It was an enormous opera project: the production of Richard Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle in Salzburg and Aix-en-Provence from 2006 to 2009. Shortly before the conclusion of the cycle with Götterdämmerung listeners had the opportunity to experience highlights of the opera in a concert performance: the powerful orchestral outbursts in Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and Funeral March, the moving moment in which the Valkyrie Waltraute implores her sister Brünnhilde to give up the accursed ring and its promise of world domination, and finally, Brünnhilde’s closing scene, which begins as a global conflagration that destroys everything until the orchestral epilogue arouses the hope of a better and more humane future. Appearing as Brünnhilde in the Philharmonie was the Swedish soprano Katarina Dalayman, who, in addition to Aix and Salzburg, also sang the role at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
The concert began with a premiere by the GDR-born composer Siegfried Matthus, whose works have been performed in programmes of the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1980. His sophisticated, striking Concerto for Five, in which Philharmoniker principals Andreas Blau, Radek Baborák, Wenzel Fuchs, Albrecht Mayer and Stefan Schweigert gave brilliant performances, opened with a virtuosic percussion cameo by Simon Rattle as the sixth soloist: a humorous interlude which the composer himself devised, reminding listeners that Sir Simon not only had professional training as a conductor but also as a percussionist.