Jaap van Zweden began his musical career as a 19-year-old with one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world: the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam – not as a conductor but as first concertmaster. In 1996 he swapped his violin for a baton and launched an international career as a conductor which has taken him to the top position with the New York Philharmonic. With this concert, Jaap van Zweden made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, standing in for the indisposed Mariss Jansons.
Johannes Brahms and Béla Bartók are the eveningʼs composers. Brahms struggled with his First Symphony for 14 years before completing it in 1876: the example of Beethoven seemed overpowering. Nevertheless, Brahms masterfully found his own way. In his symphony, there are references to Beethoven but also a pioneering structural concept – with an introduction that already contains the germ of all the symphonyʼs thematic material.
Béla Bartók, whose Concerto for Orchestra we also hear in this concert, was an admirer of Brahms. Commissioned by the American Koussevitzky Foundation, Bartók wrote the work in 1943. The title is explained by the concertante solo treatment of individual instrument groups. When Bartók composed this work, he was already terminally ill and – in terms of his recognition as a composer – he was totally disillusioned. Nevertheless, he succeeded in creating a work which, from its sombre opening, finds its way to a life-affirming finale.