In 2015, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s European Concert could hardly have been more European, taking the orchestra to Greece, the country the name “Europe” comes from, and the cradle of democracy. In the Athens concert hall Megaron, Sir Simon Rattle conducted a programme which takes us on a whistle-stop tour of Europe with works by Gioacchino Rossini, Robert Schumann and Jean Sibelius. The soloist is the Greek star violinist Leonidas Kavakos.
The concert opens with the overture to Rossini’s Semiramide – a work rich in original ideas and full of typical Rossinian liveliness which contrasts with the tragedy of love, hatred and intrigue that follows. The work marks a première for the Berliner Philharmoniker and its chief conductor as they had never performed Rossini together before.
We then move on – musically speaking – to Finland, the home of Jean Sibelius. He breathed life into Romantic music well into the 20th century when his colleagues had long since started looking for new sound worlds. The attraction of his Violin Concerto lies in its dark atmosphere, folkloric flavour and impressive virtuosity. Leonidas Kavakos already proved to Philharmoniker audiences that he has the ideal sensitivity for this music in an acclaimed concert in Berlin in February 2013.
The final work of the concert is Robert Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony. With the greatest artistic compression, the work reflects the intense, changing emotions of the Romantic period: a hopeful enthusiasm which repeatedly reveals flashes of devastation and depression. The symphony has been a musical calling card for the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle for several years, and has already been performed at numerous guest appearances from Stockholm to New York.