“The Berliner Philharmoniker have lost one of their most important instrumentalists,” the Berliner Tagesspiegel stated in 2008, “but at the same time the musical world has won a maestro burning for action!” They were referring to Karl-Heinz Steffens, who had given up his position as principal clarinettist with the Berliner Philharmoniker one year before to take up a conducting career. From 2008 to 2013 Karl-Heinz Steffens found a new artistic home as general music director in Halle; since 2009, he has been principal conductor of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz. Karl-Heinz Steffens – now also in demand in Munich, Dresden, Cologne, Vienna, Manchester, Amsterdam, Milan and Tokyo, made his successful debut conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker during the 2013/2014 concert season.
In this concert with the German National Youth Orchestra (for which the Philharmoniker have taken over a sponsorship) with Christian Tetzlaff – Artist in Residence of the Berliner Philharmoniker in the 2014/2015 season – Karl-Heinz Steffens conducts Béla Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. The two compositions have the reputation of being “fateful” works by their creators. Bartók wrote his Second Violin Concerto in 1937–38 at the urging of his compatriot violinist Zoltán Székely, at a time when he was increasingly the target of defamatory attacks by the right-wing national press. Tchaikovsky’s Fourth – which opens the trilogy of the so-called “Fate Symphonies” by the Russian composer – was written at a time of personal crisis.