DW Festival Concert presents the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra | Music | DW



It used to be so mundane: going to an orchestral concert, settling in to your seat alongside thousands of other strangers, waiting for the stage lights to come on, the conductor taking his place and the musicians striking their first notes. But for the audience at the Berlin Philharmonic concert hall on March 20, 2021, the experience was anything but normal.

Berlin musicians with great works from the Russian repertoire

This Saturday in March, a week before Palm Sunday, a thousand classical music lovers had the chance to attend a very special concert at the Berlin Philharmonic, right in the middle of the new ban on music. coronavirus pandemic in Germany.

The concert naturally featured the resident orchestra of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic. Conductor Kirill Petrenko was on the podium, leading the physically distant musicians in a program of two great Russian works: Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s fantastic overture to Romeo and Juliet and the emblematic of Sergei Rachmaninoff Symphony n ° 2.

William Shakespeare’s boundless love story inspired composer Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky’s overture to Romeo and Juliet was written in 1869. The composer took inspiration from Shakespeare’s drama, but the composition is not a musical retelling of history. Instead, it portrays the elements that give rise to the tragic conflict. First there are the rival families, the Capulets and the Montagues. Then there are the lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Tchaikovsky brings these two contrasting worlds together, letting them collide in the most dramatic way.

Another play, that of Rachmaninoff Symphony n ° 2, has a special meaning for the conductor Kirill Petrenko. He made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as guest conductor in 2006. On the program at the time was Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony. The coin was close to his heart, Petrenko said at the time in an interview with Deutsche Welle. He becomes the conductor of the orchestra in 2019.

It was only this year, some 15 years after his original debut, that he and his orchestra performed Rachmaninoff’s work for the second time. For Petrenko, it was a kind of meeting, just as the concert was a meeting between the orchestra and its audience.

Portrait of Sergei Rachmaninoff

A true Russian genius: the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff

by Rachmaninoff Symphony No.2 in E minor premiered in St. Petersburg on February 8, 1908. His first symphony had been a fiasco, traumatizing the composer and sending him into an artistic and emotional crisis that lasted for many years. He desperately needed a hit piece, and it came in the form of the Second Symphony. Critics have praised it: its pure, inexhaustible melodic richness; its Russian power; his melancholy, but also his catharsis. To this day, the piece remains by far the most popular of Rachmaninoff’s three symphonies.

A work by Pyotr Tchaikovsky concludes the so-called “European Concert” program of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The “European Concert” celebrates the founding of the world famous orchestra in 1882. Conductor Claudio Abbado conducted the first European Concert in 1991, so it has been a tradition of the Berlin Phil for exactly three decades now.

Kirill Petrenko and soprano Christiane Karg in the Berlin Philharmonic, with musicians physically distant and without an audience on site.

The “European Concert” in 2020 at the Berlin Philharmonic, with musicians physically distanced and without an audience on site

The European concert takes place every year in a different special place, in a place important for European culture, such as the Musikverein in Vienna, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory or the Greek island of Rhodes. But, of course, the coronavirus pandemic upset plans for 2021. The musicians had to stay in Germany – so they decided to give the European concert to the Berlin Philharmonic, their home port. In other words, it was kind of a house party for the orchestra, but it was definitely different from their regular concerts. Instead of performing in the concert hall, they performed in the foyer.

One of the works performed was that of Tchaikovsky Suite n ° 3 in G major.

Today, it is rare to find one of Tchaikovsky’s orchestral suites on the program of a concert, even if they stand out among his works. The composer treats them essentially as symphonic laboratories in which he experiments and innovates. He used the form of the suite to channel his emotions directly into the sound. The third suite, which he wrote in 1884, lives up to his late symphonies. Tchaikovsky takes the listener by the hand and leads him through a series of dramatically diverse emotional landscapes.

Deutsche Welle Festival Concert (DWFC): the best of the German festival scene

DW's Cristina Burack smiling for the camera.

Join Cristina Burack as she takes you through the best of Germany’s classical music festivals

Bach in Leipzig, Beethoven in Bonn, Mozart in Würzburg or Wagner in Bayreuth: these iconic music festivals featuring extraordinary composers are part of the audio series, DW festival concert (DWFC). In 13 two-hour episodes, DW introduces you to all the names that represent charisma and innovation in the classical German music scene.

The program is produced in two languages, English and Russian, and broadcast by various DW partner radio stations in Canada, the United States and several other English-speaking countries. Russian broadcaster Radio Orpheus also broadcasts the program in Russian.

Christina Burack is the new host of the English-language show.


1. Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Romeo and Juliet, Fantastic opening, inspired by Guillaume Shakespeare’s work
Berlin Philharmonic, conductor: Kirill Petrenko

2. Sergei Rachmaninoff

Symphony No.2 in E minor, Op. 27
Berlin Philharmonic, conductor: Kirill Petrenko

3. Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Orchestral Suite No.3 in G major, Op. 55

melancholy waltz – scherzo – tema con variazioni

Berlin Philharmonic, conductor: Kirill Petrenko



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