Every year since 1991, the Berliner Philharmoniker have marked the anniversary of their foundation with a concert in a different cultural capital: for their twenty-first European Concert on 1 May 2011, they were the guests of the magnificent Teatro Real in Madrid. Their programme comprised the exuberant rhapsody España by the French composer Emmanuel Chabrier, Rachmaninov’s dramatic Second Symphony and a quintessential Spanish composition: Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.
Schiller’s play Don Carlos famously opens with the line “The pleasant days here in Aranjuez are now drawing to a close”. Music lovers are more fortunate because thanks to Rodrigo’s immortal guitar concerto they can continue to savour the magical mood in the summer palace of the Spanish kings, especially when the soloist is a flamenco virtuoso like Cañizares, who can throw such fascinating light on every facet of this multi-layered score.
After the interval, the orchestra turn to Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, a relatively unknown work, which Sir Simon Rattle – a self-confessed fan of the composer – conducts without a score. As he noted afterwards, the orchestra “played the hell out of it”, resulting, in the opinion of the press, in a thrilling and very special experience. “The orchestra was urged on by Rattle’s impulsive direction, playing with brio and unleashing wave after wave of tension, turning the symphony’s sweeping movements into a self-contained and thrilling whole.”