Sound World – A Year in the Karajan Academy

Sound World – A Year in the Karajan Academy

Klangwütig - Ein Jahr an der Karajan-Akademie

Ein Film von Isabel Hahn und Silvia Palmigiano, 52 min., ZDF/ARTE 2022

available until 20.01.2023 in the ZDF Media Library

Nodoka Okisawa, Sara Ferrández and Lennard Czakaj are 3 out of 30 musicians who have landed a coveted place at the Karajan Academy, the training school associated with the Berlin Philharmonic. This means lessons and concerts with one of the best orchestras in the world. But it also means great expectations and a lot of pressure.

Violist Sara dreams of a solo career and is working on her YouTube channel. She wants to give young people an understanding of classical music. She wants to break taboos – since there are too many conventions in classical music that don’t make sense to her. Trumpeter Lennard does not come from a family of musicians. He got his first trumpet from his parents when he was eight years old. At the time he had a guilty conscience because he knew that the instrument was very expensive. Since then he ha sputs all his eggs in one basket and is hoping for a position in the orchestra. He doesn’t have a plan B. Nodoka is expecting a baby. She is again confronted with something that, in her opinion, has no place in music: A female conductor is not always accepted, especially a pregnant one… But then on the podium she forgets everything – and levitates…


Sisi’s Heirs – The Children of Empress Elisabeth

Sisi’s Heirs – The Children of Empress Elisabeth

Sisis Erben – Die Kinder der Kaiserin Elisabeth

Ein Film von Martin Koddenberg, 52 min., ZDF/ARTE 2022

available until 20.01.2023 in the ZDF Media Library

A ‘Loving mother’? The real Empress Elisabeth of Austria is the exact opposite of what the legendary “Sissi” trilogy from the 1950s shows. Throughout her life, the eccentric Sisi put her own interests first. How does she live with her children?


By loading the video, you agree to Vimeo's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

After her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1854, Sisi feels the pressure of her relatives: the continuation of the dynasty depends on the young woman. A year later, at the age of 17, she gives birth to her first child, Sophie. But even the birth of the second daughter, Gisela, does not fulfill the expectations for a male successor. When Sophie dies during a trip to Hungary in 1857, deep cracks appear in the parents’ relationship.

Only the birth of the heir to the throne, Rudolf, in 1858 defuses the situation. Sisi then takes off and leaves for two years. Her children grow up without her during this time – when Sisi returns, they do not recognize “the strange woman”.

In 1868, Sisi gives birth to her fourth child, Marie Valerie, in what is now Budapest. This “Hungarian daughter” is smothered with love and affection by her mother. When she emancipates herself, she marries into the “scandalous line” of the Habsburgs, expresses herself in a German-national way. Nevertheless, with her nine children and numerous grandchildren, she ensures that the family is still widely branched out today.

Sisi was only just able to prevent Emperor Franz Joseph from raising the heir to the throne to become a strict soldier. From then on, the emperor keeps him away from all decisions. Rudolf takes refuge in a world of drugs and alcohol excesses. He kills himself and his mistress. Sisi is caught off guard: the empress has turned away more and more from her family. She lives in her own world, which consists mostly of traveling, horseback riding and writing poetry. Meanwhile, Emperor Franz Joseph worries about his fatherless granddaughter Elisabeth-Marie, known as “Erszi”. She becomes a rebel at the Viennese court. After the fall of the empire, she begins a new life in SPÖ circles and marries a representative of the Viennese working class.

Great Moments in Music | September 11, 2001: Hélène Grimaud in London

Great Moments in Music | September 11, 2001: Hélène Grimaud in London

Great Moments in Music September 11, 2001: Hélène Grimaud in London

A film by Holger Preusse & Philipp Quiring, ZDF/arte, 43 min., 2022

On September 11, 2001, two planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York and the world seemed to stop for a moment. This film about the concert by Hélène Grimaud and the Orchester de Paris conducted by Christoph Eschenbach at the Royal Albert Hall tells the story of how sadness and dismay became a pinnacle musical moment and underlines the unique ability of music to provide comfort in tragic moments.

Click on the button to load the content from

Load content

For the young French pianist Hélène Grimaud, September 11, 2001, was going to be a day of joy. She has travelled to London from her adopted home of New York to make her much-anticipated debut at the BBC Proms – the world’s biggest and perhaps best-known classical music festival. She is set to perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Orchester de Paris conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.

But after the dress rehearsal in the Royal Albert Hall, everything changes in a single moment. In her hotel room, Hélène Grimaud watches the horrific images coming from New York. A plane has flown into the World Trade Center. “I thought it was the latest Hollywood horror production,” she remembers.

The conductor of the upcoming performance, Christoph Eschenbach, is having lunch with the French ambassador in London when he hears about the terrorist attack. He and the organiser of the Proms, Sir Nicholas Kenyon, have a decision to make: Can you really put on a concert on a day such as this?

