Herbert von Karajan directed the Wiener Symphoniker for several years before he was appointed chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. At that time, the orchestra included the young cellist Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Probably no one would have expected at the time that over the decades this would exert an influence on the development of his musical interpretation which was to prove equal to Karajan’s. His rise to become one of the fathers of what is known as historical performance practice began with the reconstruction of original instruments and the founding of Concentus Musicus which still performs today, and with which Harnoncourt realised his specific approach to the interpretation of Early music – the initially highly controversial concept of “tonal language”.
His collaboration with renowned traditional ensembles such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic began in the 1980s. Harnoncourt became an important conductor at the Salzburg Festival and at the same time directed his own festival, the Styriarte in Graz. In the years following Herbert von Karajan’s death, an intensive and productive collaboration ultimately developed between Harnoncourt and the Berliner Philharmoniker. Contrary to what might have been expected, Baroque music was by no means the focus of attention, but the music of the First Viennese School and Central European Romanticism. There were recordings of complete performances of the symphonies of Brahms and Schubert. Due to health reasons, Harnoncourt had to cancel a planned guest performance with Robert Schumann’s Szenen aus Goethes Faust in 2013, so a striking rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in October 2011 was to be the last joint concert of this central musical figure of the 20th century with the Philharmoniker.