A leading specialist in historically informed performance practice and founder of the three early music ensembles the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Sir John Eliot Gardiner fulfilled a long cherished dream for his 70th birthday: to perform of Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex. Gardiner has said that the work had fascinated him since he was 25 and to realise the work on this occasion was, in a sense, his gift to himself. He describes it is a “fabulous piece” and “unique in the history of 20th century music”. He admires the rhythmic concision and intensity which form the key to the whole piece, and compares the music of Oedipus Rex to the frieze of a Greek temple which is suddenly animated and comes to life. The operatic oratorio together with the much more “Romantic” ballet Apollon musagète formed the programme of the concert which Gardiner gave to celebrate this special birthday with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in 2013. The English conductor, who is not only a passionate musician but also a keen farmer, now performs these two compositions with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Debut with Mozart and Berlioz

With these works, Gardiner returns to the conductor’s desk of the orchestra after 14 years. In 1997, he made his debut with the Philharmoniker at the Berliner Festwochen and proved that thrilling performances of so-called "early music" are only one – albeit important – aspect of his artistic work. In addition to Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Philharmoniker’s principal woodwind players Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Albrecht Mayer (oboe), Stefan Dohr (Horn) and Stefan Schweigert (bassoon) as soloists, he also conducted Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. “The musical magic is impressive,” as the Berliner Zeitung wrote at the time. For his most recent concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2002, he offered an all-French programme with works by Emmanuel Chabrier, Debussy and César Franck, showing an unfamiliar side of himself to Berlin audiences. Together with the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner was also a guest at the 2014 Musikfest Berlin, which is jointly organised by the Berliner Festspiele and the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation.