Richard Strauss’s Symphonia domestica, the premiere of which the composer conducted in New York in 1904, has a somewhat dubious reputation. Tremendous energy and full orchestral forces are in strange proportion to the programmatic subject matter of the symphonic poem. Strauss concentrates on his own family life – including domestic quarrels and children’s screaming. Nevertheless, the composer achieved an unusually entertaining, brilliantly orchestrated and virtuosically conceived work, for example, in the extended fugal passages. Zubin Mehta conducted the tone poem at a Berliner Philharmoniker concert in January 2009.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto also ran contrary to the expectations of contemporary audiences, since the solo instrument opened the work in place of the usual orchestral introduction. In the second movement, the lyrical part-song of the piano is contrasted with an abrupt, monophonic orchestral motif, like an urgently imploring individual and an initially merciless, then finally conciliatory collective body. Pianist Murray Perahia resumed his long-time collaboration with the Berliner Philharmoniker as soloist after an eleven-year absence.
Along with Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Bernd Alois Zimmermann, during the 2008/2009 season the orchestra also paid tribute to the American composer Elliott Carter on his 100th birthday, focussing on several of his compositions. During the time that remained until his death in 2011, Carter composed many outstanding works. He was “only” 97 when his Three Illusions was premiered in Boston in 2005. The transparent, precisely conceived 10-minute orchestral work demonstrates the composer’s vast literary knowledge: Carter’s Illusions were inspired by the legend of the Fountain of Youth as well as texts by Cervantes and Thomas Moore.