“As a musician I have to take risks”

Portrait: Conductor Daniel Harding

Daniel Harding
(Photo: Julian Hargreaves)

Daniel Harding, who makes a guest appearance with the Berliner Philharmoniker in Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony and Berg's Lyric Suite, is not only a conductor but an airline pilot as well - a combination that probably cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Both occupations demand a high level of communicative skill and team spirit. Flying has made him a better conductor, Daniel Harding said in an interview for the Digital Concert Hall: “I have learned to deal with difficult situations in a more positive and productive way.” Two great conductors took Harding, who was born in Oxford in 1975, under their wing at the beginning of his career: Sir Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado. Rattle, at that time still music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, was so impressed by a recording by Harding, who was just 17, that he made him his assistant. He went on to assist Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker, with whom he made his debut stepping in for Franz Welser-Möst.

Debut with the Philharmoniker at the age of 21

Daniel Harding was only 21 at the time, and his appearance caused a sensation. The critics were amazed by his “wealth of experience” and his spirited conducting style. That was the beginning of a long-standing artistic friendship with the orchestra which has intensified in recent years. The highlights of their collaboration thus far have included performances of Schumann’s Faust Scenes, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, the European Concert at the Musée dʼOrsay in Paris in 2019 and interpretations of works by Gustav Mahler. Daniel Harding, who served as music director of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra from 2003 to 2011 and has held the post of music director with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007, is regarded as one of the most interesting conductors of the younger generation because of his expressive, analytical interpretations. His success is due not least to the fact that he has no fear of risks. “As a pilot I do everything possible to avoid risk. But as a musician I have to take risks, because that is the only way to find beauty.”