Berlin Suite (2009) for string quartet
From the film by John J. Michalczyk
“Writing on the Wall: Remembering the Berlin Wall”


Program notes

     Berlin Suite op.16 (2009) for string quartet, was commissioned by the German Embassy (Washington D.C.) and Boston College for the film documentary Writing on the Wall: Remembering the Berlin Wall (John Michalczyk and Ronald Marsh, co-producers) for the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The film, shot on location in Berlin, captures the personal narratives of both leaders and citizens caught in the political power struggle.

     The documentary memorializes the history of the Wall as an oppressive structure dividing East Berlin from West Berlin (August 1961-Nov. 1989), whose collapse brought about a new unified Germany. Through interviews with those who lived through these challenging times of the Cold War, the film focuses on remembrance and reassessment. The film received its premiere screening at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, on October 11, 2009. It has also been shown at the International Rotary Convention, Montreal, Canada, June 2010, and is a permanent media fixture at the Check Point Charlie Museum in Berlin.

     Berlin Suite unfolds in eight distinct, dramatic musical reflections that parallel the images and sentiments of the documentary:


I. Fall/Bau
II. Zerteilt
III. In jener Zeit
IV. Rückblick I
V. Rettender Regen
VI. Rückblick II
VII. [N]ostalgie
VIII. Liebesleid
(In that time…)
(Looking back I)
(Saving Rain)
(Looking back II)
(Love’s pain)

     Each movement explores psychological landscapes that emerge as profiles of energy, hope, sadness, anticipation, nostalgia, and reverie. The Berlin Wall holds both real and metaphorical meaning, its presence physically dividing East and West Berlin, while symbolically representing Communist oppression. Liberation from this oppression is painfully bittersweet as a profound sense of regret and loss pervades the music.