In November 2009, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle made several guest appearances in several cities in the USA, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Two of the works performed before the American public can be heard in this concert: Brahms’s Second Symphony and Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1. The performance of all Brahms’s symphonies was a project central to the 2008/2009 season. German weekly Die Zeit noted with satisfaction that Rattle succeeded in combining “the scale of Furtwängler with Karajan’s beauty of tone”.
Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony embodies a decisive rejection of the melodious sound of the late-Romantic period, a work on the threshold between tonal and atonal music. Although this “emancipation of dissonance” disturbed audiences at the time, it did, however, open up music to previously unimagined worlds of expression.
The concert opens with the Symphony for mezzo-soprano and small orchestra by Hans Krása, the first time this composer was included in a concert by the Philharmoniker. Krása, who was born in Prague in 1899, only achieved bitter posthumous fame in the 1980s as the composer of the children’s opera Brundibár, which was performed over fifty times in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Nazi era. Hans Krása was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.