When the Berliner Philharmoniker ended their 2012/13 season with an open-air performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Sir Simon Rattle, the evening’s motto was undoubtedly “Brothers, beneath the starry vault a loving father must dwell!” Where could we find a better illustration of Schiller’s enthusiasm for Creation than in what is arguably Europe’s most beautiful outdoor stage, where the merry twitter of the local birds blends with the playing of a world-class orchestra?
For Rattle it was a particular joy to have Christian Tetzlaff as his soloist, for he holds the violinist in high esteem: “He combines intellect with passion – and he does so without any airs and graces.” Tetzlaff delighted his listeners with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, performing it not as an ingratiating display piece, as one might expect with an outdoor audience, but as a masterpiece of the violin repertory that Tetzlaff was keen to present in this very special setting: “Performing in the open air is tremendous fun because you know that the most disparate people will come. It is important that I tell people who rarely go to a concert what a jewel this piece is. It begins by depicting a situation that I would describe as problematical and ends with a frenzy of joy. That sounds unsubtle, but when you hear it you, you can’t escape from its spell.”
This was the first time that Rattle had conducted a Waldbühne Concert since 2009, and his reading of the Ninth Symphony was clearly a pre-emptive strike, anticipating the complete Beethoven cycle that he conducted and recorded with the Berliner Philharmoniker during the 2015/16 season. As the critic of the Berliner Morgenpost noted, the audience heard a conductor “in whom age is beginning to glow”, while another reviewer, writing in Der Tagesspiegel, felt that at least by the final movement, with its setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy, Rattle was “unmistakably drawing the work’s thrilling message from the very depths of the orchestra”. The concert ended, as it does every year, with Paul Lincke’s perennial favourite, Berliner Luft, in which Rattle – a trained percussionist – beat time not with his baton but with his timpani drumsticks.