Mariss Jansons has been a regular guest of the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1976, but in fact he already conducted them five years earlier: during the Karajan Conducting Competition, which he won then in his late twenties. In 2015 the Latvian conductor raved in an interview with the Berliner Morgenpost: “I love this orchestra. The musicians are not only absolutely fantastic instrumentalists – they are truly passionate. Their artistic dedication is unbelievable. It is a joy for me every time I make music with the top-class orchestra.”
For his next concerts with the orchestra, Mariss Jansons has selected a programme that encompasses different eras of music history. This musical journey through time starts with the Clarinet Concerto in F minor, which Weber wrote in 1811 for Heinrich Joseph Baermann, clarinetist with the Munich court orchestra. He had a clarinet of the latest design, and it was this that provided the composer with the inspiration for this brilliant concerto. However, even the melancholy yet elegant first movement goes much further than mere virtuoso musical display: the music develops an inner drama that derives its power from the juxtaposition of bravura figures and elegiac tranquility. With its Romantic musical language, the atmospheric Adagio already hints at the Freischütz, while in contrast, the lively Rondo which follows makes for a dashing finale. The soloist is Andreas Ottensamer, principal clarinetist with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Jean Sibelius’s E minor symphony, which Mariss Jansons has also programmed, was composed 88 years after Weber’s musical stroke of genius – a first symphony in which the Finnish composer formally oriented himself towards the models of the genre, but in so doing found his way to a highly individual national romantic inflection (not for nothing did Armas Järnefelt, Sibelius’s brother-in-law, summarise: “He transformed everything that reached his ear into ‘Sibelius’”).
The concert concludes with the suite from the expressionist dance pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin, which Béla Bartók, as an ostentatious renunciation of the aestheticism of traditional ballets, intended to reflect “the repulsiveness of the civilized world”. The premiere, which took place at the Cologne Opera on 27 November 1926 conducted by Jenő Szenkár, turned out to be a scandal which even prompted a political intervention: the conductor was summoned to the office of Konrad Adenauer, then the mayor, who banned Bartók’s piece from the schedule…