The Easter Festival has always been an occasion for the Berliner Philharmoniker to work with young, aspiring soloists for the first time. This was also the case at this year’s Baden-Baden Festival, where the Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta made her Philharmoniker debut with Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Sir Simon Rattle conducts this recording from the Festspielhaus which also includes works by Wagner and Ligeti, and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps.
The conductor and orchestra have already contrasted the prelude to Wagner’s Lohengrin and György Ligeti’s orchestral piece Atmosphères and demonstrated that in different ways, they both pursue similar objectives – that of an iridescent, otherworldly sound. The evening continues with Sol Gabetta’s performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto: the final great work of the composer, full of melancholy and farewell. Gabetta has already shown in a CD recording that she is one of the outstanding performers of the concerto, as Gramophone magazine described: “Sol Gabetta’s Elgar Concerto is one of the best around, a heartfelt, tonally rounded performance […]. Hers is a softly spoken presence, especially beautiful in those infinitely sad modulations that fall towards the end of the piece.”
In contrast to Elgar’s concerto, Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps is entirely focused on the future and pushes the boundaries of classical music in terms of sound, rhythm and energy. However, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle have shown in their performances that the work, despite its inherent modernity, also provides a wealth of sensual pleasure. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted approvingly of a performance in 2012 that “The musicians breezed through the Sacre with ridiculous virtuosity, as laid-back as if it were a fluffy Mambo on a dance floor on a Caribbean beach.”