01 May 1999
European Concert in Krakow

Berliner Philharmoniker
Bernard Haitink

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    “Exsultate, jubilate”, K. 165 (14 min.)

    Christine Schäfer

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Mass in C minor, K. 427: “Et incarnatus est” (9 min.)

    Christine Schäfer

  • Frédéric Chopin
    Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in F minor, op. 21 (34 min.)

    Emanuel Ax

  • Robert Schumann
    Symphony No. 1 in B flat major, op. 38 “Spring” (36 min.)

Since 1991 the Berliner Philharmoniker have marked the anniversary of its formation on 1 May 1882 with a concert held in a venue specially chosen for its cultural significance. To mark the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s death, the orchestra travelled to the Polish composer’s homeland and, under the direction of Bernard Haitink, gave their ninth European Concert in the magnificent setting of Krakow’s Gothic St Mary’s Basilica.

The orchestra naturally paid musical homage to a composer who is arguably the greatest ever produced by Poland, choosing to perform Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto with Emanuel Ax, the winner of the 1974 Artur Rubinstein International Piano Competition, as the soloist. In the opinion of many music critics, Ax is “one of our most gifted Chopin pianists – a rare breed”. At the time of the 1999 European Concert he was about to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. To a certain extent, the concert marked a return to the pianist’s roots, for he had been born in L’viv as the son of Polish Jews and lived for a time in Warsaw before emigrating to Canada with his parents in 1959.

The conductor was the Dutch maestro Bernard Haitink, who has been closely associated with the Berlin Philharmonic since 1964, during which time he has conducted more than 150 concerts. Yet Schumann had appeared on these programmes only infrequently, making the present live recording of the First Symphony – also known as the “Spring” Symphony – all the more interesting in consequence. Schumann himself admitted to having written the work “in that first flush of spring that arguably continues to inspire man even in ripe old age, overwhelming him anew each year”.

But a basilica naturally demands the performance of church music, and so Christine Schäfer opened the concert with two sacred works by Mozart, the motet Exsultate, jubilate and the “Et incarnatus est” from the unfinished Mass in C minor. As always, her lean and agile soprano voice is perfectly suited to the Salzburg composer’s music.

EuroArtsRecorded at St Mary’s Basilica, Krakow
© 1999 EuroArts Music International

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