When the Berliner Philharmoniker first performed Witold Lutosławski’s Second Symphony in March 1970, they provoked contrary audience reactions: booing and bravos clashed loudly. At the time, the work’s seemingly disparate musical language met with little understanding. Lutosławski’s Second Symphony is an extremely tension-fraught piece with two very contradictory parts: a hesitant, episodic first movement and a forward-pressing, purposeful second movement.
Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, in which the composer came to terms with his unrequited love for the soprano Johanna Richter, left listeners unimpressed at first. The orchestral version premiered in March 1896 with the “Berlin Philharmonisches Orchester”. Mahler had hired the orchestra at his own expense to present several of his works to the public. Besides a lack of interest in the event, reviewers were not very complimentary. “Nonetheless, I would not like to deny Mr Mahler any talent. If only he were not searching so frantically for originality.” (Zeitschrift für Musik)
This is in stark contrast to Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, which was already enthusiastically received at its premiere in 1927. Though Janáček set a Slavonic mass text to music, the work is anything but archaic, dogmatic or reactionary. Instead, the Czech composer created a composition full of drama and vitality – testimony to his humanist, pan-Slavic worldview.