Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 4 in B flat major-
Symphony No. 5
Between the Eroica and the Fifth, often titled the “Symphony of Destiny” in the music history books, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony from 1806 never had an easy time of it. Until the present day, it may well be the most rarely played one, and thus even for avid classical music lovers the composer’s most unknown symphony. What a pity! With the Fourth Beethoven succeeded in creating a work which seamlessly links to the musical accomplishments of its predecessor, which is a great deal more popular.
Its predominantly relaxed, cheerful tone seems to be the background against which the dramatic developments of the Fifth were able to take shape. The composer was described by his contemporaries during his work on the Fourth as “in the mood for every prank, of good spirits, lively, enjoying life, witty, not seldom also satirical” – and Beethoven’s music of those days certainly has comparable traits. So it is high time to get to know (once again) this side of the “titan”.
Also worth discovering: the music of Carl Nielsen. Between 1891 and 1925 the Danish composer created six contributions to the symphonic genre – and pursued his own highly individual path in the border area between the late romantic and modern eras. In this concert programme, his Fifth, for which the Berliner Philharmoniker has invited Herbert Blomstedt, one of Nielsen’s most important contemporary champions, forms an antithesis to Beethoven’s Fourth.
Herbert Blomstedt was born in the United States to Swedish parents. After early lessons at the Stockholm Conservatory and the University of Uppsala, he studied conducting in New York, contemporary music at Darmstadt and Renaissance and Baroque music in Basel. After working as an assistant to Igor Markevitch and Leonard Bernstein, he made his professional debut as a conductor with the Stockholm Philharmonic in February 1954 and soon went on to become principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, the Danish and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras and the Dresden Staatskapelle, where he remained from 1975 to 1985. He spent the next decade as music director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, returning to Europe in 1996 as principal conductor as of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, a post he held until 1998. From 1998 to the end of the 2004/2005 season he was music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Herbert Blomstedt is now conductor laureate of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Danish and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, which he has conducted on a regular basis since 1982. In 2007 the Dresden Staatskapelle awarded him its Goldene Ehrennadel. Among the orchestras with whom he has appeared as a guest conductor are the Munich Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, all the leading American orchestras, the Israel Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Japan. Herbert Blomstedt made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1976 and has returned on frequent occasions since then, most recently in June 2012, when he conducted three concerts with Beethoven’s Missa solemnis. He is a fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and holds several honorary doctorates. He was awarded the “Großes Verdienstkreuz” (Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit) of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2003.