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Music

Egorkin: 'The Berlin Philharmonic is like a giant chamber ensemble'

The Berlin Philharmonic will elect Simon Rattle's successor on May 11. Egor Egorkin is among the 124 musicians from 27 countries entitled to vote. In this interview with DW, he discusses the future of classical music.

DW: Mr. Egorkin, the choice of the next conductor also has a direct influence on the future developments of the orchestra. How do you prepare for this election? Do you listen to recordings, talk to your colleagues?

Egor Egorkin: The most important factor is the personal experience while working with the conductor. Because I haven't been part of the ensemble for very long, I'll take the opinion of my colleagues into account. I listen to recordings as well, of course. The only thing I definitely know is that we'll be having a long day on May 11.

Do you believe the Berlin Philharmonic should tackle what is called the "great repertoire" or should it play more new music?

I don't see a contradiction there. Playing a broad international repertoire is a German tradition. On a personal level, I would like to play as much music composed for my instrument as possible. But it's obviously not possible to always play Rossini and the Fourth of Shostakovich. I can always set my hopes on new music, where the piccolo is quite in demand.

Germany Berlin Philharmonic election. Coppyright: DW/Gaby Reucher

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Speaking of which: how did you choose the piccolo flute?

As a child I had weak lungs, and my mother thought the flute would strengthen me physically. I frankly believe that skiing would have been better, but in any case I practiced diligently - up to eight hours a day. In 2006, I received a scholarship, went to Weimar and discovered my passion for the piccolo flute there. That instrument simply works for me.

You are the only Russian in the orchestra at the moment. How did that happen?

It took me a while to get there: I applied for the job in 2011 and I was invited to the final selection with two other candidates. None of us were chosen. The position remained open. But I was then told I should perfect my skills at the Berlin Philharmonic Academy . This academy is unique: young musicians are taught by great experienced orchestra members there. So I was able to practice with Emmanuel Pahud, Michael Hasel and Andreas Blau. I did everything I could to reach the level of the orchestra.

How did you manage to do that?

Members of the Berlin Philharmonic must not only be technically perfect, but need to develop an all-encompassing musical personality. That came with a lot of work. Subtle nuances make the difference. This orchestra works like a giant chamber ensemble.

Sir Simon Rattle with children. Copyright: dpa/picture alliance S. Stache

Chief conductor Simon Rattle created educational programs for children

The Berlin Philharmonic is perhaps the most democratic orchestra in the world. What is your experience of this "orchestral democracy?"

It was a completely new world for me. The orchestra members are asked to help decide on all the important questions - whether selecting the repertoire, planning the tours or filling positions. They voted on my candidacy as well. Only one vote was against me. I was happy with the results.

One important legacy of Simon Rattle's era is the Digital Concert Hall. Now almost all Berlin Philharmonic concerts can be heard in the best quality on the internet. Is this the future of classical music?

The project is great. Especially with the concerts made available in 3D. When you're sitting in the cinema, you get the impression you're sitting right in front of the conductor. It's a unique experience! On the other hand, I believe the overflow of music in different digital formats found everywhere and often available for free can lead to an inflation of music. I'm personally rediscovering good old vinyl records.

What can ensure that survival of classical music? Where should more energy be invested?

Small children are the ones who matter. I think very highly of the educational program of our orchestra. We go to daycares. We show the kids how the instruments work and how music is made. We even bring a box with small music instruments for them. They love it. I try to take part in those concerts as often as I can.

Flutist Egor Egorkin, born in 1986, has been a member of the Berlin Philharmonic since September 2013.

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