“The man at the conductor’s desk [...] bristled with musicality and interpretive single-mindedness,” wrote the Berliner Morgenpost after Alan Gilbert conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time in February 2006. The American, who today is music director of the New York and Stockholm Philharmonic, stepped in at short notice for an indisposed Bernard Haitink. His debut was so successful that further invitations followed in 2009 and 2011.
In this concert, Alan Gilbert conducts works whose creators contributed significantly to the musical identity of their country: Witold Lutosławski rose after the Second World War to become Poland’s leading composer. Stylistically, he initially looked to Bartók and Stravinsky, and later also to John Cage. His Fourth Symphony shows that he has roots in yet another tradition, the music of Claude Debussy.
For the Hungarian Béla Bartók, melody, rhythm and folk music harmonies were a major source of inspiration. However, the references are often – as in his ballet The Wooden Prince – rather subtle. The composer deals with an existential theme: the contrasting natures of men and women. The Czech Leoš Janáček was at the height of his fame when, in 1926, he started to write a violin concerto with the title The Wandering of a Little Soul. The work remained a fragment and was reconstructed for performance decades later. Major themes from this highly expressive piece were used by Janáček in the overture of his final opera From the House of the Dead.