Zubin Mehta, who has been a regular guest with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1961, keeps surprising the Berlin audience with something new: in this concert, he opens this programme with the Intermezzo from the opera Notre Dame by Franz Schmidt, today relatively unknown, loosely based on Victor Hugo’s famous novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The work is one of the great successes of the cellist, pedagogue and composer, who worked in Vienna. Although himself a representative of late Romantic musical aesthetics, Schmidt was also appreciated by such an avant-garde composer as Arnold Schoenberg.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who came from the same Viennese musical tradition as Schmidt, also cultivated a late Romantic musical language throughout his career. This made him highly suited to his extremely successful activity as a film composer, which certainly had an impact on his other compositions: when Korngold was composing his violin concerto in 1945, he drew on themes from earlier film scores. The soloist for the concert is Gil Shaham, who debuted at the age of 17 with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1988 and since then has performed almost all the great violin concertos with the orchestra.
The programme also concludes with a late Romantic work: Camille Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony – the Organ Symphony. The composer developed the themes of the four movements from the mediaeval sequence “Dies irae”. This and the use of the organ in the final movement lend the work a monumental impact and breadth. In this concert, Thierry Escaich makes his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker. The French composer is professor at the Paris Conservatoire and the titular organist at the Parish Church Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.