Thursday night was likely my last Berlin Philharmonic performance – at least for a while. The sold-out performance was in Philharmonie Hall where the symphony performed music by Antonín Dvořák, Hugo Wolf, and Franz Schubert.
Dvořák and Schubert have long been favorite composers. I remember trying to conquer a Schubert piece as a young piano student – for me, a daunting experience. Unfamiliar with Wolf, the evening was a lesson in German opera! Goethe’s expression below describes my feelings…
Iván Fischer Conductor
Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer led the Philharmonic. Fischer studied piano, violin, and cello in Budapest and continued his education in Vienna. His international career took off in 1976 when he won a conducting competition in London.
In 1983 Fischer co-founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Today he’s the orchestra’s music director. Fischer is a regular guest conductor at major European opera houses. He was Principal Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic 2012 – 2018 and is now the orchestra’s Honorary Conductor.
Fischer is also a composer. His works are performed in the US and Europe. He founded the Hungarian Mahler Society and received Hungary’s Golden Medal Award and the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum for promoting international culture.
Antonín Dvořák Legends for Orchestra
The concert began with Antonín Dvořák symphonies – Legends for Orchestra. Berlin is where the Czech composer was first recognized internationally. In 1878, Johannes Brahms recommended publishing his Moravian Duets and Slavonic Dances for piano. A few years later he produced Legends for Orchestra.
Hugo Wolf Goethe and Mörike Compositions
Several Hugo Wolf operatic compositions followed Dvořák’s symphonies. Baritone Christian Gerhaher’s singing captivated the audience. Wolf, known for his “profound poetic insight and imagination,” created them from the poems and ballads of German writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Eduard Friedrich Mörike. Portraying their unique “poet personalities” was key to Wolf in “opening musical and poetic horizons” in his compositions.
German poet Eduard Friedrich Mörike is known for taking “special pleasure in rendering hair-raising and fantastic verses”.
Wish I’d had a translation, as titles of the lyrics were interesting – Goethe’s ballads – Der Rattenfänger (The Pied Piper) and Mörike’s Fire Rider. Mörike’s lyric poetry covers a “variety of forms and moods”. The audience was thoroughly absorbed. It was a very German experience!
Christian Gerhaher Baritone
German baritone Christian Gerhaher appears in Germany and abroad as a recitalist and soloist with symphony orchestras in major cities worldwide. He also appears in opera productions, holds the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art, is an honorary professor at the Academy of Music Munich, and teaches international masterclasses. The audience adored his performance of Wolf’s compositions.
Gerhaher attended the Opera School of the Academy of Music in Munich and is an honorary professor at the Munich Academy of Music and Theatre. He and his wife live in Munich with their three children.
Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in C Major
The symphony ended with Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in C Major. Schubert composed the symphony in 1825-26, but it was never performed. Robert Schumann discovered the symphony in 1839 and German composer Felix Mendelssohn produced the work that year in Leipzig. It’s a wonderful, dramatic symphony featuring woodwinds and French horns – skip to the end of the video below to hear the rousing finale!