Whenever Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker performed works by Robert Schumann, it was mostly rarities that were to be heard: the Szenen aus Goethes Faust, or the melodrama Manfred. The overture to Schumann’s opera Genoveva, which Abbado conducts in this performance at the Philharmonie, is also likely to be a discovery for most. On the other hand, the concert ends with one of the composer’s most popular works: his Second Symphony.
Schumann composed the symphony at the end of 1845, when he was suffering from the effects of severe depression. “It seems to me that one must hear that in it,” was how he judged it himself. And in fact this is highly sensitive music that seems, for example in the Adagio espressivo of the third movement, as if the real world is left ever more behind. Other sections come across as more robust, more confident – but a fragile nervousness constantly emerges. However, the symphony should not be understood as a “musical medical report,” but as a particularly impressive document of Romantic sensibility.
The second composer in the programme is Alban Berg, who repeatedly devoted himself to the works of Schumann. Many of Schumann’s characteristics have since been revealed in Berg’s own style. For the listener, the influence is provided rather by the authentic sensitivity which is inherent to both composers. In Berg’s case, this is exemplified in the Altenberg-Lieder and in the Violin Concerto, which is performed in this concert. To explore the emotional depth of these works, the services of two outstanding soloists were secured: the mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and the violinist Isabelle Faust.