A Trip Through Time
With Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra
Günther Gürsch is born. Mr Gürsch is the person employed by the Palast Orchester who has the greatest amount of life and musical experience. As soon as old sheet music or shellac recordings are discovered he arranges the pieces for the orchestra. He knows how a saxophone section has to sound in every key.
Walter Jurmann composes the song “Veronica, Spring Has Arrived.” Two years before the “Comedian Harmonists” were founded. They make the song a popular hit. Then nothing happens with the catchy tune for quite some time.
A tenor saxophone is made at the company Conn. Through various and complicated ways it winds up in the hands of Bernd Frank. Seventy years later he’ll play it in the Palast Orchester and say that such an old instrument sounds much warmer than a new one.
A biographer notes that a Mr Raabe gave his first vocal performance on December 12, 1962. One could also quite simply say: Max was born.
The future student of music, Max Raabe, encounters the wonders of music on two separate occasions. One in the children’s choir of his church and the other in music lessons, where he hears Beethovens 9th symphony which leaves a lasting impression.
Max Raabe looks through his parents’ record cupboard and discovers his first schellac record. He remembers it being a funny, quick foxtrot which at the same time was also a bit sad. It was called: “I’m Crazy About Hilde.”
Max Raabe survives his first public performance at an evening gathering for the boy scouts in the parish hall of Lünen where small sketches were performed and jokes told.
Max Raabe leaves Westphalia to head to Berlin. He finances his singing lessons as a gardener, caretaker and sometimes he sings for a bit of money to the enjoyment of his neighbors.
A few fellow students at the Berlin University of the Arts come up with the idea to recreate the strict yet elegant sound of the Twenties with an orchestra. The search for old hits begins in archives, at fleamarkets and in old book shops. And the first rehearsals take place.
Berlin’s Theaterball 1987: Premiere! The first performance of the 12-piece orchestra together with its singer of the charming voice. The first piece the group publically perfomed is called: “In the Evening When the Lights Are Aglow” by Fred Raymond. The Palast Orchestra was not booked for the ballroom - just for the entrance foyer. But that was not to happen again: the attendees never reached the ballroom and just stayed to listen to the Orchestra. In the end the group had to play its program twice through.
Max Raabe continues to study opera at Berlin’s University of the Arts and records his first record with the Palast Orchestra. It is called: “Men Are Lovable.” On the record, for example: “My Brother Does the Sound For the Talkies,” today still an old favorite for live performances.
The saxophonist and clarinetist, Sven Behrens joins the orchestra.
The Palast Orchestra is finally no longer considered just a passing craze. Their second album is official. Its called “Little Lady, a Moment Please.”
Now things really pick up. The long-playing record “I Love To Listen To Music” debuts. Its the third album of the Palast Orchestra. Seventeen albums are to follow.
A person such as Max Raabe, who doesn’t like mobile telephones at all, notices the problems of people in the communication age a bit more exactly. And so he writes and composes the song “Kein Schwein ruft mich an” / “No One Ever Calls….” It’s a hit!
Plans for the “Blue Angel” commence. Max Raabe plays the part of a student in the Zadek production and the following year appears on stage with Eva Mattes, Heino Ferch and Ute Lemper.
Max Raabe plays Dr. Siedler in the Berlin new production of the the cult operetta “The White Knight.” And the Palast Orchestra memebers become movie stars. The musicians appear in Sönke Wortmann’s film “Der bewegte Mann” / “Maybe, Maybe Not” and record the soundtrack as well. Of course with such songs as “Men Are Worthy Of Loving”, and “Little Lady, a Moment Please.”
Finally: Max Raabe finishes his studies. From here on he can be addressed as a “state approved baritone.” He never made it to the opera, which was where he originally wanted to be. “You have to be utterly disciplined as a classical singer and that is not me,” Raabe says. “I’m more a pleasure-craving individual.” The same year as receiving his diploma he is knighted musically: Hildegard Knef records the piece “That Iritated Oyster” with Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra. The arrangements and musical direction are in the hands of Günther Gürsch.
