The Berliner Philharmoniker and chief conductor Kirill Petrenko [pictured] return from a highly acclaimed tour of South Korea and Japan. 13 sold-out concerts; Community project “Be Phil Orchestra Japan” a complete success

The Berliner Philharmoniker’s first Asian tour together with Kirill Petrenko has been an unqualified success. All the concerts on the tour, which took the orchestra to Seoul (two concerts), Takamatsu, Himeji, Nagoya, Osaka and Kawasaki, and which culminated in a residency with five concerts at Suntory Hall in Tokyo, were completely sold out. The community project “Be Phil Orchestra”, held in Japan for the first time, was also presented in a sold-out Suntory Hall.

After each concert, chief conductor Kirill Petrenko was called to the stage for additional individual applause. A Japanese reviewer wrote: “In recent years, no other visit by an orchestra to Japan has been this eagerly awaited.”

The concerts were also hailed by many fans on social media. After the first concert in Suntory Hall, the hashtags “#BerlinPhil” and “#Heldenleben” trended on Japanese X. The press conferences in both Seoul and Tokyo were covered by major news outlets. The autograph sessions after many of the concerts were also well-received, with fans lining up in queues several hundred metres long to meet members of the Berliner Philharmoniker in person.

A tour highlight was Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s attendance of the final concert in Suntory Hall on 26 November. Afterwards, the Emperor enjoyed a personal backstage conversation with general manager Andrea Zietzschmann, chief conductor Kirill Petrenko, and concertmasters Vineta Sareika-Völkner and Daishin Kashimoto.

For the first time, the Berliner Philharmoniker organised a major community project in Japan. The “Be Phil Orchestra Japan”, consisting of 98 amateur musicians, rehearsed Johannes Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello and excerpts from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet together with members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Under the direction of chief conductor Kirill Petrenko (Prokofiev) and Raphael Haeger, with concertmaster Daishin Kashimoto and principal cellist Ludwig Quandt as soloists (Brahms), the project culminated in a concert in Suntory Hall. Many new friendships were made both on and off stage as a result of the direct encounter between the professional and amateur musicians, and there were even a few tears when the project drew to a close. The Berliner Philharmoniker’s education programme, made possible by Deutsche Bank, and local broadcaster Fuji TV were responsible for the “Be Phil Orchestra”. They were supported by the Askonas Holt agency, which organised the orchestra’s tour of Asia.