An unusual combination: Mozart’s Piano Concerto in E flat major K. 449 and Richard Strauss’s Burleske for piano and orchestra in one concert. But pianist Emanuel Ax already gave a guest performance with the Berliner Philharmoniker with this programme: in June 2001 he played the two works with Bernard Haitink as the conductor. The reviewer from the Berliner Morgenpost praised Ax’s Mozart interpretation when he wrote that Ax was no “lion” of the keyboard, more a dove that knows how to coo intelligently with his fingers. Richard Strauss, whose 150th anniversary of his birth was celebrated in 2014, admired Mozart all his life. For him, the Viennese classicist was the “incarnation of the pure artist” and a great role model, particularly in the field of opera. The Burleske, however, is in the tradition of Johannes Brahms. The work of the 21-year old Strauss brings together different elements: symphonic poem, piano concerto, farce. Witty, ironic, highly virtuoso – it is considered a challenge for any pianist.
When, ten years later, Richard Strauss composed his orchestral piece Also sprach Zarathustra, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical treatise of the same name, it had been quite some time since he was a “young” composer. Indeed, with a series of tone poems he had already proven himself a master of the genre. Since being used in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the work’s distinctive beginning with a rising trumpet motif has acquired cult status.