to announce the encore, even if it’s only to hear her beautiful voice 🙂

    Hallo Alfons, freut mich, dass Ihnen das Konzert gefallen hat – für mich war es wie ein Traum!
    Ich gebe zu, dass die Berliner Philharmoniker im Saal schon unglaublich gut klingen, aber die Energie, die da auf der Bühne frei wird, die habe ich noch nie so gespürt wie an diesen drei Tagen, an denen ich mit ihnen die Bühne teilen durfte!

  • Georg

    Lieber Alban,

    es freut mich sehr, dass das Konzert so gut geklappt hat. Und auch darüber, dass Thielemann so kooperativ war. Habe im Allgäu an Dich gedacht – danke für die SMS.

    Viele Grüße aus Freiburg

    Georg (und Julia)

  • George

    Congratulations on “Taming the Monster” and for a successful concert. You are the consumate professional. I have been following the Paulo competition in Finland of late….Marvelous new and young artists coming forth…But again, in listening to your recordings I am struck by what a skilled & mature artist you truly are. All the best!!


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