Hektor Haarkötter is a professor of communication studies and now passes on his many years of experience as a journalist, television director and author at the Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences. A native of Cologne by choice, he wrote sketches for the legendary Stunksitzung carnival and occasionally performs as a jazz pianist. But despite all the pressure of his schedule, Tuesday evenings are firmly reserved for the Gürzenich Orchestra with his wife Christel Barth and him.
Mr. Haarkötter, Mrs. Barth, it was a special concern of ours to introduce you both first in this column. You got a bit of prominence from a photo we showed of you on the social channels of the Gürzenich Orchestra. The picture was the subject of lively discussion.
Christel Barth: That was very special, the picture was taken at one of the first concerts after the lockdown, which took place with only 100 or 200 guests. The strict Corona rules required that we were not allowed to sit next to each other, even as spouses. We were just happy that finally something like cultural life was taking place again and immediately raised our fingers when one could go to the concert again. We then managed to be close despite the distance between us.
You are both subscribers to the Gürzenich Orchestra. How long have you had your subscription?
Hektor Haarkötter: We slowly got to know each other. At first we regularly bought individual tickets. Then we had the small subscription with six concerts for a relatively long time.
Christel Barth: That was in Block M. We realised that the seat was not ideal for us, and then we upgraded. Now we sit in block F, row 18.
Hektor Haarkötter: For me, going to a concert is always like a holiday, starting at minute 1. I am absolutely relaxed when I sit in the Kölner Philharmonie and the orchestra plays. For me, that replaces a complete day in Tuscany or in the mountains. The more you can have of it, the better. Such little escapes from everyday life are extremely valuable.
Does that always work?
Hektor Haarkötter: Almost always. We have reserved Tuesdays as our cultural evening. We used to always need a babysitter, but now our son is 14 and happy when we're away. Sometimes it just doesn't work out for professional reasons, but then I cry a lot.
What drew you to the Gürzenich Orchestra?
Hektor Haarkötter: I grew up in the Eifel, but we moved several times and lived in Bamberg, among other places. There I had a student subscription to the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and got to know orchestral music through that, which I loved very much. My father was a professional musician, from church organ to jazz to light music, a musical jack-of-all-trades, so I already had a family background. For professional reasons, my wife and I came to Cologne in the 1990s. There's a lot on offer here, the WDR Symphony Orchestra, all the guest performances in the Philharmonie, and somehow we got stuck with the Gürzenich Orchestra. It's simply a great orchestra.
Christel Barth: And we are both big fans of François-Xavier Roth. He has brought a very individual touch to the programming and captures you for the music with his charming manner.
That means that even a world premiere doesn't scare you off?
Hektor Haarkötter: On the contrary. I like that, especially with contemporary compositions, you have the visual pleasure as well as the acoustic pleasure, which makes access much easier: How do the musicians interact with each other, what kind of instruments are there, what kind of sounds do they create?
Do you also listen to classical music at home?
Hektor Haarkötter: I'm a university teacher and that means I'm a desk jockey, I work many hours at the computer. Actually, there is always music playing. With the streaming services today, it's very easy to get to know everything across the board, for example, to compare interpretations. Very often, when I have met a soloist in a symphony concert, I familiarise myself in this way with what else they have recorded in chamber music or with other orchestras.
And which composers do you particularly like?
Hektor Haarkötter: Maybe the great romantic composers like Bruckner or Mahler, simply the really big apparatus, that's why you go to a symphony concert. But we like to be surprised, that's why we are subscribers.
Interview: Johannes Wunderlich