Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony

13 Jun 2014

Berliner Philharmoniker
Gustavo Dudamel

Gerhild Romberger

  • Harrison Birtwistle
    Dinah and Nick’s Love Song (8 min.)

  • Gustav Mahler
    Symphony No. 3 in D minor (108 min.)

    Kai-Uwe Jirka Chorus Master, Knaben des Staats- und Domchors Berlin, Gerhild Romberger Mezzo-Soprano, Women of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, Tobias Löbner Chorus Master

When Gustav Mahler played his Third Symphony on the piano for the young Bruno Walter in Steinbach am Attersee, the latter was literally “stunned” by the “power and freshness of the tonal language”. “Only now and only through this music,” the conductor writes in his Mahler book, “do I feel I have perceived him; his entire being seemed to me to breathe a mysterious affinity to nature; until then I was only able to sense how deep, how elementary it was; I now came to know it directly through the musical idiom of his symphonic world dream. At the same time I also felt in him the yearning individual who with his presentiment pushes beyond the borders of the earthly and temporal and which the last three movements announced to me.”

Gustavo Dudamel performs Mahler’s symphonic world dream with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger. It is a truly monumental work in which the composer once again was led by the idea “of building up a world using all technical means available”. It is no accident that Mahler characterised his Third as a “musical poem spanning all stages of development in a gradual increase,” beginning with “inanimate nature” and increasing in cosmological expansion to people and angels “all the way to God’s love”. Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s five-minute piece Dinah and Nick’s Love Song for three melody instruments and harp provides an atmospheric beginning to the concert.

Gustavo Dudamel was born in Barquisimeto in Venezuela in 1981 and trained as a conductor, violinist and composer: he studied the violin with José Francisco del Castillo at the Latin American Academy for the Violin and took lessons in conducting with Rodolfo Saglimbeni and José Antonio Abreu. He was only twenty-three when he won the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition organized by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in 2004. Since then he has become an iconic figure in the world of classical music. He is honorary conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, where he served as principal conductor from 2007 until 2012. Since the 2009/10 season he is music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In addition, he is a regular guest conductor with the Philharmonia of London, Milan’s La Scala and the Vienna Philharmonic. Since 1999 he has been music director of the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, and together they have appeared four times in the Berlin Philharmonie.He made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker at its annual Waldbühne Concert in June 2008; he last appeared with the orchestra at the beginning of December 2013 conducting works by Stravinsky, Schubert and Beethoven. His many distinctions include the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Music Award for Young Artists (2007). Dudamel was inducted into “l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” as a Chevalier in Paris in 2009 and into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 2011. He has been named Musical America’s 2013 Musician of the Year.

Gerhild Romberger was born and raised in Emsland in Germany, and initially studied to be a school music teacher at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold before graduating in singing under Heiner Eckels. She additionally attended courses in lieder interpretation with Mitsuko Shirai and Hartmut Höll. The mezzo-soprano has always concentrated on concert singing: the main focus of her activities are lieder recitals and her involvement in contemporary music. The singer’s repertoire includes all the major alto and mezzo-soprano roles in oratorio and concert music, from the Baroque to 20th century works. Major recent engagements for Gerhild Romberger included working together with Manfred Honeck (e.g. in performances of Gustav Mahler symphonies and the Große Messe of Walter Braunfels) and concerts with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (i.e. in Franz Schmidt’s Buch mit den sieben Siegeln conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock). She has performed with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, several German radio symphony orchestras, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductors such as Riccardo Chailly and Mariss Jansons have invited Gerhild Romberger to perform in their concerts. The artist, who has held a professorship in singing at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold for several years, gave her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in June 2012 in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, the conductor was Herbert Blomstedt.

The Rundfunkchor Berlinis a sought-after partner of leading orchestras and conductors all over the world, including long-standing partnerships with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and the Berliner Philharmoniker. In around 50 concerts per year the chorus displays an exceptional breadth of repertoire and stylistic versatility. With it’s experimental series, “Broadening the Scope of Choral Music”, in collaboration with artists from diverse disciplines, the Rundfunkchor Berlin is breaking down the classical concert format and adopting new modes of choral music for a new audience: In 2012 an interactive scenic version of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem staged by Jochen Sandig / Sasha Waltz & Guests attracted great attention. Founded in 1925 and shaped by conductors including Helmut Koch, Dietrich Knothe and Robin Gritton, the Rundfunkchor Berlin has been directed since 2001 by Simon Halsey. Their work together is documented by many recordings and awards, including three Grammy Awards. Simon Halsey, who was awarded the “Bundesverdienstkreuz” (Cross of the Order of Merit) in January 2011, has also initiated many of the choir’s education and outreach projects, such as the annual Sing-along Concert and the “Liederbörse” (Song Exchange) for children and young people. The Rundfunkchor last appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker in February this year in staged performances of Bach’s St. John Passion, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

The Staats- und Domchor Berlin is one of the famous boys’ choirs in Germany, with a history that goes back to the 15th century. Its first golden age was in the 19th century under the direction of conductors such as Felix Mendelssohn, Otto Nicolai and August Neithardt. In 1923 the ensemble was renamed the “Staats- und Domchor Berlin” and became affiliated with the University of Music. Today, the choir provides music for services at the Cathedral of Berlin and also for state occasions. In addition, it participates in performances in opera houses and concert venues in Berlin, and holds its own concerts with a repertoire which includes the great works of the Western choral tradition from the Middle Ages to modern times. Since 2002, the choir has been led by Kai-Uwe Jirka, professor of choral conducting at the Berlin University of the Arts. In addition to many other awards, the Staats- und Domchor Berlin won the European Youth Choir Culture Prize in 2002. Tours have taken the choir to other European countries, Asia, the USA and Israel. The Staats- und Domchor most recently participated in concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker in December 2013 in performances of Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, conducted by Daniel Harding.

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