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Berliner Philharmoniker Essay Contest  

Crossing Beethoven and Educaton

Happy faces in our essay contest winners Amy Mok and Joyce Lau as they receive from
Ms Katherine Lu, one of our judges, their prized tickets right before the Berliner Philharmoniker's
inaugural concert in Hong Kong on November 13, 2005, under the auspices of the orchestra's
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Simon Rattle, of course. The evening's concert
features Beethoven's
Eroica Symphony and works by Berlioz and Ravel.

October 21, 2005

The results of our Berliner Philharmoniker Student Essay Contest 2005 are out!

The two winning essays, posted below with slight editing, have shown original and personalized thoughts on music listening or concert-going. They have also raised specific discussion on the orchestra and the concert program, and demonstrated reasonably good use of English, essay flow and delivery.

This essay contest was held by Maplewood to encourage students to appreciate the activities and pastimes they are most passionate about, show their understanding, feeling and experiences in their own voices through expository writing as an integral part of their educational and personal development.

The two essayists win the two $1,200 student tickets to the first-ever Berliner Philharmoniker concert in Hong Kong on November 13, 2005 and will be notified by Maplewood shortly.


Essay 1

Why I want to win a ticket to the Berliner Philharmoniker concert?


I started piano at the age of eight. Since then, music has become an important part of my life. In my leisure time, I often listen to RTHK Radio 4 concert programs and music selections by the DJs. I love different kinds of music, especially orchestral music! They have rich textures and beautiful melodies and harmonies. When the various timbres of the orchestra combine together, the sound is just fantastic!! However, I seldom have the chance to listen to live concerts of great orchestras in the world, because my family financial situation does not allow me to do so.

In order to enrich my knowledge of music, I started studying this subject in Form 4, and took the HKCEE and HKAL music examination. I learnt more about the historical background of different genres of Western and Chinese music, and the way to analyze and appreciate them from different angles.

's Symphony No.3 "Eroica" was one of the pieces I had studied. I was particularly impressed by the heroic character of the piece. The story relating to Napoleon also added colour to it. I have listened to various recordings of this piece, but I am sure that a live performance will be more heart-touching and breathtaking. I have also studied Berlioz and Ravel’s music and fully enjoy the Romantic styles. Therefore, I find the program performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker is very appealing to me.

In fact, the orchestra itself is the most attractive. I have listened to many positive comments and great recordings by the Berliner Philharmoniker on Radio 4. The orchestra was established in 1882, and had cooperated with many world-class composers like Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Liszt, Strauss, Mahler, and Bruckner. This is their first concert in Hong Kong, which is a really unique opportunity for music lovers to have a closer look on this fantastic orchestra and listen to their professional performance. However, tickets are selling so fast that it is hard to grab one. I really want to win a ticket to the Berliner Philharmoniker concert so that I will not miss this once-in-a-life-time experience and be able to share it with my friends.

Wing Han Mok, 19, is a Year 1 student in Professional Accountancy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.


Comments from judges:

The author explains why the Berliner Philharmoniker is worth supporting and gives evidence of a good command of the music scholarship. There is real passion in her description of the concert and strong desire to attend the concert.

The author could have said more about how she developed a passion for music and what she gets out of learning music. Perhaps learning music is just for pleasure and pure enjoyment? That is a good enough reason. But as a reader, I'd like to know more.

Essay 2

Why I want to win a ticket to the Berliner Philharmoniker concert?


People go to the Berliner Philharmoniker concert with one reason - to hear world-class performance live. For me, it is more or less the same - to get a taste of fine music, if I ever have the chance.

Despite having taken HKCEE Music, AL Music and being a university music student now, I do not play an orchestral instrument. The Berliner Philharmoniker will be the one to make me a listener understand the joy of making music with others!

Live performance! I don't have perfect pitch but my ears won't be fooled by sound produced by the vibration of carbon dust inside speakers. I much prefer the mechanism of real instruments. Going to concerts allow me to enjoy the acoustic effect of the venue. Hi-fi music has acoustic design, but that is another story. Furthermore, live performance allows interesting mistakes, which are absent in refined recording. Moreover, a compact disc records nothing more than sound. Only when sitting in the same hall and feeling the same temperature can players and listeners be bound together by music. This is why people buy perhaps the most expensive tickets in their lives for one concert rather than ten CDs for hundred times of listening to each.

Placido Domingo conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker concert "Spanish Night" under a shelter with thousands of people sitting around orderly on the grass. In the concluding piece, Domingo took the microphone to sing the famous tune with the audience and everyone lit firework sticks in their hands. I am in love with that atmosphere! It's a pity that only the educated, rich ones can afford the concert in Hong Kong. Yet the unique style of the orchestra will surely appear in the concert hall!

Regarding the programme, it's just one-seventh of the "Beethoven cycle" presented by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra last season. While "Eroica" is not the most representative Beethoven symphony, it is the most remarkable one, both in motivation (for Napoleon) and musical style. I look forward to listening to the fascinating violin phrases in the 1st movement!

If only I had been reminded earlier of the words of Simon Rattle that "Music is not luxury but a necessity," I would have bought the tickets before they were sold out. I therefore write to grab this one last chance to fulfil my necessity!

Sze Wing Lau, 18, is a Year 1 student in Music at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.


Comments from judges:

The author writes with a good deal of sincerity and presents her arguments with candor and an informed sensitivity.... I like her keen observation: "live performance makes interesting mistakes." We all make mistakes, but not always "interesting."

The author mentions an example of the unique style of the Berliner Philharmoniker, and discusses a bit on the program. Could have elaborated more on "music is not a luxury but a necessity" with an example or personal experiences.

Essay Contest announcement, September 13, 2005

Contest rules

Thank you all for participating! Our special thanks to Ms Katherine Lu of Katherine Lu Music Centre, Hong Kong, in being one of our judges for the essay contest.

The Berliner Philharmoniker performing on stage, and performing education outreach through
Zukunft@BPhil, a Berliner Philharmoniker initiative that seeks to make the orchestra's work and its music accessible to the widest public.


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