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Palast Orchester Berlin y Max Raabe

marzo 18, 2019

Max Raabe singt mit dem Raben

A veces da alegría liberarse a bajo precio de un error. Juzgando, apresurado, los títulos de su repertorio, viví años en la creencia de que la “Palast Orchester” era un conjunto musical de la época de Weimar. Debo a Mercedes Alsina (Matahari) la comprobación de que se trata de un grupo orquestal alemán formado en 1986 en Berlín al estilo de otros similares de los años 1920 y 1930. Su repertorio abarca canciones cabareteras, folclóricas y melodías de entretenimiento  tanto de la época weimariana como estadounidenses.

Alte Lieder
El grupo se formó en la Universidad de las Artes de Berlín por Max Raabe y varios compañeros del centro. En los primeros años, los miembros tocaban con instrumentos que Raabe compraba en mercadillos de la zona. A lo largo de un año, los integrantes estuvieron trabajando para conseguir todo el material que necesitaban para las interpretaciones.
En 1987 hicieron su primer concierto en público en el Teatro de Danza de Berlín como teloneros durante un segundo acto. La recepción por parte de los asistentes fue tan entusiasta que el público abandonó la sala de baile para escucharles en el vestíbulo. Cinco años después publicaron su primer hit: Kein Schwein ruft mich an. [“Ningún cerdo me telefonea – ninguna chancha quiere estar conmigo”].
En 2005 debutaron en el Carnegie Hall, y dos años después volvieron a actuar. En 2008 publicaron su álbum: Heute Nacht oder nie – Live in New York, con el concierto en directo. En marzo de 2014 actuarían por tercera vez.
Los miembros son en su mayoría hombres, con la única excepción de las violinistas, mujeres desde el origen de la orquesta.
Parte del repertorio de Palast Orchester son versiones como homenajes a compositores de la extinta República de Weimar como: Walter JurmannFritz RotterWill MeiselCharles AmbergGünter SchwennAdolf Steimel y Ralph Maria Siegel. También son habituales las piezas musicales populares alemanas y estadounidenses con estilo vintage, y versiones de otros cantantes como Britney Spears,Tom Jones y Salt-N-Pepa entre otros.

Escribe un cronista en inglés:

