Christian Thielemann’s international fame rests to a large extent on his interpretations of Bruckner. In this concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker he conducts the composer’s most popular work, the Fourth Symphony. As the epithet “Romantic” implies, Bruckner here creates a vision of a better past. The Oboe Concerto by Richard Strauss which opens the concert has a similarly nostalgic flavour. The soloist is Albrecht Mayer, principal oboist with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1992.
To a friend, Bruckner outlined a historical scene which forms the basis of the first movement of his symphony. There is mention of a “medieval city”, “the rustle of the forest” and of knights who “gallop out into the fields on their proud steeds”. But we must assume that Bruckner devised these poetic descriptions only later to facilitate access to his music to his audiences. Indeed, the Fourth Symphony is in no way programme music, but is “Romantic” through its use of melody which surges between pride and melancholy, through its horn calls and archaic fanfares.
Richard Strauss had a decidedly low opinion of Bruckner’s work, which he described as “boring peasant music.” It may be that Strauss – who had long seen himself as the spearhead of the avant-garde – simply found this music to be too old fashioned. However, in his 1945 Oboe Concerto, composed in the face of the devastation of World War II, he dreams himself into history. And so Strauss’ work, infused with Mozartian grace is, in the words of Albrecht Mayer – “one of his most heartfelt and among the best he ever wrote.”
Albrecht Mayer initially received piano, recorder and singing lessons before taking up the oboe at the age of ten. His teachers were Gerhard Scheuer, Georg Meerwein, Maurice Bourgue and Ingo Goritzki. Even in his youth, he was invited to perform with various orchestras, including the European Community Youth Orchestra. A winner of many prizes and scholarships, Albrecht Mayer became principal oboist with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in 1990. Two years later, he took on the same position with the Berliner Philharmoniker. He regularly performs all over the world as a concert soloist. As a chamber musician, his partners have included, among others, Nigel Kennedy und Hélène Grimaud. He also teaches at major international festivals. He has already been awarded the ECHO Klassik Prize on more than one occasion, and in December 2006, he received the E.T.A.-Hoffmann Prize from his home town of Bamberg. In the search for his personal ideal sound, Albrecht Mayer recently founded his own ensemble, New Seasons.
Christian Thielemann, designated principal conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden from autumn 2012 and artistic director of the Salzburg Easter Festival from 2013, has been general music director of the Munich Philharmonic since the start of the 2004/05 season. He previously held a similar post with the Deutsche Oper in Berlin from the autumn of 1997 to the summer of 2004. Thielemann studied at the Hochschule der Künste (Academy of Arts) in his native Berlin before gaining a thorough grounding in conducting at smaller theatres in Germany. His first major appointment was as principal conductor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, where he spent three seasons prior to his appointment as general music director of Nuremberg Opera. Since then he has built up an international reputation for himself, appearing with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras and with opera companies throughout Europe, North America and Japan. As a guest conductor he has concentrated increasingly on a relatively small number of opera houses, most notably the Vienna State Opera and the Bayreuth and Salzburg Festivals, while at the same time limiting his concert appearances to a select group of world-class orchestras. Since 2000 he has been particularly closely associated with the Vienna Philharmonic. The principal pillars of Christian Thielemann’s repertory are the works of the Classical and Romantic periods – above all the music of Wagner and Strauss – as well as the music of Hans Werner Henze. From 2006 until 2010 he conducted Tankred Dorst’s new production of Wagner’s Ring in Bayreuth. Christian Thielemann first appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1996 and has returned many times since then, most recently in May 2011, when he conducted several works by Richard Strauss. In October 2011, he was awarded the honorary membership of the Royal Academy Music in London.