It is one of the highest accolades the Berliner Philharmoniker can award: to invite a soloist to perform a complete cycle of works with the orchestra. In the case of Mitsuko Uchida, this is not wholly unexpected: as Pianist in Residence in the 2008/2009 season, she regularly performed in the Philharmonie. One year later, all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos were included in the programme – none of which Mitsuko Uchida had performed with the Philharmoniker before. This first evening was the turn of Concerto No. 1.
In this series of performances, Beethoven’s piano concertos were paired with the symphonies of Sibelius. For a long time, Sibelius’s works were regarded as the expression of a suspiciously traditional compositional style. Today, however, as it is now generally accepted that great music can reveal itself in a variety of forms, we can approach this austerely beautiful music with unbiased ears. Opening this series, the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle perform his First Symphony, a work typical of the late-Romantic era, whose expressiveness is likely to have been inspired by Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique which was composed only a few years earlier.
The Beethoven-Sibelius cycle had yet another facet: works by Hungarian composers, which together formed one of the themes of the 2008/2009 season. Ligeti’s Atmosphères was one of the pieces to be performed at this concert, which also became famous outside classical circles through the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.