In reality, nowadays Max Raabe should be considered a freak; he is always polite, dresses only in dapper suits and is quite the old-fashioned gentlemen. Even his songs are in the style of the Twenties and consequently stand out in today’s musical landscape. Yet that is precisely what makes him so popular with everyone: the music of the ‘Golden Twenties’ is timeless.
In 2001 Britney Spears’ lascivious hit Oops, I did it again seemed to be a one-summer wonder. But then Max Raabe did his own cover version, took out the electronic drums and the synthesiser and orchestrated the song with loads of horns, violins, a banjo and a clarinet. In what other pop song nowadays do you get to hear a clarinet? A couple of tricks later and the girlie-song has a coating of that most glamorous of eras: the Golden Twenties, a short period when art, culture and science flourished in Germany. Above all, the 46-year old sings the girlish words in a nasal, old-fashioned, American accent as if he had just come from filming F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. And Germans just love it. Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester are a German pop phenomenon and are in complete contrast to a Kraftwerk or a Rammstein, because they look backwards into the past.
The slender Max Raabe could easily pass for one of the gentlemen from the Comedian Harmonists sextet, a Berlin vocal ensemble who warbled various hits from 1927 to 1935. And he certainly sets himself out that way: he always has pomade in his hair, wears a tailcoat, and raises his eyebrows meaningfully as if fresh out of a silent film. Whilst performing, he often leans against the grand piano and looks around laconically. Max Raabe has written many songs in a Twenties and Thirties style, but does not look down on covering songs such asSuper Trouper by Abba, Tainted Love by Soft Cell or even Angel by Shaggy.
Max Raabe was born in 1962 in Lünen, Westphalia, and was christened Matthias Otto. He went to the big city of Berlin in 1986 and has not left since. He wanted to be a singer and trained as an opera singer (baritone) at the Hochschule für Opernsänger. He founded the Palast Orchester with fellow students and initially re-produced old shellacs, the old rubber-coated gramophone records of the Fifties. The group’s first major performance was in the foyer of the Berliner Hochschule der Künste.
Wedding Serenade for Marilyn Manson
The Palast Orchester made its breakthrough in 1992 with Raabe’s own composition, an intentionally jokey song entitled Kein Schwein ruft mich an, the rather stroppy song seemingly hitting a nerve with the public. Max Raabe appeared briefly in Sönke Wortman’s film Der Bewegte Mann (1994) and in his version of the German comedy classic Charley’s Tante (1997). Up til now, however, the highlight of Raabe’s career has been a concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall in October 2007. After more than 20 albums, Max Raabe can now be considered a world star. There are tours to Japan, Russia and America. Goth-rocker Marilyn Manson is one of his fans – he asked Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester to play at his wedding to Dita van Teese.
With a song repertoire from the Weimar period – tangos, hits, jazz – Raabe is perhaps the most successful product of a wave of nostalgia that began sometime at the start of the Nineties with German chansoniers such as Tim Fischer and the actor/singer Ulrich Tukur. Attendance at dance schools went up sharply, and in 1992 the Wintergarten Varieté opened up in Berlin as an homage to the original ‘Wintergarten’ of the Weimar period. The Varieté, music hall theatre closely aligned to circus, meant artistic, dance, acrobatic and musical performances, with a touch of class.
It is difficult to work out where this fascination with nostalgia came from. In France chansons remain popular with young people, but Germany does not have this sort of tradition. The simplest explanation: swing, with its syncopated rhythms, appears to be timeless. At the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009 Germany went for a retro sound with the musicians Alex Swings Oscar Sings!, after it’s all-female group, No Angels, came off so badly in 2008. You don’t have to like light entertainment music,  however it is difficult to say anything against it. There is even an online radio programme dedicated to it: Weimar Rundfunk only broadcasts music from the Weimar period.
Yet Raabe and his cute style are also presentable, a kind of ‘everyone’s darling’. He plays benefit concerts such as “Tu was!” or moderates the festive Berlin Operngala for AIDS-charities, following in the shoes of German humorist Vicco von Bülow, alias Loriot. Max Raabe likes the “intelligent form of banality” as he describes it in an newspaper interview, the “art of deflection”. Quite independently of this, the songs from the Weimar period all contain a good dose of black humour, particularly those of Cole Porter, the American musical composer so admired by Raabe. The hit songs of the Twenties were not created to change the world, they are simply there to haul people out of their miserable reality, says Raabe. Nothing else. Which is how Eric Cruz from Norway, who founded the very first Max Raabe fan club on Facebook, sees it: “It sounds clean, fresh and accessible. I believe that this music is this popular simply because all the melodies sound so familiar.”
Max Raabe knew early on that he wanted to become a singer. Enamored first of Wagner and Beethoven, then of the music of the roaring ’20s, he spent seven years at the Berlin University of the Arts studying to become an operatic baritone.
To help finance his studies, Raabe founded the “Palace Orchestra” with 11 other students in 1986. After a year of rehearsals, their first performance in the foyer of Berlin’s Theaterball proved such a success that they had to repeat the program. Then, in 1992, Raabe’s breakthrough lament, “No One Ever Calls, No One Has a Care for Me,” became so popular that it led to solo and orchestral performances on stage, screen, and television.
Raabe first performed in the United States in 2004 when he and his piano player wowed 600 people at UCLA. After a performance by Raabe and the entire orchestra the following year in Zankel Hall, the two-CD live recording of their 2007 visit to Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage further cemented their reputation.

