Classical music to celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic Spirit

Andrea Zietzschmann
Andrea Zietzschmann

Andrea Zietzschmann, General Manager of the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker, explains details of the Tokyo 2020 concerts the orchestra will perform in Japan

The city of Tokyo will be filled with exciting activities to kick off the Olympic and Paralympics Games. In November, it was announced that the Spring Festival in Tokyo will present a special series of concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker in June 2020. These concerts will be co-hosted by the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games as a co-hosted programme of Tokyo 2020 Nippon Festival.

Based in Germany, Berliner Philharmoniker is one of the top orchestras in the world. In a few months, they will return to the Japanese capital where they will play three concerts at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. They will also play a very special free open-air concert in front of 10,000 people in one of the most popular parks in Tokyo, the Shinjuku Gyoen Landscape Garden.

During a recent visit to Japan, Andrea Zietzschmann, General Manager of the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker, explained some details of these pre-Olympic concerts.

“For us, it is a huge honour to take part in the Olympic cultural programme. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are such a special event. It means a lot for us, especially because we have a very long relationship with Japan.”

The Berliner Philharmoniker has visited the country on 22 different occasions – the first time was in 1957 with Herbert von Karajan as a conductor. In 2011, they held a charity concert with Japanese conductor Yutaka Sado and further cooperated in different assistance activities in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, helping the children and disaster victims of the Tohoku region.

“We love the Japanese audiences. They are fantastic listeners. People are very concentrated on the music; they have a huge knowledge and the concert halls are fantastic. It is always a very special joy for us to be in Japan”, said Zietzschmann.

A very special conductor

The four concerts which the orchestra will perform next summer in Tokyo will be led by a very special conductor, Gustavo Dudamel - one of the most exciting conductors in the world of classical music today.

Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel

Just like the Berliner Philharmoniker, Dudamel has a strong link to Japan. The Venezuelan conductor has toured the country on many occasions with different orchestras. He is one of the classical music artists whose talent blossomed through El Sistema, Venezuela's widely renowned music education system for underprivileged children. The excitement he brought to Japan with the country's famed Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in 2008 is still fresh in the memory of many classical music fans in Japan.

“Dudamel is one of our key conductors. He comes to the orchestra every season with one or two programmes. In 2018, we did together a big tour in Asia. He also has a close relationship with Japan. So, when the idea about this project came up, we immediately thought about him. He is the right person for this”, said Zietzschmann.

Free open-air concert in Shinjuku

About 400 musicians, including the orchestra members, soloists and a huge chorus, will take part in the free concert in the Shinjuku Gyoen Landscape Garden.

“The free concert will offer an opportunity for everyone to enjoy world-class music in a unique environment and on an unprecedented scale, even for those who don't have much access to classical music in their daily lives”, she added.

The Berliner Philharmoniker has a long relationship with Japan.
The Berliner Philharmoniker has a long relationship with Japan.

During the concert, the orchestra will perform different pieces embodying the celebratory spirit of the Tokyo 2020 Games, including Symphony No. 9 "Choral” by Ludwig van Beethoven. This piece includes the 'Ode to Joy', the anthem of the European Union. Beyond that, the words of the German poet Friedrich Schiller, which is the text for the song, is a very significant expression of the brotherhood of man throughout the world.

“It is a piece that symbolises the connection of people from different countries and races, just like the Olympics and Paralympics,” reminds Zietzschmann.

For her, there is a very clear connection between music and sports so this collaboration between the orchestra and the Games feels very natural.

“Music and sports bring people together from all over the world. There are no borders between nations. It does not matter if you are black or white or if you come from this country or another. For all these reasons, it makes perfect sense for us to be part of this. We are very excited.”

The concerts at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan will take place on 24, 25 and 26 June 2020 at 7 p.m. The open-air concert will take place on 27 June 2020 at 2 p.m. The tickets for the three indoor concerts will go on sale on Sunday 10 May 2020. The details for the pre-registration for the open-air concert will be announced early in March 2020 on a dedicated website.