“In the afternoon we performed in a rather austere theatre in East Berlin. Then I remember we crossed Checkpoint Charlie that evening to play in a club in West Berlin. The atmosphere was completely different. I felt as though we were living in a black and white spy movie.” Nicolas Fiszman recalls that chaotic day of 13 June 1982. Two outstanding guitarists, Philip Catherine and Nicolas Fiszman, who at the time was only seventeen years old, were taken from one side of Berlin to the other in pouring rain to perform to unlikely audiences. At both concerts, they played the same programme of seven pieces written by Philip, with the exception of “Crystal Bells”, composed by Charlie Mariano. The pair were not master and student. Rather, Philip remembers Nicolas like a young brother he might have taken to the beach. After the 1960s, Philip became a major figure on the jazz scene, working with the greatest: Charles Mingus, Chet Baker, Stéphane Grapelli, Dexter Gordon, to name only a few. Nicolas has played with Charles Aznavour, Vanessa Paradis, Francis Cabrel and Eric Serra, and travels the world with Sting.
On that gloomy afternoon, the two guitarists, alone on stage, decided to brighten up the morosity that reigned. The pieces they played bore titles such as “Janet”, “Babel” and “Petit Nicolas”. It is hard to believe that this varied, well-constructed, polyphonic music was not entirely written down on paper. Philip says, “Nothing is written from beginning to end. I compose the themes and some harmonic bridges. Then we have a chord chart … and that’s it.” The foundations are written; inspiration, taste, fantasy and friendship do the rest. We feel as though we are taking a nonchalant walk through Rio or Miami. The concert is punctuated by thunderous applause.
For these brief minutes in that year 1982, the East Berliners were able to fly over their tightly closed borders.
We are privileged to have unearthed this unique concert where two outstanding artists bring together two cultures to create an intense blaze of happiness.