KHO on Tour - Cologne

By Annette Zerpner June 2, 2024


Konzerthausorchester in der Philharmonie Köln © Sue Yang

Whether it's a 4-hour journey or a 17-hour journey, train, bus or plane, Cologne or Tokyo, three days or three weeks, summer or winter - orchestra tours (fortunately) always follow a well-rehearsed ‘choreography’ that ensures that everyone can sit on stage in the evening and play wonderful music with as little stress as possible.


Tour countdown

Saturday morning, we set off to Cologne from Berlin Main Station. But only the musicians. The tour began a day earlier for our chief stage manager Dirk Beyer and his colleages Gregor Beyer and Raphael Volkmer as well as for the larger instruments: at the Konzerthaus at noon on Friday, the hatch of the instrument lorry that drives ahead of us during the tour closed behind cello cases, mobile wardrobe cabinets, violin cases, timpani and all kinds of other accessories for the performance. Even the orchestra's musicians set off the day before, because the routes and workflows are slightly different at every venue. And it's precisely these details that would otherwise make life difficult for us!

For orchestra manager Sophia Berendt, it has of course been a very  busy week: is everyone healthy - if not, who will fill in?  Are there any changes to the logistics? Even with a medium-sized cast, there are around 75 people on the road. Yesterday they all got off happily and almost punctually in the afternoon next to Cologne Cathedral.

Two hours for checking in at the hotel, a short rest and the individual clarification of the eternal question "Where can I get something (good) to eat?" (Especially important on tour!)

Then, it is already time to set off for the pre-concert rehearsal in the Philharmonie. That is even possible on foot this time.

Everyday life on tour, that's also queuing again and again, waiting, warming up - and a quick vending machine coffee backstage in between. Here are a few impressions of the first day and from the morning of the second, photographed by principal clarinettist Ralf Forster.

Brahms, Beethoven & huge applause

We do a rehearsal at each venue before the concert, because "every hall has its own atmosphere that you can feel as soon as you walk in. I don't mean that esoterically, but physically," explains principal clarinettist Ralf Forster shortly after 7 pm. The pre-concert rehearsal is over, the orchestra members are in a good mood between professional composure and joyful tension. "Playing in different places is always good for musical flexibility,’" adds Ralf. And clarinet colleague Norbert Möller enthuses: "I'm really looking forward to this hall - especially to being able to share Augustin Hadelich's Brahms with the audience! It's like when I go hiking, photograph a wonderful landscape and look forward to showing it to others."

Final preparations in the guest hall: Joana Mallwitz discusses small changes to the seating positions with orchestra manager Dirk Beyer. Solo flautist Yuan Yu and trumpeter Stephan Stadtfeld test the acoustics. (Photos: Norbert Möller)

The sensitive adaptations to the acoustic conditions in the Kölner Philharmonie clearly won over the Cologne audience: after the first half with Augustin Hadelich's interpretation of Brahms, many didn't remain seated and after Beethoven's ‘Eroica’, there was an equally long and heartfelt applause for the Konzerthausorchester and Joana Mallwitz. At the end, the chief conductor handed her bouquet of flowers to Szilvia Pápai for her wonderful oboe solos in both pieces of the evening! (Photos: Suxiaoi Yang)

Home game for JaeWon

No matter where we go, it's always a home game for someone!  Although JaeWon Song comes from Seoul, her first and quite formative encounter with Germany was in Cologne - she studied there and then spent two years with the Gürzenich Orchestra on a temporary contract. ‘That time comes back when I breathe in the air in the Cologne Philharmonie. I have many fond memories of this concert hall,’ she tells us backstage. “And the people are really friendly."

And what was it like for her with the carnival? ‘I joined in the party for the first two years, but then I gave it a miss.’ Today, she has to laugh about the fact that she wanted to flee to Mainz of all places to visit a friend - she now knows where the parades take place and where not. And sometimes still misses them  in Berlin many years later. Also interesting: Linguistic regionalisms in Germany! ‘In Cologne, I always ordered a Berliner at the bakery, but in Berlin I was simply told ’You can't get that here! But there were many on display there.’ JaeWon now even has the word ‘Krapfen’ in his vocabulary thanks to a time in Munich.

And what's next? On Sunday we'll be on the road to Graz from morning to afternoon. There, the next two concerts are on Monday and Tuesday evening.


For this event, you will not receive tickets through our webshop. You will therefore be redirected to an external page of the organizer. If you have any not completed bookings on, they will be dissolved after 20 minutes.