Paavo Järvi recently caused a furore in the music world with his spectacular Beethoven cycle. So it is only fitting that also in the Berlin Philharmonie, one of the composer’s symphonic works is included in the programme. Beethoven’s First Symphony begins with a dissonant seventh which does not inform the listener of the basic key of the work as was traditional, but forms the starting point of a harmonic puzzle. There had never been a beginning with such tension before in a symphonic work, and it seemed as if the composer wanted to make clear with this opening bar that with the beginning of a new century (the premiere took place on 2 April 1800), the rules of the genre had changed.
Paul Hindemith’s Violin Concerto, on the other hand, is famous for its expansive lyrical melodic lines, something Frank Peter Zimmermann with his Stradivarius is certain to bring out. Composed in 1939 – shortly before Hindemith emigrated to the USA, the work assumes occasionally melancholic features, with the clear singing of the solo violin emerging beguilingly again and again from the dark timbre of its surroundings.
Jean Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony appeared almost 24 years earlier, a work whose popularity has remained unbroken ever since its premiere on 8 December 1915. “Today at ten to eleven I saw 16 swans. One of the greatest experiences!” wrote Sibelius during the genesis of the work. “Their call the same woodwind type as that of cranes, but without tremolo. A gentle refrain that sounds like the crying of a small child. Nature mysticism and world-weariness! The final theme of the Fifth Symphony: Legato in the trumpets!!”