Bernard Haitink, Tugan Sokhiev and Iván Fischer

At the Berliner Philharmoniker

Bernard Haitink
(Photo: Chris Christodoulou)

Almost no other guest conductor has had ties with the Berliner Philharmoniker for longer or has appeared with them more regularly than Bernard Haitink. In March 1964, just months after Hans Scharounʼs Philharmonie opened, the Dutch conductor led the orchestra for the first time. He was then 35 years old and had been head of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam for three years.

An inconspicuous beginning

His debut was overshadowed by another Philharmoniker event: Claudio Arrau was performing a cycle of all five Beethoven piano concertos. On the nights that Haitink conducted, the concertos Nos. 1 and 5 were on the programme. Naturally, the reviews focused on the pianist, and the young conductor was only mentioned with a few, if favourable, words: they all agreed his conducting was open-minded, attentive and sensitive. Only the Berlin Tagesspiegel prophesied: “He could have it in him to become a real Beethoven conductor, something the modern concert hall so desperately needs.” The critic was right: Within a few years, Bernard Haitink had developed into a specialist in the works of the First Viennese School. But not only that: Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler came to be regular features of his repertoire. And a work by Gustav Mahler has also been programmed for Haitink’s guest appearances in October: Das Lied von der Erde, a work that the conductor performs with the Philharmoniker for the first time. The soloists are the tenor Christian Elsner and the baritone Christian Gerhaher.

Conductor of the Russian school

Tugan Sokhiev’s most recent concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker was only six months ago: In April 2016, in addition to Gabriel Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande orchestral suite, he also conducted Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as the soloist, and César Franck's Symphony in D minor. The 37-year-old conductor is one of the shooting stars of his generation. Until recently, he was the head of three renowned orchestras: the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, whose leadership he gave up in the summer of 2016. In the concerts he has given since his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in January 2010, his programmes have mostly included a delightful mix of French and Russian music, a theme which continues for his next appearance: Tugan Sokhiev conducts César Franck’s Le Chasseur maudit, Sergei Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra (soloist: Nikolai Lugansky). Born in north Ossetian, both his repertoire and his conducting style are rooted in the Russian tradition. Tugan Sokhiev was a student of the legendary Ilya Musin: “That was the greatest good fortune that ever happened to me. Musin was already in his early 90s, but he was tremendous. Everything has changed since I was with him, and I would not be here at all today if I had not studied with him.”

Inspired by Hans Swarowsky and Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Iván Fischer, chief conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and founder of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has been a guest conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1989 and has made his mark with the orchestra mainly as an interpreter of Haydn and Mozart as well as Hungarian composers, especially Béla Bartók. For his most recent appearance in January 2016, Fischer conducted Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony with the Philharmoniker for the first time, the same work with which he introduced himself to Berlin audiences as chief conductor designate of the Konzerthausorchester in 2012, a performance which drew wild applause from the audience. Fischer feels a deep connection to the works of Mahler. Not only because he regularly programmes his symphonies for his concerts and makes recordings of them, too; he also founded the Budapest Mahler Festival and the Hungarian Mahler Society in his native Hungary in order to make the music of the composer better known there. At the beginning of his career, his musical aesthetics were shaped by two completely contrasting conducting personalities: the teacher Hans Swarowsky and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, whose assistant Fischer was, and who showed him that music is a form of interpersonal communication. His international career started in 1976 following his triumphant victory at the Rupert Foundation conducting competition in London. This season, Iván Fischer appears with the Philharmoniker conducting works by George Enescu, Béla Bartók and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Tugan Sokhiev
(Photo: Mat Hennek)

Iván Fischer
(Photo: Marco Borggreve)