Historically informed performance practice with orchestral sound – that was the idea when musicians from the Berliner Philharmoniker and leading specialists from the early music scene joined forces to form the Berlin Baroque Soloists in 1995. The launch of the ensemble was considered an innovative project, since at that time – as Philharmonic violinist Raimar Orlovsky recalls – “early music was not cultivated at all in our orchestra.” But the Berliner Philharmoniker had a first concertmaster, Rainer Kussmaul, who inspired his colleagues with his enthusiasm for Baroque music. The members of the ensemble consciously decided to perform compositions from the 17th and 18th centuries on modern instruments. As a result, they developed their own unmistakable sound which has since become their trademark. After Rainer Kussmaul retired in 2010, the artistic direction of the Berlin Baroque Soloists was in the hands of various people until 2017, including Bernhard Forck, Daniel Hope and Frank Peter Zimmermann. Since 2018, the ensemble has been led by Reinhard Goebel, with whom the Berlin Baroque Soloists had released a highly acclaimed recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos the previous year. The collaboration with this conductor is a “chance to develop performance practice on modern instruments further and redefine it for the music world,” says Raimar Orlovsky.
“You have given birth to an opera singer,” the doctor predicted to Julia Lezhneva’s mother because her newborn baby cried so loud. With her gift for music, Julia Lezhneva, who comes from the Russian island of Sakhalin, is an exception within her family of scientists. Nevertheless, her parents fostered their daughter’s talent from the beginning. She studied voice at the Moscow Conservatory, the Cardiff International Academy of Voice and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Two people were particularly decisive for her career: the mezzo-soprano Elena Obraztsova, who became her mentor and encouraged her to sing Baroque music, and Mark Minkowski, who discovered the young soprano on YouTube and engaged her for his recording of Bach’s B minor Mass in 2008. “That was my first professional job in Europe,” she recalls. Today the Russian singer, who in the meantime appears in concerts throughout the world, is regarded as the perfect interpreter for the virtuosic vocal parts of Baroque music and Viennese Classicism because of her bright, clear and extremely agile voice. It was lucky that Julia Lezhneva, whose great inspiration is Cecilia Bartoli, was fascinated by this music since childhood. “Music has made me a better human being,” says Julia Lezhneva, who made her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2019. “Because of it, I learned to love nature and people more.”
Lean, radiant, light – Anne Sofie von Otter has a vocal timbre that one rarely finds in the mezzo-soprano range. “My voice is placed high, and I have even been asked if I’m a lazy soprano,” the singer says. Her distinctive vocal colour and her acting talent make the Swedish native, who grew up in Stockholm, Bonn and London as the daughter of a diplomat, an ideal interpreter for the trousers roles of Mozart and Strauss. But not only that. Anne Sofie von Otter’s repertoire includes operatic roles of Monteverdi, Handel, Gluck, Berlioz, Bartók and Stravinsky and ranges from the classical art song to songs by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill to pop music. She started her career as an ensemble member of the Basel Opera. After debuts at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Vienna Staatsoper, Anne Sofie von Otter quickly became one of the world’s leading mezzo-sopranos. She has collaborated with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1988, and in recent years she has impressed audiences in particular as a Mahler interpreter. When asked about the secret of her long, successful career in so many musical genres, she answers modestly: “I had the good fortune to begin at the right moment. The careers of several colleagues were coming to an end at that time. In addition, I always made a point of singing the widest possible repertoire for my voice.”