In December 1976, the Swedish-American conductor Herbert Blomstedt made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker – together with the then 20-year-old pianist Krystian Zimerman. Press attention focused primarily on the newly crowned winner of the Chopin Competition, however Blomstedt's qualities as a conductor did not go unmentioned: the tenor of the reviews was that he impressed with his enthusiasm and conviction. Blomstedt, who during his career has been chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig among others, has been invited to appear with the Berliner Philharmoniker time and time again.
Herbert Blomstedt – the Bruckner specialist
In recent years, the association between conductor and orchestra has intensified, and almost every year he takes to the conductor's stand in the Philharmonie. His motto: “Respect for the musical score is a top priority for any artist.” Herbert Blomstedt is regarded as a specialist in the symphonies of Anton Bruckner which also form the focus of his collaboration with the Berliner Philharmoniker. “These are great works,” says the conductor in an interview for the Digital Concert Hall, “the content, the thoughts are great! Bruckner's symphonies are no village churches, but cathedrals. This has its charm and it is a huge challenge.” For his appearance in January, Herbert Blomstedt and the Berliner Philharmoniker will perform the composer's Eighth Symphony in the version by Robert Haas.
Christian Thielemann – an early love
Christian Thielemann's relationship with the Berliner Philharmoniker began long before he made his conducting debut with the orchestra in June 1996: The dark, velvety sound of the Philharmoniker impressed the native Berliner from an early age – as did the two chief conductors Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan, whose sense of sound had a lasting influence on Thielemann. He was also much inspired during his time as a student of the Orchestra Academy where he studied viola and was an assistant to Herbert von Karajan. So when the young conductor – then the music director designate of the Deutsche Oper Berlin – made his debut with the Philharmoniker, he was very much rooted in the tradition of the orchestra. Following this debut, the press hailed him as “highly emotional, young and spirited”. In the following years, an intensive partnership developed between the Berliner Philharmoniker and the young conductor. From the beginning of his career, Christian Thielemann, currently chief conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle and since 2013 artistic director of the Salzburg Easter Festival, has shown a preference for the German Romantic repertoire. This is also demonstrated in his concert programmes with the orchestra: Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner and again and again, Richard Strauss. In January 2015, he conducts two concert series: in the first, we will hear Ludwig van Beethoven's Eroica plus the symphonic poem Orpheus by Franz Liszt, and Hans Werner Henze's orchestral piece Sebastian im Traum. In the second, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Rundfunkchor Berlin and Christian Thielemann perform Johannes Brahms' Deutsches Requiem. The soloists are Sibylla Rubens and Christian Gerhaher.
Leonidas Kavakos – a passion for Sibelius
Leonidas Kavakos, born in Athens in 1967, has been a regular guest artist with the Berliner Philharmoniker since May 2003. At that time, Kavakos made his debut with Sibelius' Violin Concerto, a work to which the musician has a particularly close relationship: In 1985, at the age of 18, he won the International Sibelius Competition in Helsinki and received the 1991 Gramophone Concert Award for his recording of the concerto. At the end of January and the beginning of February, he performs it again with the orchestra under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. Together with the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Greek violinist has been heard in the violin concertos by Béla Bartók, Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Henri Dutilleux since his debut. The press has repeatedly praised the impeccable technique, refined sensuousness and intelligent delicacy of his playing. The highlight of this years-long collaboration between orchestra and instrumentalist was the Residency of the violinist in the 2012/2013 season.