A tribute to Daniel Stabrawa

The first concertmaster as soloist, conductor and chamber musician in the Berlin Phil Series

Daniel Stabrawa
(Photo: Sebastian Hänel)

“The need to make music at this time is very great,” says Daniel Stabrawa. The first concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker is currently preparing the next episode of the Berlin Phil Series with his colleagues, which will be broadcast in the Digital Concert Hall on 30 May. Curated by musicians of the orchestra, this series offers a mixture of live chamber music concerts and archive recordings of orchestral works. According to Daniel Stabrawa, rehearsing together again and creating a programme has inspired him enormously: “I feel 200% more alive”.

A penchant for the unknown

Born in Cracow, he has been a member of the Berliner Philharmoniker for almost 40 years. As Michel Schwalbé’s successor, he assumed the position of first concertmaster in 1986. Effortlessly and unobtrusively, he has been coordinating the communication between conductor and orchestra since then, inspiring the audience with wonderfully performed solo passages and frequent appearances as a soloist. It is above all in this capacity that he has introduced us to some unknown but exciting works in recent years, such as the violin concertos by Jenő Hubay and Rudi Stephan. Together with the Berliner Philharmoniker, he intended to present another rarity this season: the concerto by the Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik. Daniel Stabrawa only discovered the work of his compatriot, who emigrated to England in 1954, at a late stage and was immediately captivated by its poetic, sonorous musical language. “His violin concerto is a very emotionally charged piece, full of incredible timbres and infectious rhythms.”

A versatile musician

Had it not been for the corona shutdown, we would have seen Daniel Stabrawa as both soloist and conductor in Panufnik’s composition plus in works by Mozart and Schubert. He is now presenting the Violin Concerto, written in 1971 for Yehudi Menuhin, with a small chamber music ensemble as part of the Berlin Phil Series. For this occasion, Daniel Stabrawa can also bring his many years of experience as a chamber musician to bear. Concertmaster, soloist, conductor, chamber musician – these different roles that Daniel Stabrawa fulfils have influenced and enriched each other and broadened his view of music. The programme opens with Antonín Dvořák’s Terzetto for 2 violins and viola. “I chose this piece”, says the violinist, “because I was able to perform it with three Cracovians, the violinist Krzysztof Polonek, the violist Ignacy Miecznikowski and myself.” Is there a typically Polish style of music making? “Perhaps it can be recognised in the type of melodic structure and phrasing, which is orientated towards the characteristic style of the Polish language.” While Daniel Stabrawa shows his solo and chamber-music abilities in the live element of this concert of the Berlin Phil Series, an archive recording of Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony, which brings the evening to a close, shows him in his most famous function: that of first concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker.