Many regretted Tugan Sokhiev’s departure from the chief conductor’s position at Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester when he left for the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre in 2016 after four years in Berlin. He continues to visit the German capital at regular intervals – to work with the DSO, the Berliner Philharmoniker and now, for the first time, with an orchestra that has become a fixture at Musikfest Berlin: the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam.
The programme contains a piece of history of both the orchestra and the conductor. Louis Andriessen wrote his Mysteriën for the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s 125th anniversary. This was a small sensation, because 50 years ago, in 1969, Andriessen had been among a group of trouble-makers who disrupted a concert by the orchestra because they considered its programme policy to be anti-modern and reactionary. They were made to leave the concert hall. Andriessen did not write any more orchestral work for more than 40 years – until the RCO-anniversary. He drew inspiration for the six movements of the Mysteriën from one of his late father’s favourite books: De imitatione Christi by the mystic Thomas a Kempis (1380-1470). Following his conviction that religion, art and philosophy converge in the creative spirit of mankind, he practised the art of transformation: the transformation of ideas from one discipline of the mind into fantasies of another.
Sokhiev was trained in the Russian school of conducting of Ilya Musin and achieved his first great successes at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. For his years in Berlin, he had set himself the goal of giving his audiences an idea of the breadth of Russian music – including the early Tchaikovsky. The composer had been quite happy with his First Symphony, apart from several “immature passages” and counted it among his best works.