hours in Munich
by Michael Sinclair
|While opera may be the main drawing card, Munich has plenty
of other attractions to make a long weekend in this city a must for anyone
with an interest in art and culture.
Friday, 10.00am: After a hearty Bavarian breakfast I am ready
to hit the road. A great introduction to any city is to take a half-day
sightseeing tour, but I am attracted by the hop-on/hop-off bus operated
by Grayline, which circumnavigates the city on a regular basis and takes
in all the main attractions. Feeling brave I opt for the Grand Circle
tour that lasts for 2.5 hours should you not get off the bus. Which
of course you must! For those with less time to spare there is an Express
option which takes an hour covering the inner city.
Soon I am whizzing past the very ornate Königsplatz with its imposing
buildings, then onto the museum quarter (that's for tomorrow!) before
heading out to Schloss Nymphenburg on the outskirts of the city, an
impressive Baroque palace built as the summer residence for the Bavarian
Electors. Other stops include the still very modern looking Olympiapark
built for the 20th Summer Olympic Games in 1972, the recently refurbished
BMW Museum focusing on the fascination of the BMW brand, and a number
of impressive monuments and buildings reflecting Munich's historical
past. You soon realise that Munich has a long history dating back to
its roots in the 12th century and wonderful architecture to match.
1.00pm: I elect to get off the bus in the centre of the Altstadt
as hunger pangs are beginning to grip me and a friend has recommended
Spatenhaus, a restaurant right across from the National Theatre on Max-Joseph-Platz.
Spatenhaus specialises in local Bavarian cuisine and is clearly a favourite
with the locals. Soon I'm tucking into crispy roast pork, dumplings
and red cabbage all washed down with the local beer. Delicious!
Although a snooze after lunch seems like a good idea, there is simply
far too much to do for that, so I head across the square to the Residenz,
the palace for the Dukes, Electors and Kings of Bavaria, and their main
seat of government over the centuries. The complex is vast - over the
years each of the rulers extended the rooms and furnished them to suit
their own personal tastes, engaging important artists to do this. The
result is a labyrinth of public and private rooms that trace the history
of Bavaria until the early 20th century. Highlights include the exquisitely
ornate Antiquarium (photo right) and the gold and precious jewels to
be found in the Treasury. Be prepared to get lost!
Entrance to the Residenz also includes entry to the recently restored
Cuvilliés Theatre, which can be accessed from the Fountain Courtyard.
Built between 1751 and 1753 the theatre is a masterpiece of rococo art
and is a must see for opera lovers, being the venue for the world premiere
of Mozart's Idomeneo in 1781.
8.00pm: The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its
60th birthday with a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony and I am
lucky enough to have a ticket! The orchestra has a well-deserved reputation
as the leading orchestra in Munich and has enjoyed an illustrious range
of Chief Conductors since its formation in 1949, including Eugen Jochum,
Rafael Kubelik, Sir Colin Davis and Lorin Maazel.
This evening's concert is conducted by its current Chief Conductor,
Mariss Jansons, and is a rapturous affirmation of the ability of music
to transcend the humdrum of everyday life. Jansons, the magnificent
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the outstanding soloists
(Luba Orgonasova, Lioba Braun, Christian Elsner, Gerald Finley) bring
Beethoven's glorious symphony to a resounding conclusion with an uplifting
rendition of the Ode to Joy. I walk out into the cool night air
with my head spinning with magical musical memories.
Saturday, 10.00am: Munich is awash with museums and there is
certainly something to suit every taste. I have my eye on modern art
and head for the Brandhorst, Munich's newest museum having just opened
in May this year. Of private provenance this collection definitely has
the WOW factor! Its collection, which encourages the controversial younger
trends in art, includes works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Georg Baselitz
and Damien Hirst all presented with flair and panache over three floors.
My head spinning I check out the funky café in the museum for a well-needed
caffeine and sugar fix.
Adjacent to the Brandhorst Museum are the three Pinakothek museums
covering art across different periods in history between the 14th and
21st centuries. Continuing my modern art theme for the morning I head
for the Pinakothek der Moderne which houses four different collections
of paintings, graphics, sculpture and design. The museum is enormous
and its collections are wide ranging and varied - I particularly like
the design section where everyday items from the 20th century, such
as early PC's, have been elevated to a status of high art. If I am slightly
underwhelmed by the museum it is perhaps that it lacks the wow factor
of the Brandhorst and I reflect that I should have visited them the
other way round.
2.00pm: As part of its 60th birthday celebrations the Bavarian
Radio Symphony Orchestra is having an open day in the Herkulessaal.
This concert hall is a must see in its own right with the ghosts of
many famous composers treading its corridors. This is where Mozart applied
for a job at the Residenz, but was turned down!
The open day turns out to be a real eye opener and it is wonderful
to see so many children inspecting the different instruments, listening
to mini concerts and hearing musicians talking about their craft. An
open day like this is an investment in the future of classical music
and the enthusiasm shown by the children confirms the importance of
music in this wonderful city. And the adults are having fun too!
It's show time! This evening the Bavarian State Opera is presenting
the premiere of a new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Premieres
are always exciting events in Munich as the company is known for its
controversial productions which generally divide opinion. This premiere
proves to be no exception! Director Stephan Kimmig takes a very modern
view of the work where sex, alcohol and debauchery are the order of
the day. It all proves too much for the first night audience who vociferously
boo the director and his production team. The Bavarian State Opera aims
to challenge its audiences and it certainly does that!
Sunday, 10.00am: I have a precious couple of hours left in Munich
before my flight home and decide to spend the time walking around the
Altstadt. However I am soon diverted into St-Jakobs-Platz, which is the
home of the new Jewish Museum, a cube shaped building that stands next
to the new main synagogue and community centre. The museum collection
illustrates the rich diversity of Jewish culture and history in Munich
and also addresses current issues relating to Jewish life, art and culture.
It proves to be a humbling experience.
As I wander around the Altstadt I reflect on Munich's cultural identity
and its ability to build on its rich heritage and yet present itself
to the world in a modern way. The Brandhorst Museum screams 'modern'
as do most of the productions at the Bavarian State Opera, yet a classical
music performance in the Herkulessaal provides a link to the past. It
is a vibrant mix of old and new that is exceptionally appealing.
Art and culture thrive in Munich in many shapes and forms making it a
city that demands to be discovered. I'll be back!
Photos (top to bottom):
Munich - Ruhmenshalle; Skyline; Philharmonie im Gasteig
Residenz - the Antiquarium
of Don Giovanni
Radio Symphony Orchestra