Video Konzert 2018

Raabe recently chatted with Jason Victor Serinus by phone from Germany about his music and his anticipated return with the Palast Orchester to Carnegie Hall..
JVS: What specifically attracts you to the pop music of the 1920s and ’30s from America and the Weimar Republic?
MR: There is a special humor in these songs, a very sarcastic and black humor that has double meaning. And yet the compositions are so elegant. It’s nice to wear a tuxedo and to sing sarcastic things.
JVS: Why do you think this music is so popular now?
MR: I think people want this kind of elegance. You wouldn’t ask me these questions if I had an orchestra that plays music by Haydn or Brahms or Schubert.
JVS: What does elegance signify for you?
MR: My mother always took care to behave in a correct way at the table, or to open the doors, or to help [someone] into a coat. On my mother’s side, the older sons were always farmers, and the younger sons were always in the military or in very noble horse regiments of Kaiser Wilhelm. There was a culture of how to behave.
JVS: And you sing some very elegant, naughty songs in which people misbehave. But some of the American songs you do, such as “Cheek to Cheek” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” don’t seem to be sarcastic songs with black humor.
MR: No. These are elegant, charming songs. I’m talking about the lyrics of Cole Porter, for example. They have a special humor. As we call it here in Germany, it’s typical Jewish humor. That ends in 1933, of course. But this humor is why the music of the Weimar Republic is my favorite kind of pop music.
JVS: Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin were Jewish. But Cole Porter wasn’t, was he?
MR: But he said, “I am writing Jewish music.”
JVS: I saw part of the PBS broadcast where you speak about wanting to do music by Jewish composers, and reference what happened during the Third Reich. What does it mean to you to sing so much music by people who were suppressed, killed, or forced to emigrate?
MR: I have to say that I sing these songs because they are so brilliant. I realized later that these songs were written by Jewish composers. That is important to know. But I sing the songs because of the quality of the music. I perform a lot of wonderful songs that were written by non-Jewish composers. But my favorites, I realized after awhile, are written by songwriters who are Jewish.
JVS: So you’re not trying to make any kind of political statement by singing these songs?
MR: No. That is not my role. The reason for bringing songs on stage is that they are good: that is the only reason.
JVS: Did you find your style early on, or did it take a number of years?
MR: I found it very early. I learned a lot from listening to recordings of the way I was singing, and [adapted] to make it clearer and higher. It changed a lot, but the roots were there from the beginning.
JVS: Did you sing as much in falsetto back then?
MR: Now I do it more. This mixture of singing very low and very high is a new way to play with the instruments, like a cat on the roof.
JVS: Were you surprised by the reaction when you began performing in the United States?
MR: I’m not surprised, but I’m always thankful because we work a lot. We aren’t lazy; we’re always looking forward to finding new songs and new effects when we’re onstage. To find an audience for music that is 80 years old is still a miracle to me. It’s the greatest gift I can get, to bring this music to the stage: the music I love: and see that other people love it, too.

Video Gran concierto

Para lectores y estudiantes del idioma alemán reproducimos una información condensada:

Das Berliner Palast Orchester  spielt vorwiegend Schlager-, Tanz- und Unterhaltungsmusik der 1920er- und 1930er-Jahre. Das Orchester wurde 1986 von zwölf Musikstudenten gegründet und stand zunächst unter der musikalischen Leitung von Michaela Hüttich. Man nahm sich dabei die Tanzorchester der zwanziger und frühen dreißiger Jahre zum Vorbild. Sänger Max Raabe wurde später auch der Leiter des Orchesters.

Den Durchbruch schaffte das Orchester 1994 durch die Mitwirkung im Film Der bewegte Mann und das dort gespielte Lied Kein Schwein ruft mich an. Seither folgten zahlreiche Tourneen durch Deutschland, Österreich, die Schweiz, die Niederlande sowie 2004 nach Italien und in die USA und 2007 nach Japan.

Dazu kamen Auftritte bei großen Bällen wie dem deutschen Bundespresseball, dem Wiener Opernball 2000 und eine eigene Palast-Revue, die im Berliner Wintergarten, in der Alten Oper Frankfurt, im Deutschen Theater München und im Wiener Ronacher gezeigt wurde. In Summe kommt das Orchester auf über 200 Aufführungen im Jahr. Ergänzt wird das Programm durch zahlreiche CD-Aufnahmen.

Das Repertoire des Orchesters umfasst Schlagerkompositionen der 1920er- und 1930er-Jahre, die weitgehend in Originalbesetzung gespielt werden. Darunter Veronika, der Lenz ist da von Walter Jurmann und Fritz RotterEin Kuß nach Ladenschluß (Will MeiselCharles Amberg, Günter Schwenn) oder Die Männer sind schon die Liebe wert (von Adolf Steimel und Ralph Maria Siegel). Das Orchester spielt auch Neukompositionen (z. B. Kein Schwein ruft mich anKlonen kann sich lohnen) und Coverversionen aktueller Titel (z. B. von Britney Spears oder Shaggy) im 1920er-Jahre-Stil.

Bei manchen Liedern singen auch diverse der männlichen Mitglieder mit. Das weibliche Mitglied wechselte mehrfach: Nach Michaela Hüttich, Kaja Kürer (heute Beringer, (1989–1997)), Emily Bowman (1998–2000) und Hanne Berger (2001–2007) übernahm im März 2007 Cecilia Crisafulli die Violine.

Quellen: Wiki und Werbungsprogramme



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