Two new members join the Palast Orchestra. The saxophonist Rainer Fox and the violinist Ullrich Hoffmeister join the ranks. Max Raabe returns to acting in Sönke Wortmann’s new production of “Charley’s Aunt.”
The orchestra celebrates their ten-year anniversary. Seventeen thousand fans attend their anniversary concert at Berlin’s most spectacular open-air theater, the “Waldbühne”. “We’re going to do that again,” the orchestra says.
After many of tours through Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Holland the musicians dare to perfom in the homeland of swing. “At the premiere in Los Angeles the audience didn’t want to leave the hall at the end of the concert,” Raabe remembers.
Together with Nina Hagen and HK Gruber Max Raabe sings the roll of “Mack the Knife” in a CD production of the Ensemble Modern of Bertolt Brecht’s “Three Penny Opera.”
In a turn around he interprets Britney Spears’ “Ooops, I Did It Again” and Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” on the latest album of the Palast Orchestra. The record with the Britney Spears’ number and other recent cover-adaptations makes it big in Eastern Europe: number one in Latvia, Ukraine and Lithuania for the Palast Orchestra’s “Super Hits.”
The album “Charming Weill” comes out, a homage to the composer Kurt Weill. And Max Raabe plays the role of the master of ceremonies in Werner Herzog’s film “Invincible.”
The Palast Orchestra is designated the honor of opening the Viennese Festival Weeks in front of an audience of forty-thousand people. “Superhits 2” with songs such as “Lady Marmalade”, “Angel” or “Dance With Me” comes out the same year. The album “Charming Weill” is awarded the Echo for Classic, the most renowned German music prize. Michael Enders becomes the musical director of the orchestra and Max Raabe pens the piece “Cloning Can Be Worthwhile.”
The lavish “Palast Revue” premieres in August at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater. Half a million people have seen the show since then. In their sparetime the orchestra also found the time for a concert series to honor Walter Jurmann, the composer of “Veronica, Spring Has Arrived.”
The repertoire of the Palast Orchestra has reached four hundred pieces. Such classics as “I Break the Hearts Of the Proudest Women”, “Veronica, Spring Has Arrived” as well as own compositions as “Carmen, Have Pity With Me.” can be be found in it. The orchestra could theoretically now play twenty hours straight with out repeating itself.
Two honors in a short time: Max Raabe receives the Paul-Linke-Ring of the city of Goslar and the orchestra performs at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The New York Times enthuses: “A Bygone Era Evoked” and Max Raabe assesses: “I didn’t think we’d be received so euphorically. There were standing ovations and we gave three encores. That’s completely unheard of there. Backstage after the concert we fell into each others arms like soccer players after winning the World Cup.”
Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra dare to take their music really far away: on a three-week tour through Japan and China. More than twenty-thousand people attended the concerts. That many also came to the anniversary concert in August 2006 at Berlin’s Waldbühne. The concert is broadcasted on ARTE, RBB and BR.
Hanne Berger, the most beautiful lady of the orchestra for six years, hands over her violin bow to Cecilia Crisafulli. And Michael Enders passes on the musical directorship to Bernd Frank. Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra continue to live out of their suitcases. Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra give a concert for the first time in a Jewish synagog. An audience of one-thousand-two-hundred listen to the hits of the 20’s and early 30’s in the Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. Two CD’s are released in Japan. Carnegie Hall invites Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra back to open the festival “Berlin in Lights”. “Heute Nacht oder nie” / “Tonight or Never” is the name of the tour which will take them through seventy cities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Walter Jurmann’s song “Veronica, Spring Has Arrived” is still one of the most loved pieces in the program. Bernd Frank enjoys the sound of his old tenor saxophone. And even Günter Gürsch continues to arrange for the Palast Orchestra. So everything just stays the same.