In addition to the traditional opening concert in the Philharmonie, the Berliner Philharmoniker, together with Deutsche Bank, are also welcoming in the new season at the Kulturforum – with a orchestral programme composed of works by Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvořák. The Second is Brahms’s most popular symphony, and it is an extremely cantabile work. On the occasion of the successful premiere, which took place during the 4th Philharmonic Concert in the Great Hall of the Vienna Musikverein on 30 December 1877, Eduard Hanslick wrote in the Neue Freie Presse: “The Second Symphony appears like the sun to warm connoisseurs and lay people alike; it belongs to everyone who longs for good music, whether they can comprehend the most difficult or not.” Undeniably, Brahms’s dense motivic-thematic work presents itself in the Second, as compared to his First Symphony, more effortlessly, naturally and artfully, giving the music its direct accessibility. Thus it comes as no surprise that Sir Simon and the Berlin Philharmonic selected precisely this work for their concert at the Kulturforum: music of “high-spirited superior humour […] with sound effects of delightful beauty” (Konstitutionelle Vorstadt-Zeitung).
The same could be said about the eight Slavonic Dances that follow on the programme. In them, Antonín Dvořák did not make use of existing dance melodies – unlike Brahms in his Hungarian Dances – but rather skilfully combined typical elements of Czech folklore with the melodic and rhythmic characteristics of his own compositional style. The response to the piano collection was phenomenal: just a few months after they appeared, the composer, until that time still largely unknown, was receiving enquiries from renowned publishers such as Bote & Bock, Schlesinger and Steingräber. In addition, a long article by Louis Ehlert appeared in the Berlin National-Zeitung, which in turn induced a “literal run on the music stores”, as the music critic, who was well-known at the time, wrote in a letter to Dvořák dated 27 November 1878. The composer was also very satisfied with the orchestral version of the pieces that he promptly produced: “[…] they will sound like the devil …”.
Continuing its commitment to refugees, the Philharmoniker have also invited the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of its conductor Mariano Domingo, who will open the concert as a musical symbol against the war and to promote international understanding. Works will include Nicolas Ruegenberg’s composition Unisono – a musical representation of an inter-cultural dialogue, created with the participation of refugees – plus Syrian symphonic music. The Expat Orchestra, which comes together for specific projects in a variety of formations, was founded in Bremen in 2015 by Raed Jazbeh – the ensemble is composed of Syrian musicians who have now found a new home in several European countries. From 5pm, the second item in the open air concert is an opportunity for the audience itself to participate in the evening’s music-making. We can’t say any more at the moment, but the keyword is “singing”.