In the 19th century, the fashionable spa town on the edge of the Black Forest was an important social centre, and a popular meeting place for the nobility and artists of the Tsarist empire. The casino in particular attracted many. Many a fortune was at stake here. The destructive power of a passion for gambling is shown by Tchaikovsky in his opera The Queen of Spades, which Kirill Petrenko and the Berliner Philharmoniker will perform at the 2022 Easter Festival in the Festspielhaus.
It tells the tale of a young officer who is obsessed with learning the secret of the three cards that win every game. In the process, he loses his one great love and ultimately his life. A thrilling drama that reveals human vulnerabilities and was impressively set to music by Tchaikovsky. The main roles are to be sung by the tenor Arsen Soghomonyan, who plays the gambling-addicted officer, the soprano Elena Bezgodkova as his beloved Lisa, and the mezzo-soprano Doris Soffel (Countess). The directors are Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier.
And yet another stage work by Tchaikovsky will be performed in concert by the Berliner Philharmoniker and their chief conductor: Iolanta, the composer’s last opera. It is a charming, light-filled work that tells the story of a blind princess who gains her sight through love. Tchaikovsky created luminous, poetic music for it, which reveals not least his love of French opera. Sonya Yoncheva, who has already been acclaimed as Iolanta at the New York Met and with the Berliner Philharmoniker as Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello, will sing the title role.
Hommage to Russia
The music of Russia is also a focal point of the Easter Festival’s orchestral concerts. To mark the 140th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his death, his three most famous ballet scores will be performed: François-Xavier Roth conducts Petrushka, Andris Nelsons Le Sacre du printemps and Kirill Petrenko conducts L’Oiseau de feu. Trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger will play the Trumpet Concerto by Mieczysław Weinberg – a friend of Dmitri Shostakovich —, a work which is characterized by brilliance, virtuosity, and wit.
In Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Oboe d’amore, Strings and Basso continuo, the Philharmoniker’s principal oboist Albrecht Mayer turns to the oboe’s bigger sister. Darker and softer in tone, the oboe d’amore transports the listener into a completely unique sound world. The 12 cellists of the Berliner Philharmoniker celebrate their 50th anniversary this year – with a concert in which they present their most memorable pieces and arrangements, from classical to pop music. The Berliner Philharmoniker are patrons to the National Youth Orchestra of Germany, which is also invited to perform. Under the baton of Kirill Petrenko, the up-and-coming generation of orchestral musicians will perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Richard Strauss’ tone poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.
In addition to the Festspielhaus, the whole of Baden-Baden will be filled with music. Many of the city’s cultural institutions such as the Orangerie, the Weinbrennersaal, the Runder Saal in the Kurhaus, the Malersaal, the Kulturhaus and the Kirche St. Bernhard will be transformed into venues for the Philharmoniker – for concerts by the Philharmoniker’s chamber music ensembles, which this year are also dedicated to Russian music.
And there will be a lot to discover such as the Serenata alla spagnola, a string quartet to which the composers Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Anatoly Lyadov, Alexander Borodin and Alexander Glasunov each contributed a movement, and the Piano Quintet in G minor by Anton Rubinstein plus the Piano Trio by Anton Arensky.
There are also string quartets by Tchaikovsky and Dmitri Shostakovich, classics of the chamber music repertoire. In 19th century Russia, the genre of the “Trio élégiaque” was very popular. Because of its sustained, wistful mood, Russian composers liked to write such trios as musical obituaries for important personalities. The most famous ones are by Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff and are of course included in the Philharmoniker’s chamber concerts in Baden-Baden.
The musical counterpoint to the Russian music is provided by works by Hans Werner Henze, Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. In addition to established Philharmoniker formations such as the Feininger Trio, the Venus and the Brahms Ensemble as well as the Philharmonia Klaviertrio Berlin, the chamber music concerts feature members of the orchestra who have come together for a specific programme because of their passion for playing chamber music.