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Founded in 1986 by the charismatic baritone Max Raabe, MAX RAABE & PALAST ORCHESTER embodies the high style and musical glory of the 20's and 30's and has been heard by adoring audiences in The United States, Shanghai, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, Vienna, Amsterdam, Rome and Tel Aviv, performing over 100 concerts a year.
Max Raabe captures this timeless music with precision, urgency and irony. A singer of incredible range, he has a singular ability to capture the cunning rasp of the cabaret singer, the confident belcanto hero, the oily melodiousness of the revue beau, the carefree timbre of early jazz, as well as the falsetto of ragtime, all backed by his stellar 12-member band, many of whom have been with him from the beginning. Max Raabe's art lies in revealing the enigmatic intelligence, ambiguity, musical power and complexity of the "German chansons" from the turbulent Weimar Republic. In his amazing performances he keenly reminds us that between melancholy and irony, rebellion and resignation, elegy and slapstick there is often only half a measure, sometimes just a single note, or a mere word.
Over the years Max Raabe & Palast Orchester have discovered that one of the secrets of a good show is diversity. Accordingly, their vast repertoire includes classics like "I Kiss Your Hand Madame", "My Little Green Kaktus" and "Heute Nacht oder nie" ("Tonight Or Never") or from the American Songbook "Cheek To Cheek", "Night And Day" and "I Got Rhythm", as well as Rumbas ("Amapola"), Paso Dobles ("Rosa, Charming Rosa".. I fell in love ´cause she looked so cute, last summer in her bathing suit"), rare gems ("My Gorilla Has A Villa In A Zoo"), charming gems ("Love Thy Neighbour") and silly gems ("Dort tanzt Lulu" ("Lulu is dancing too! Ahaha, uhuhu")). Listeners may find themselves dreaming to a romantic melody such as "Leben ohne Liebe kannst du nicht" ("You can´t live without love"), hanging onto Max´s lips during his hilarious announcements, urging to dance on their seats to a lilting big band arrangement as to "You´re The Cream In My Coffee", then relaxing to a Comedian Harmonists adaption or a beautiful violin solo before a funny song like "Who´s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf" gives new impetus for the next wave of pure entertainment.
In 1997 the Palast Orchester celebrated their 10th anniversary with an audience of 20,000 at Berlin's Waldbühne. In 2000 the album "Charming Weill" was released on BMG Classics, a homage to the composer Kurt Weill, which was awarded the "Classic Echo", and "Super Hits" replaced the Beatles as the "No.1" Album in the charts in Latvia. In 2002 the Palast Orchester had the honor of opening the Viennese Festival Weeks for an audience of 40,000 and in the same year this orchestra made its USA premiere at Royce Hall in Los Angeles and the Fox Theater in Atlanta GA. From its premiere at Hamburg's Thalia Theater in August 2003 to the last show in mid 2007 the lavish production "Palast Revue" with changing scenery, a stunning chorus line and video backdrop was seen by more than 300,000 people.
In Spring 2004 Max Raabe and his pianist Christoph Isreal made his New York debut in two sold-out solo concerts in the Neue Galerie on New York's elegant Upper East Side. This and the following tour of Max Raabe & Palast Orchester to Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Antonio really sparked off their US career. In 2005 Max Raabe & Palast Orchester made their Carnegie Hall debut at Zankel Hall. In the following yearly tours to the US, the Berlin based band performed in an ever increasing number of cities, winning more and more enthusiastic fans as they played themselves from success to success. The highlight for the German gentlemen and beautiful lady violinist were two sold out concerts in Carnegie Hall, to which New York Times simply remarked "Fantastic!" and New York Daily News added "Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester may be one of the smoothest treasures ever to hit Carnegie Hall".
The show they were referring to was "Heute Nacht oder nie" ("Tonight Or Never"). This title became motto when the "smoothest treasure" made the bold decision of being the first German show band to record themselves live at Carnegie Hall. The CD landed with impact in the German market and soon reached Gold-status.
Gold-status was also reached with the DVD-production of "Heute Nacht oder nie". It goes without saying that Max Raabe & Palast Orchester didn´t play safe for this enterprise either. They recorded themselves live, chose an original theatre of the 20s in Berlin - the "Admiralspalast" - , and as Artistic Director no one less than Mr Michael Ballhaus (Director of Photography under Fassbinder, Scorcese, and Copolla, a.o.).
The reward was that the American Public Broadcasting Service PBS agreed to put on the air the best takes from the DVD in their regular pledge shows. These have been running since August 2010 and feedback proves that many Americans "love" Max Raabe & Palast Orchester, the "refinement and humour", their "class" and in particular adore the style of Max Raabe.
In October 2010 Max Raabe & Palast Orchester hit the front pages with their first tour through Israel. The decision whether to go was difficult for fear of how the Jewish population would react to music of the 20s and 30s. Aware of the extraordinary sensitivity of this particular tour, German press watched very closely, but were soon able to report of cheering audiences and show interviews with happy listeners who appreciated this art form as part of their own culture..
Upon experiencing their concerts one is compelled to try put a finger on what exactly is the formula for the success of this one-of-a-kind artist and orchestra. Surely it is not the diversity alone. Is it the music? Is it the lyrics and the melodies? Could it be the pomp and circumstance of the 20s? Is it the musical seriousness or the ability to break up the poses with self-irony? Is it because of Max Raabe's charming manner or the elegance and smartness of his appearance? Or the perfection performed with a nonchalance that comes with 2 decades of playing music together? Perhaps it is because Max Raabe's own brand of old-world style is an art form alone and is his guide onstage and off.