“Welcome to Bonn’s most beautiful Concert Venue”. Perhaps Beethoven Orchestra Bonn (BOB) Director/Conductor Dirk Kaftan was genuinely only making a point about the beautiful surroundings at Kunstrasen. A few spectators at this year’s ‘Klassik Picknick’ might well have taken it as a sly ‘dig’ at the disastrous renovation plans of the Beethoven Hall just down the road, however. Aside from the fact it would get a bit cold in December though it started me to thinking that perhaps they should keep the Kunstrasen stage where it is and just build a football stadium-style roof over the spectator area to make it all-weather friendly and give the Beethovenhalle up as the ‘bad job’ it has become?
Kaftan may also have been remarking on the mixed reception to Bonn’s plans for the whole Beethoven Anniversary from Bonn’s tax-payers when he smilingly enquired if we wanted to hear ‘some Beethoven’ only to announce that they weren’t playing anything from Bonn’s famous son this evening. Certainly, Bonn’s current General Music Director received plenty of applause from the record crowd on an overcast but dry picnic evening by the River. One might even say that Kaftan has star qualities. A Pop star from amongst the Classics.
So no Beethoven then, but plenty to enjoy from less local composers, and particularly fitting, on the subject of Pop stars from the Classics the evening kicked off with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. Back in my childhood Bernstein’s introductions to Classical Music on tv were actually the black and white equivalent of tonight’s concert in concept – bringing classical music to the masses in his ‘Young People’s Concerts’ series. Bernstein would have told you that this afternoons show wasn’t really Classics for the most part at all. Rossini’s ‘Una Voce Poco Fa from ‘The Barber of Seville, or Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. Harold Arlen’s ‘Over The Rainbow’, Mancini’s ‘Pink Panther’, especially John William’s ‘Raiders March’ don’t have too much to do with the Classics. They are fine musical compositions though, and Bernstein would not have been snobbish enough to deny that. He would certainly have enjoyed George Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue” with a splendidly spirited contribution from Fabian Müller on piano.
This year’s Picnic really had a Jazz flair about it, and that was very much down to the contributions from Luciana Mancini. Especially during what she described as one of her favourite pieces – Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’.
I say it every year, and I do so because every year it remains true; Klassik Picknick on the Rhine really is one of the best musical bargains of the year. One of Germany’s best orchestras playing for free in one of Germany’s most beautiful venues alongside the Rhine. Spread out a picnic blanket, open a bottle of good wine and sit back as the sun sets. Enjoy being alive and let the music catch your imagination. As Leonard Bernstein shows in those wonderful black and white programmes, enjoying orchestral music really isn’t demanding. In fact – it’s child’s play.