Simon Rattle’s inaugural concert from 2002 with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony

07 Sep 2002
Inaugural concert of Simon Rattle as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Berliner Philharmoniker
Sir Simon Rattle

  • Thomas Adès
    Asyla, op. 17 (28 min.)

  • Gustav Mahler
    Symphony No. 5 (73 min.)

  • Johannes Brahms
    Hungarian Dance No. 3 in F major (4 min.)

For many music fans, it is the beginning of a new era when a new chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker leads the orchestra in this role for the first time. In 1999, by a large majority, the Berliner Philharmoniker elected Sir Simon Rattle to succeed Claudio Abbado, and with this brilliant inaugural concert in November 2002, their three-year pre-nuptial engagement came to a spectacular end.

Expectations were not disappointed. On the programme were works by two composers – Thomas Adès and Gustav Mahler – who had already featured on the programme of Rattle’s final concert in Birmingham. Asyla was written for Rattle in 1997, and it was he who conducted its first performance in the city. At the time Adès was only twenty-six, but he has in the meantime come to be regarded as Britten’s legitimate successor – and not only by his fellow Britons. The title of his piece, which lasts around twenty minutes in performance, is a pun on the ambiguity of the English word “asylum”, meaning both “sanctuary” and “madhouse”. Music critic Alex Ross described it in the pages of the New Yorker as “a piece in four movements which passes through violently contrasted symphonic episodes while pursuing a single potent figure”.

Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is a transitional work, no longer revelling in the world of the Wunderhorn songs that had typified the composer’s first four symphonies, but not yet as mystically lost to the world as the Sixth, Seventh and Ninth. In conducting it, Rattle paid a magnificent tribute to his predecessor Claudio Abbado, who was the orchestra’s great mentor in all matters relating to Mahler. It was a glorious start to Rattle’s incumbency, and one that not only the audience but the orchestra, too, rewarded with thunderous applause.


© 2000 EuroArts Music International

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