Strictly speaking, the annual Waldbühne Concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker is itself an encore, coming as it does at the end of a ten-month season in the city’s Philharmonie, during which time the orchestra has worked its way through the great symphonic repertory. Only then is it able to step away from the classical canon at its final appearance before its summer break and spend the evening out of doors. And since the orchestra practically never performs an encore at any of its normal subscription concerts, the players decided that in 2002 they would bring together everything that might serve this purpose and present a selection of World Encores under the baton of Mariss Jansons.
They were supported in this by the Russian violinist Vadim Repin, who was making his debut with the Philharmoniker. According to the critic of the Berliner Morgenpost, his was an “entirely successful debut. With his virtuosically thrilling playing Repin remained the key player”, dazzling his audience not only with showpieces by Wieniawski and Tchaikovsky but also with Kreisler’s Tambourin chinois and Gardel’s famous tango Por una cabeza. Following Paganini’s Variations on Carnevale di Venezia, the appreciative audience refused to let him go until he had repeated the famous melody a few more times – in Germany the tune is sung to the words “Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken” – and provided what might almost be described as an encore to an encore.
As for the purely orchestral pieces, they ranged from the Expressionist scream of Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin to Sibelius’s melancholy Valse triste and to operatic excerpts by composers such as Moniuszko, Massenet and Mascagni, culminating in New Year’s favourites by Ziehrer and Lumbye. Time and again the various orchestral departments were able to show off their skills. Listen, for example, to the virtuosic drummers in the ballet music Yugen by the Japanese composer Yuzo Toyama and to the resplendent brass in the prelude to Act III of Wagner’s Lohengrin. Not for a moment was the audience bored, and at the end they all joined in a typically spirited rendition of the evening’s only genuine encore, Paul Lincke’s Berliner Luft, a piece that is now such a regular part of the Waldbühne programme as the end-of-season concert itself.