Sir Kenyon remarks: “Cancelling a Proms concert is no minor undertaking. Even after the death of Lady Diana, we chose to go ahead with the performance. And the people came.” Christoph Eschenbach and Hélène Grimaud are also prepared to perform.

The hall begins to fill. The mood is sombre. For Hélène Grimaud, the events have laid a leaden cloak of sadness and shock over the evening “They gave a concert of peace,” comments pianist Sophie Pacini. And indeed, after sounding the opening G major chord with trembling fingers, Hélène Grimaud begins to play increasingly freely. “This moment of catastrophe and tension and questioning inspired her to a musical moment that was increasingly captivating.”

In the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s concerto, her playing is even vocal. The Royal Albert Hall is charged with excitement. The Proms audience holds its breath in shared emotion. It is a collective and communal experience that Orchester de Paris violist Estelle Villotte recalls more than two decades later. “I cried on my viola during the concert. But Christoph Eschenbach and Hélène Grimaud carried me through.”

The dance-like and playful third movement is a liberation. For a moment at least, the terrible images from New York appear outshone by Hélène Grimaud’s playing. And the mood changes. At the close of the piece, the audience responds with a standing ovation.

BioNTech – Project Lightspeed

BioNTech – Project Lightspeed

BioNTech - Project Lightspeed

A film by Michael Schindhelm, 52 min, ZDF/ARTE 2021

Available in the online ARTE media library until 18.04.2025


With the BioNTech vaccine, medical scientists Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci achieved a breakthrough after years of research.

The mRNA technique, which has been an important component for cancer research for many years, is now making history as a vaccine against Covid-19. But where does cancer research go from here? Can the mRNA technique also help to fight malaria? The film shows the incredible achievement of a start-up company from Mainz for global health.


Apennine Mountains – The Wild Heart of Italy

Apennine Mountains – The Wild Heart of Italy

Apennine Mountains - The Wild Heart of Italy

A film by Kristian Kähler and Silvia Palmigiano, 2x43 min, ARTE 2021

The Apennines are the backbone and soul of Italy in equal measure. These high and low mountain ranges traverse the Italian mainland, alternating from north to south. The many historical sites along the way help define the country as a whole, as does the wild and impassable nature. There are many national parks, home to rare species such as the bee-eating red-backed shrike or the nearly 500 Marsican brown bears. The Italian shepherding tradition has left a strong mark on the cultural landscape of the Apennines. Ancient traditions, picturesque places and living history can all still be found here. Locals call the Apennine Mountains “L ‘Italia minore” – Little Italy.

If you want to understand Italy and its culture, you don’t have to go to Rome or Milan. A journey through the serpentine roads of the northern Apennines is enough to understand where the true heart of Italy beats: right here – in the green forests, the abandoned villages and the rolling hills.

The Apennine mountain range stretches from Liguria across the Italian boot to Calabria at the tip of the boot. Yet the mountain region between the cultural cities of Bologna and Florence is known to only a few.

20-year-old Andrea Barrani dreams of producing his own wine right here – on the steep slopes of the Cinque Terre.

Shepherdess Cinzia Angiolini has also found happiness in the Apennines: she breeds the local Zerasca breed of sheep. Old traditions are preserved in the Apennines because there are people who maintain them – like the bell ringers of Monghidoro.

Young Federico Mezzini still struggles with the 400 kg bells, but he is confident that he will soon be able to play a concert.

Laura Sbaccheri has spent her whole life doing without her dream: She always wanted to ride a motorbike. A stroke of fate prevented her from doing so. Now, in her late 30s, she has finally fulfilled her dream: She rides on the Mugello racetrack at 250km/h and enjoys the thrill.

The journey along the northern Apennines ends in Umbria. Here, geologist Andrea Mazzoli shows on mountain bike tours what spectacular secret lies hidden in the million-year-old rocks.

The Apennines are considered the backbone of Italy – a world of its own with much to discover.

The second part of our series is dedicated to the Southern Apennines. The journey begins on the Gran Sasso, at the almost 3,000-metre Corno Grande – the highest point of all the ranges. The landscapes of Campo Imperatore have been shaped by sheep breeding for centuries. Here, Pastore Abruzzese shepherd dogs protect the sheep from attacks by wolves.

Further south, brown bears emerge from the wooded heights to roam the village of Villalago. The people of this picturesque community have become accustomed to the visits from the Marsican bears. Researchers are studying these endangered animals and working to preserving the population.

Further south in the town of Melfi in Basilicata, falconers maintain the tradition of breeding birds of prey, practised here since the High Middle Ages. Stauferkönig Friedrich II. Friedrich II, Emperor of the Roman-German Empire in the 13th century, was an enthusiastic falconer and wrote a still important book ‘On the Art of Hunting with Birds’.

In the southernmost tip of the toe of Italy, the Apennines surprises with sequoia trees and deep green forests, contradicting assumptions that Calabria is only hot and dusty.

Here, after 1500 kilometres, the journey through the Southern Apennines comes to an end.