Every year the Berliner Philharmoniker end their season with a varied and high-spirited open-air concert in the city’s sold-out Waldbühne. On 21 June 2009 some 22,000 concert-goers assembled there, as usual, for a feast of classical music in the form of a summer concert accompanied by wine and a picnic. Even before the orchestra’s principal conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, had set foot on the podium, the audience was already performing Mexican waves.
Under the title “Russian Rhythms”, the sounds of winter from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker contrasted with an atmosphere more usually associated with the summer solstice, after which Yefim Bronfman, one of the most famous and sought-after pianists of our day, gave a powerful reading of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, eliciting storms of enthusiasm at the end.
During the intermission, a cloudburst drenched the audience to the skin, but their good mood remained intact. Not even Stravinsky’s powerful Rite of Spring was able to drive away the dark clouds for more than a short space of time. In the words of the critic of Der Tagesspiegel, this work is “one of the Berliners’ warhorses, bleak and challenging, and almost deafeningly loud. The elements quake, mankind holds out beneath his rain covers. Water splashes in Tupperware containers.” After a storm of applause and a firework display of sparklers, the orchestra offered two encores: another titbit from The Nutcracker and Paul Lincke’s Berliner Luft, a piece that traditionally ends these concerts, encouraging the capacity audience to join in by clapping in time with it.