Brahms in Colombia

29 April 2014
Christian Heubes

Christian Heubes



The travel to Paipa started with a strike of all Lufthansa pilots in Germany. In the end it took me 39 hours to reach the wonderful resort in Paipa where we stayed for 10 days to work with the Filarmónica Joven de Colombia on Brahms Symphonies 1 and 2, Suite Tierra Colombiana from José Rozo Contreras and several chamber music pieces.

I woke up very early the first morning because of jetlag (7 hours behind) and used this free time to explore the wonderful place we lived. Directly in front of our hotel you find the lake Sochagota. It reminded me a bit of the lake Alster in Hamburg where I live. That gave me already a feeling of being home. I went running around the lake and could feel the elevation of 2500m but this was the best way to adapt to the new rhythm.

We were very warmly welcomed by all and started immediately working with the musicians. The first few days we had almost only sectionals with the different groups. This was very intensive work on many details. The Brahms 1st and 2nd Symphonies seemed to be a new language for the orchestra, and we worked hard to learn all of the vocabulary.

In the evenings after long sectionals, the students brought chamber music pieces and we could work on other aspects as in the sectionals. I think being part of the chamber music groups is a great opportunity, and it enriches the orchestra playing. It was nice to feel the energy of a youth orchestra again – everybody is hungry to learn and enthusiastic, many asked for individual lessons and were ambitious to learn! That's fun, and the results of that work were presented to all in a small concert in the hotel. For me it was special to listen to the percussion group with Martin Piechotta, our timpani player from MCO. Especially in one of the pieces, when the Colombian musicians introduced a few of their traditional instruments and showed how inspiring the way of playing them can be! A great evening!

When Andres Orozco-Estrada arrived and all of the sectionals were done, everybody could enjoy the tutti rehearsals and every day showed huge progress in making music together, listening to each other and feeling the fire and depth of Brahms' music. I was happy to see that! He moved the orchestra forward and let everybody play better than before. Just great!

Making music was not all we explored. The Colombian kitchen with all its specialties was very good. With each meal they served amazing fruit juices of fruits like Feijoa or Guanabana. I never heard of them before but it felt like being in paradise! Just wonderful!

One evening all students had the chance to ask us questions about our lives, experiences we had with great conductors like Claudio Abbado and how we came to play our instrument. It was a very funny evening, moderated by the assistant conductor Carlos Andres Botero who led it in a charming, humoristic and incredibly warmhearted way and translated everything into Spanish. We all had to laugh a lot. In the end we all watched together the extraordinary live video recording of Brahms 2nd from Musikverein in Vienna with Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Philharmonic. It is always exceptional to watch this recording and be inspired by it!

In all these days of intensive working together we made many new friends in the orchestra who, in return, taught us Salsa steps or played table tennis matches and made us all feel so welcomed that I wished to stay a bit longer in the end. We travelled with the orchestra to Bogotá and were able to listen to the first half of the first concert. It was a wonderful feeling to see the progress the musicians made in these 10 days. I was proud to be part of that project and a bit sad to leave.

As we arrived to the airport, a chance came up to explore one more day in Bogotá because our flight was overbooked. But this changed again and we all entered the plane. I was so tired that I almost slept through the whole flight to Frankfurt for 10 hours.

Thank you all for this extraordinary experience in Colombia,
I won't forget it.