When people think of classical music, they think of Ludwig van Beethoven. Performances of his symphonies were highlights of the time in office of all chief conductors of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Following a first complete cycle in 2008, Sir Simon Rattle will again be presenting his reading of these works in the coming season, including not only the nine symphonies but also the first Leonore Overture. In addition, Sir Simon will make two appearances as an opera conductor. First, in a concert performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde with Stuart Skelton and Eva-Maria Westbroek. Then, we encounter another famous pair of lovers in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, directed by Peter Sellars, this year’s Artist in Residence, and with Christian Gerhaher and Magdalena Kožená in the title roles. Debussy’s opera is part of a French theme that runs through the season which also includes works by Hector Berlioz, Henri Dutilleux, César Franck, Charles Koechlin, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Francis Poulenc, Ravel and Camille Saint-Saëns. With performances of Arnold Schoenberg’s Second Chamber Symphony and his monodrama Die Glückliche Hand plus Carl Nielson’s Fourth Symphony, the Berliner Philharmoniker have programmed two composers who are featured in the 2015 Musikfest Berlin. The first highlight of the season is the season opening concert with Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony.
Old friends, new talents
Many big-named guest conductors well known to Philharmoniker audiences have been announced for the new season: Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, Bernard Haitink, Mariss Jansons, Iván Fischer, Zubin Mehta and Christian Thielemann. The younger generation is also represented at the conductor’s desk of the Philharmoniker. Although in some cases the conductors only made their débuts here a few years ago, they have already become regular guests at Philharmoniker concerts, such as Giovanni Antonini, Daniel Harding, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Tugan Sokhiev. After a 13-year break, we also welcome back Sir John Eliot Gardiner to conduct the orchestra. In addition to these old friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker, we can look forward to three exciting débuts with Juanjo Mena, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, the internationally renowned composer Matthias Pintscher, and François-Xavier Roth, the general music director designate of the city of Cologne.
International guests and Philharmoniker soloists
The list of guest soloists is no less impressive: It includes the pianists Piotr Anderszewski, Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Krystian Zimerman, Maurizio Pollini and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, the violinists Lisa Batiashvili, Renaud Capuçon, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Gil Shaham, Baiba Skride and Frank Peter Zimmermann, and the cellist Truls Mørk. From the ranks of the Berlin Philharmoniker, concertmaster Daniel Stabrawa, flautist Emmanuel Pahud and the harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet will also appear as soloists. This season we welcome newcomers pianist Till Fellner in Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 25 and Kirill Gerstein in Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Vocal music fans can also look forward to the first guest appearance by the soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci in Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’été.
From early music to jazz and world music
The chamber music concerts are as diverse as the symphonic concerts: In the Chamber Music Prism series, in addition to individual members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, ensembles from the orchestra such as the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet, the Philharmonic Octet Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet and the Athenaeum Quartet will all appear. The Philharmonia Quartet, Belcea Quartet and the Hagen and the Pavel Haas Quartets will also demonstrate the fine art of chamber music playing. The Piano series is opened by a young pianist who is making his first appearance in Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation concerts: In his debut recital, Francesco Piemontesi contrasts piano works from the First Viennese School with pieces by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Krystian Zimerman interprets Schubert’s two final sonatas, while his Polish compatriot Anderszewski plays compositions by Leoš Janáček, Béla Bartók and Johann Sebastian Bach. Maurizo Pollini also makes a guest appearance with a solo programme. The series Singers – the World of Vocal Music provides something for fans of song to look forward to: Accompanied by Sir Simon Rattle (piano) and other instrumentalists, Magdalena Kožená sings songs by French, Russian, German and Czech composers and will also give a Cole Porter recital. The soprano Klara Ek and tenor Thomas Hobbs are the soloists in a performance of sacred works by George Frideric Handel with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. Lovers of early music will also appreciate the series Original Sounds in which, in addition to ensembles such as Concerto Melante, Le Concert d’Astrée, Collegium 1704 and Accademia Bizantina, there is an appearance by the orchestra La Scintilla with Cecilia Bartoli and Rolando Villazon. Other popular concert series such as Underway – World music with Roger Willemsen, the jazz series Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic, the Philharmonic Salon, the organ matinees and Late Night concerts offer audiences music from beyond the standard concert repertoire.