The Junge Deutsche Philharmonie with David Afkham and Steven Isserlis
20 Mar 2018
Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Les Offrandes oubliées, Méditation symphonique pour orchestre (10 min.)
Tout un monde lointain ..., Cello Concerto (31 min.)
Steven Isserlis cello
El cant dels ocells (4 min.)
Steven Isserlis cello
Symphonie fantastique, op. 14 (61 min.)
They are all between the ages of 18 and 28 and are the orchestral professionals of tomorrow: the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, a group of ambitious musicians who together form an orchestra with the highest of artistic standards. Since it was founded in 1974, only the crème de la crème of young people from all over Germany have been permitted to join the ranks of the orchestra. Nothing has changed to this day, which is why the orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker have also had a long musical partnership: for a long time now, this youthful ensemble has appeared every year at the Philharmonie.
On this occasion, the conductor is David Afkham, the son of a family of musicians (his brother Micha has been a member of the viola section of the Berliner Philharmoniker since 2004), and is currently chief conductor of La Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España. The evening begins with Olivier Messiaen’s Les Offrandes oubliées, an early, multi-coloured work which is divided into the sections “The Cross”, “The Sin”, and “The Eucharist”, and ends with the highest glorification: “The Cross and the Eucharist are the Divine Offerings ...” (Messiaen). After Messiaen’s symphonic orchestral mediation, the programme continues with Henri Dutilleux’s cello concerto Tout un monde lointain – a work that had to be encored in its entirety at its premiere at the festival in Aix-en-Provence on 25 July 1970 with Mstislav Rostropovich as the soloist.
The soloist this evening is no less than Steven Isserlis, who can conjure up unimagined sounds on his 1726 “Marquis de Corberon” cello from the workshop of Antonio Stradivarius. The symphonic main item of the concert is Hector Berlioz’ spectral and demonic Symphonie fantastique. As a “Conte fantastique”, its subject matter is the imaginative world of an imaginary musician who has poisoned himself with opium “in a fit of despair” (Berlioz). It ends with a wild witches Sabbath which is even more turbulent than Carl Maria von Weber’s Wolf’s Glen from ten years before.
David Afkham is Principal Conductor of the Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España since 2014, and has been guest conductor with orchestras including the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and at the Salzburg Festival. Born in 1983 in Freiburg, Germany, David Afkham received his early piano and violin lessons at the age of six. At 15, he entered his native city’s University of Music to pursue studies in piano, music theory and conducting and continued his studies at the Franz Liszt School of Music in Weimar. He was a conducting fellow of the Richard Wagner Association in Bayreuth and of the German Music Council. David Afkham was the first recipient of the ‘Bernard Haitink Fund for Young Talent’ and subsequently assisted Haitink in a number of projects including symphony cycles with the Chicago Symphony, the Royal Concertgebouw and the Berliner Philharmoniker. He was the winner of the 2008 Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in London, resulting in him becoming the assistant conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra for two years. From 2009 until 2012 he had the same position with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. In 2010, David Afkham was the inaugural recipient of the ‘Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award’. In summer 2014, David Afkham made a noted opera debut with Verdi’s La traviata at Glyndebourne Festival Opera.
The British cellist Steven Isserlis was born in London in 1958, the son of a family of musicians. In his international concert career, he performs not only as a soloist and chamber musician but also with orchestras. Steven Isserlis has, for example, appeared as a guest artist with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tonhalle-Orchestra Zurich. He pursues his interest in Early music together with Baroque ensembles such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; another focus is on contemporary works: Isserlis has played numerous world premieres, including John Tavener’s piece for cello and orchestra The Protecting Veil which was dedicated to him, Thomas Adès’ Lieux retrouvés and Wolfgang Rihm’s Cello Concerto (at the Salzburg Festival 2006). Steven Isserlis’s wide-ranging activities also include organising concert series, teaching, and writing children’s books. Since 1997, he has been artistic director of the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove, Cornwall. His numerous awards include his appointment as Commander of the British Empire (1998), the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau (2000) and the Gold Medal of the Wigmore Hall (2017). Steven Isserlis plays the “Marquis de Corberon” cello by Antonio Stradivari (1726), on loan from the Royal Academy of Music.
The Junge Deutsche Philharmonie is one of Germany’s most sought-after youth orchestras. The members, aged 18 to 28, who are students at music colleges in German-speaking countries, come together several times a year for intensive rehearsal periods with subsequent international concert tours and guest performances. In addition to the large symphonic repertoire, other focuses of the orchestra’s work are contemporary music and historically informed performance practice. With its biennial festival FREISPIEL in Frankfurt, the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie has been highlighting interdisciplinary and experimental performances since 2008. The orchestra works regularly with renowned artists: since 2014, Jonathan Nott has been its principal conductor and artistic advisor following Lothar Zagrosek, who shaped the orchestra from 1995 to 2014. Conductors such as George Benjamin, Ivor Bolton, Sylvain Cambreling, Dennis Russell Davies, Susanna Mälkki, Bruno Mantovani, Sir Neville Marriner and Andrés Orozco-Estrada have also directed the orchestra. Soloists including Renaud Capuçon, Martin Fröst, Sol Gabetta, Martin Helmchen, Truls Mørk, Christiane Oelze, Antoine Tamestit, Christian Tetzlaff and Carolin Widmann enrich the artistic mastery of the orchestra members, as does the collaboration with the composers Beat Furrer, Heiner Goebbels, Enno Poppe, Wolfgang Rihm, Jörg Widmann and Hans Zender. Special partnerships connect the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker. At the invitation of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation, the orchestra was last heard at the Philharmonie under the direction of Jonathan Nott in March 2017. The programme included works by Ravel, Mahler and Shostakovich.