An old piano workshop has become my new concert favourite.
Hi, my name is [yeah, not so fast internet] and I like classical music; but I know squat all about it. It’s pretty, it’s soothing, it even makes me feel a bit clever until I’m asked what the name of the piece is I’m listening to. The answer the poor, sophisticated soul will get is probably: “Uhhh… abbreviation, number, some foreign words?!” At least, this was the limited extent of my relationship to classical music for some time. Until Piano Salon Christophori walked into my life.
OK, I lied, I did the walking. The first time I walked into it, I’d only decided to come about 3 hours earlier. In fact I didn’t decide, my more cultured companions did and I tagged along. The deal is that you reserve online beforehand (clearly “beforehand” is open to interpretation), turn up, listen to the music, and only on leaving and after thoroughly enjoying the help-yourself drinks table do you give a donation. However, as a Christophori convert, I will personally wiggle my finger in one ear and push your brain out of the other if you leave anything less than a tenner. And you can guarantee I’ll be there – I ended up going about 6 times in under 3 weeks.
So enough threats and more content: what do they actually play there? As you can tell from the name, it’s mostly solo piano pieces. I used to think that piano music pure was “calming”, “tranquil”; and to be honest sometimes bland. Then I heard madman Rachmaninov; surreal Debussy; and fairy-fingered Liszt. The one composer I actually knew “well” beforehand, Chopin, has an ongoing occasional series devoted to him, with a presenter/performer who should be given a teaching award. He always neatly described the tone of what he was about to play. Then he’d tell a little anecdote about Chopin as lightly as if it’d happened last weekend. And then he’d practically rumple the piano keys with some of the most powerful Chopin recitals I’ve ever heard. If you’re going to call me out on a comparison, there’s the Französischer Dom in Berlin’s historical centre. The Chopin “festival” was good – the pianist was good, but what wasn’t good were the acoustics or the seating plan mess-up. So… good, just good, not mind-blowing like my new favourite music venue.
The Französischer Dom also forgot to provide a drinks table. Bad move.
But musical goldmine aside, what makes Christophori so addictive is the atmosphere. The music plays (no pun soz) a big part in making it atmospheric, but so does the post-industrial landscape it calls its home; so do the lampshades that uplight old piano parts lined up along the workshop’s walls; so do the horrid modern paintings of questionable artistic skill; and of course do does the open trust of keeping the concerts donation-based. The donation system and cosy closeness to a small stage makes the concerts feel less exclusive and stuffy. You’ll see a lot of the young Wedding crowd the media is going crazy about, but usually the ones with more brains than beards. On the other end of the spectrum, the people who could be sitting about 3 metres from you (yes, there are even seats just behind the player’s stool) may have got on a plane to have the pleasure of playing here, and may have gotten an applause twenty times bigger just last week. Christophori is laid-back, but not amateur. And though they take the piano seriously, their true attraction is in their soul – their knowing, witty, hard-working, soulful players.
Taken from the best seat in the house.
See you next week, then.
Piano Salon Christophori
PS: Panicking about reserving online because, like, effort? It takes half a second. On the programme list each concert has a little button cutely titled “Reservierungswunsch” which you click, and then magically a little form appears asking how many seats you’d like, what your name is and your email address. Your name will see you on the other side – on the right-hand side that is, as you walk in the front and only entrance, in an alphabetical list next to your seat number. Please do not ask me how their letter-number-seating-category system works. Just find your name label on a seat and enjoy.