Chronicle of 20 Seconds Silence

(photo: from Benjamin Zander's TED Talk)

Have you ever enjoyed a moment of quiet with 2,000 people?

Recently, I went to Berliner Philharmonie to listen to Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra on their European tournee.

This is a story of quiet, but it gets reasonably loud first.

The players were very young, displaying the energy and fervour characteristic to extraordinary youth orchestras. Their guest, Natalia Gutman with the Dvořák solo concerto, was received with reverence and enthusiasm. On the second half of the concert, the players performed my beloved Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. It was a beautiful concert.

The audience, however, behaved as usual (Frances wrote about that in one of her latest posts): coughing loudly between movements, talking, etc. It almost seemed as if people couldn't stand the silence inbetween movements.

The concert finished, and after a long round of applauses, Mr. Zander turned to the audience to announce the encore. He began by explaining that he is the descendant of Berlin Jewish immigrants who came to England in 1937. 9 family members, though, were killed during the holocaust. He talked about his father's love for the city of Berlin and its cultural efervescence, with Otto Klemperer, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Bruno Walter as active conductors of that time. That evening was the first time he was performing in Berlin, on their only concert in Germany, and it was very special moment for him: his parents would have been joyous and proud to see him perform in this city, but also, it was a bittersweet feeling, because it was also linked to so much pain in his family.

He said they were going to play "Nimrod" by Edward Elgar from the Enigma Variations. And that this piece expressed for him the desire to find peace and unite in friendship through music. And with that, he turned to the orchestra.

Most of you readers will know the piece by its title, and have it in a special place in your hearts. I have no words to describe it. The moment the first chord sounded, I was instantly in tears. I don't know what there is about this music, why it touches so many people. The young players seemed to be raptured by the sounds, feeling the music, letting themselves and their audience be moved.

When the last chord died out, Benjamin Zander had his eyes closed, his arms up. And there was silence.

He stayed with his arms up for a long time; the whole audience, quiet.

I held my breath.

He then slowly, very slowly, started putting his arms down. Time seemed to stand still. And yet, no-one moved.

After a few seconds I stopped worrying that someone would clap and disturb this moment, realizing that the audience was feeling comfortable in this silence. And that no-one desired to interrupt it. There was no fear of the quiet anymore.

His arms were next to his sides, still there was no sound.

And then, he relaxed his arms.


And then, the applause.

And relief, and joy, to be part of 2,000 people united in stillness.

Sometimes, life offers unexpected moments of wonder. This was one of such moments.

Let's have a moment of wonder today.

Maria Busqué is a coach for musical performance and a freelance harpsichord player based in Berlin. You can follow her on twitter, @maria_busque visit her HELLOSTAGE page or find out more about her work at www.mariabusque.net.

Author: Maria Busqué / edited by Nina HELLO STAGE
Comments [2]
Bridget Yee - 2015-07-11 00:47
Mr Zander had came to my country in March,this year and he conducted my orchestra.He gave us a talk about 'The Art Of Possibility' and it was really fun! Awww,I really want to meet him again! He is wonderful!
Maria Busqué - 2015-07-11 19:43
Yes, he is wonderful! How lucky you were to work with him :)
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