In the singing of birds, the devout Catholic Olivier Messiaen saw musical testimony of God’s love for creation and its creatures. For this reason, the French composer made bird song the basis of his works from the beginning of the 1950s. He transferred its intricate rhythms and intervals to our own tonal system, and imitated its specific timbre using a sophisticated orchestration technique.
The soloist in Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques for piano and small orchestra from 1955/1956 is the Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida, who also performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B flat major K. 456 in this concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of its chief conductor. Another focus of the concert is a composer who has always been close to Sir Simon Rattle’s heart: Joseph Haydn. Rattle himself calls this part of the programme “an eccentric journey through Haydn”. The conductor got the idea for this unusual programming combination from Marc Minkowski, who compiled Jean-Philippe Rameau’s best works into a “Symphonie imaginaire”. “I thought how wonderful it would be if all the most outlandish and particularly the most forward-looking pieces of his were all put together like a kind of ‘greatest hits’,” says Simon Rattle.
“The idea is to make a musical journey through all that is quirky and extraordinary, humorous and profound in Haydn. Hopefully this pasticcio will give a picture of the composer who most summed up all the ideals of the Enlightenment, of intelligence, respect, humour, wit and profound thought.”