A Wealth of Emotions

Concerts with Kirill Petrenko

(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

In the course of our 2022/23 season, Kirill Petrenko’s work as our principal conductor will be examined from multiple angles: contemporary music, the Classical and Romantic core orchestral repertory and a major piece of music theatre by Richard Strauss.

The range of works that Kirill Petrenko will be conducting during the 2022/23 season extends from early Mozart to the music of the immediate present. More specifically, it includes Classical and Romantic symphonies, rare works from several different periods and others that are eminently worth rediscovering, many pieces featuring solo and choral singing, even more modern works than usual, a great oratorio and no fewer than two complete operas.

As always, the season’s opening concert with our principal conductor is invested with particular programmatical weight. Kirill Petrenko has opened previous seasons with symphonies by Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms but now it is the turn of Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, which the composer himself regarded as his “finest work”. Its five movements cover an enormous range of emotions from timid hopes to crises and conflicts that are ultimately overcome.

At the centre: Mahler and Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms

Petrenko describes as central to his work with the Berliner Philharmoniker, namely, the Classical and Romantic works of the German and Austrian musical tradition. At the beginning of this tradition is Mozart, who features in two separate programmes: his First Violin Concerto will be heard in early November, while his motet Exsultate, jubilate will be performed alongside his “Coronation Mass” next spring.

Beethoven is represented by his Eighth Symphony, which will be performed at the end of January at a concert that also sheds light on the medium of the theme and variations: Brahms’s Haydn Variations and Schoenberg’s immensely powerful Variations op. 31. The period of high Romanticism in music comes into its own with a performance of Robert Schumann’s Fourth Symphony.

Among the works that Kirill Petrenko is convinced deserve to be heard more frequently is Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s dazzling Symphony in F♯ major. Music from the early twentieth century features at several of Kirill Petrenko’s concerts, starting with Debussy’s tone poem La Mer and the aforementioned Schoenberg Variations.

Also deserving of mention in this context is Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s early Symphony and a work by the Franco-Greek avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis: Empreintes (Imprints). As part of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Biennale Kirill Petrenko will be conducting two orchestral pieces by György Ligeti, Atmosphères and Lontano, both of them key instances of contemporary music and at the same time outstanding examples of their composer’s use of micropolyphony involving dense canonic structures moving at different speeds and creating textures that range from the most subtle to the most powerful.

Recent music with our principal conductor

A native of Grand Rapids, Missouri, Andrew Norman writes music that is both contemporary and accessible and that is very much sui generis: his piece Unstuck promises to be a fascinating encounter. There will be no fewer than three world premieres at the concerts under our principal conductor. One of them is by the Czech composer Miroslav Srnka, whose opera South Pole was premiered by Kirill Petrenko with the Bavarian State Opera in 2016. In June 2023 two new works by female composers will be performed at the same concert: the first is by the Swedish composer Lisa Streich, who won the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation’s Composition Prize in 2017, while the second is by the American composer Julia Wolfe, who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Kirill Petrenko will also be conducting a major oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn, Elijah, at the Philharmonie in Berlin. This represents the realization of a long-standing desire on the part of a conductor who has already shown his commitment to Mendelssohn’s music. Finally, two operas will be performed as part of our series of concerts headed “Identities”: Luigi Dallapiccola’s Il prigioniero (The Prisoner), which was written in the 1940s, a parable of the way in which peace in Europe is threatened and a disturbing masterpiece of politically committed music theatre.

The second opera is a coproduction with the Baden-Baden Easter Festival, Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, a truly monumental work by a composer whom Benjamin Britten once called the “old sorcerer”. It was written with Strauss’s librettist of many years’ standing, Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Together they created a multilayered work and one so complex in its demands that even great opera houses programme it only on special occasions.