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.
Christian Thielemann – a Philharmoniker fan from the outset
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 2016, he conducts two concert series: In the first, he presents an all-French programme with Ernest Chaussonʼs Poème de lʼamour et de la mer, Claude Debussyʼs Danse sacrée et danse profane for harp, and Gabriel Fauréʼs Messe de Requiem. Participating artists include the mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch and the Philharmonikerʼs harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet, plus soprano Christiane Karg, baritone Adrian Eröd and the Rundfunkchor Berlin. In addition to works by Robert Schumann, Aribert Reimann and Richard Strauss, his second appearance includes Frédéric Chopinʼs First Piano Concerto with Maurizio Pollini as the soloist.
Daniel Harding – a protégé of Rattle and Abbado
Like Christian Thielemann, Daniel Harding also made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1996 – so the British conductor can already look back on a 20-year association with the orchestra despite his relatively young age of 40. No less than two great conductors took Harding under their wing at the beginning of his career: Sir Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado. Rattle, then still head of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was so impressed by a CD recording of the just 17-year-old that he made him his assistant. He subsequently assisted Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker, which then led to his debut with the orchestra. In the meantime, the British conductor – now music director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and music director designate of the Orchestre de Paris – has launched an international career and is considered one of the most promising conductors of the younger generation. His phenomenal success is due not least to the fact that he is not afraid of making mistakes: “Finding things you do badly is such a pleasure,” he confessed in an interview with the Digital Concert Hall, “because it gives you the key to doing it better.” He made his last two appearances with Schumannʼs Scenes from Goetheʼs Faust and Mahlerʼs Sixth Symphony as a stand-in for Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Kirill Petrenko. This time, he conducts the German premiere of Magnus Lindbergʼs Violin Concerto with Frank Peter Zimmermann as the soloist. The programme also includes works by Antonín Dvořák, Pierre Boulez and Robert Schumann.