When Bernard Haitink and Emanuel Ax appear together in a concert, the composers on the programme are (almost) a given: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Anton Bruckner. The American pianist has been playing with the Berliner Philharmoniker for over 25 years, and he has repeatedly proven himself a specialist in the piano concerti of the First Viennese School, particularly Mozart’s. The Dutchman Bernard Haitink, guest conductor with the Philharmoniker since 1964, on the other hand, is one of the outstanding Bruckner interpreters of our time.
The two artists gave a guest performance with the Berliner Philharmoniker once before in 2001 with just this line-up of composers. At the time the Berliner Morgenpost wrote about Emanuel Ax’s rendition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in E flat major K. 449: “He considers it a privilege to serve Mozart. That pays off for both of them: the composer and his effortless interpreter.” This time Emanuel Ax plays another piano concerto in E-flat major, K. 271, which Mozart composed in 1777 for the pianist Louise Victoire Jenamy. With this virtuoso work, Jenamy, who was 21 at the time, proved herself a real master of the genre. Even the beginning in which the soloist and the orchestra immediately take up a lively dialogue is unusual and shows the composer’s individual creative drive.
The evening’s second work is also in the key of E flat major: Anton Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, which carries the epithet “Romantic” and is among the Austrian composer’s most-performed works. Bernard Haitink last conducted this piece with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1996. “We heard richly differentiated symphonic art,” the critic of the Berliner Zeitung wrote.