At first glance, it may appear as if three conductors are making their Philharmonic debut in the near future: Antoni Wit, Reinhard Goebel and Karl-Heinz Steffens. But appearances can be deceptive. The Polish Antoni Wit, head of the Warsaw Philharmonic since 2002, is an “old”, though rarely seen acquaintance of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The acquaintance dates back to 1971, when the then 27-year-old won second prize in the International Herbert von Karajan competition and was taken to the Salzburg Easter Festival by the maestro as his assistant. In 1975, Witold Lutosławski brought him as co-conductor for the performance of his Three poems by Henri Michaux, for 20 voice choir and orchestra to Berlin. Five years later, when Wit conducted the Philharmoniker alone for the first time, the press was admiring his economical but suggestive gestures with which he conducted Karol Szymanowski’s Second Symphony. His most recent guest appearance with the orchestra was in 1988. Antoni Wit is a specialist in the performance of works by Polish composers, especially those of his teacher Krzysztof Penderecki, so it goes almost without saying that the Philharmoniker should engage him this season to conduct his St. Luke Passion, a key work of the 20th century. Welcome back!
Master of historical performance practice
Reinhard Goebel, on the other hand, a doyen of the early music scene, will be taking up his baton with the orchestra for the first time – although he has been a member of the Philharmonic family for a while now: He has already put together and performed a programme of Baroque music with the members of the Orchestra Academy on three occasions. As violinist and conductor, he led the ensemble he founded himself, Musica Antiqua Köln, for 33 years. He is known for opening up new perspectives on seemingly well-known pieces with his provocative interpretations, and reviving long-forgotten works of composers from the Baroque. In 2006 Goebel dissolved his ensemble, and since then has dedicated himself to passing on his knowledge of historical performance practice to “normal” symphony orchestras. For his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker he will present a programme that demonstrates the musical path from the Baroque to the First Viennese School, with compositions by Jean-Féry Rebel, Christian Cannabich, Johann Christian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
From clarinet to conductor’s baton
Karl-Heinz Steffens is also making his debut as a conductor with the Philharmoniker, but he is already familiar with the orchestra. After all, he was their principal clarinettist for 6 years before he decided to swap his instrument for the conductor’s baton. He earned his first conducting stripes as music director of the Staatskapelle Halle. Since then, Steffens, who is currently chief conductor of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, has celebrated very successful debuts with leading international orchestras, including the Staatskapelle Berlin, the orchestra of La Scala in Milan, the radio symphony orchestras in Berlin (RSB), Frankfurt (HR), Cologne (WDR ) and Leipzig (MDR) and the Munich Philharmonic. With his former colleagues, he is preparing an exciting programme: Beethoven’s third Leonora Overture and Franz Schubert's Rosamunde Overture and his Symphony No. 3. These works will be contrasted by Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Symphony in one movement and the cantata Canto di speranza for cello and small orchestra. The soloist is Ludwig Quandt, 1st principal cellist of the Berliner Philharmoniker.