The Guardian recently wrote about Riccardo Chailly, music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, that he is “one of a handful of living conductors who genuinely deserves to be called great”. On his road to “greatness”, one composer played a significant role who is also represented in the programme of this guest performance by Chailly in Berlin: Anton Bruckner, whose complete symphonies Chailly recorded from the mid-1980s onwards. Critics were effusive in their praise for these interpretations in which sinewy strength prevails rather than soft rapture – and at the same time, they were surprised that a young Italian should have so much to say about German late Romanticism. The Sixth Symphony, which is performed at this concert, is the perfect complement to Chailly’s approach: for Bruckner’s standards, a short work of compressed energy.
In addition to Bruckner, Felix Mendelssohn is also linked to Chailly’s artistic biography. After all, the composer was once head of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and thus Chailly’s predecessor in the role. This concert includes his Fourth Symphony, known as the Italian. The authors’ own assessment of their works adds a certain charm to the pairing with Bruckner’s Sixth: While Bruckner characterised his symphony as his “boldest”, Mendelssohn wrote that the Fourth was “the jolliest piece I have ever done”. Moreover, the fact that an interpretation of the Italian by a conductor with Chailly’s origins can claim a certain authenticity, is something that almost need not be mentioned.