Programme guide

Vladimir Jurowski has been an unmistakeable great on the international music scene since at least 2007. That was when the just 35-year-old was made principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra – a position whose predecessors include Kurt Masur and Georg Solti. What in particular is praised about Jurowski’s interpretations is that they combine what are actually contradictory qualitites; astute analysis and emotional fire. Moreover there is his engaging physical presence, leading one London critic to write that Jurowski is “the most sheerly elegant conductor I’ve ever seen”.

For this guest appearance with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Jurowski conducts Das klagende Lied by the young Gustav Mahler, a cantata which combines both horror and fantasy: a young man murders his own brother, but his crime is revealed by the song of a magical flute. The composer was happy with this work, even in his later years: “The first work where I found myself as ‘Mahler’ is a fairytale for choir, soloists and orchestra: Das klagende Lied!” And indeed there is a wealth of forest murmurs and leitmotifs in the best Wagner style, but there is also that difficult to describe but unmistakeable Mahler sound.

In this concert, Mahler’s early work is contrasted with two late compositions by Igor Stravinsky. Firstly, a new version of Bach’s organ variations on “Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her”, which Stravinsky enriches with additional musical colour and an individual playful charm. The Requiem canticles are equally rich in variety, but are bound together by an elusive seriousness. These coolly detached yet moving songs, Stravinsky’s final large-scale work, became his own requiem; they were sung at the composer’s own funeral in Venice in 1971.

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