The Berlin Philharmonic will be conducting Alla Turca, a musical event with an explicitly intercultural focus. How have past performances of this event been received? Do you think they have had the intended impact of promoting intercultural dialogue?
They have been received very well. We just had a performance two weeks ago where we brought different ethnic groups, including Jewish orthodox, Armenian and Turkish, who performed together on one stage. This has never happened in Berlin before, making this its first time ever. Their history, especially between those of Armenian and Turkish heritage, made it an important and difficult task. In our first meeting, we were 12 people, speaking six different languages, so the scope for cultural exchange was incredible.
The Berlin Philharmonic, and its Chief Conductor Sir Simon Rattle, was named an official UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2007. Do you think this official appointment demonstrates an increasing recognition of its value as an instrument of cultural diplomacy?
The Philharmonic is known for traveling extensively, exporting an aspect of German culture to a wide audience. Does the Philharmonic strive to include musical aspects of other cultures in its programming as well?
Yes, they do that again and again. Even Alla Turca is an example of where they invite predominantly Turkish musicians, with the Berlin Philharmonic musicians playing in the same concert. So they’d play music like the Tango, which is music from South America. Also, our orchestra is not purely German – we have about 25 different nationalities playing.
Interview conducted by Ishveen Singh