This concert by the Berliner Philharmoniker under its chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle could be headlined “magical sounds”. Especially in its first half, the programme brings together music by composers who truly were sorcerers with sound. In the Prelude to Act I of his romantic opera Lohengrin, Richard Wagner in 1848 characterised the rarefied world of medieval Grail knights with iridescent music of a sort never heard before.
Then half a century later, French composers played with new instrumental colours and, in an illusion to contemporary painting, were promptly labelled “impressionists”. Claude Debussy’s Jeux and the second suite from Maurice Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé are two of the most beautiful examples of French music of that period. Finally, the Hungarian composer György Ligeti, who made his international breakthrough in 1961 with the orchestral work atmosphères, occupies a special position in the second half of the 20th century as an avant-gardist whose incredible aural imagination even fascinates people who otherwise have an antipathy to New Music.
After so much musical magic, Robert Schumann’s Third Symphony would seem to be at a disadvantage – after all, its creator was often cited for struggling with orchestration. But this prejudice has long since been dispelled, thanks not least to historically informed performance practice. And so there will also be new colours to discover in Schumann’s Rhenish.