It was one of the great choral works of the 19th century: with Paradise and the Peri, Robert Schumann succeeded in creating what he himself described as “a new genre for the concert hall”. Not an opera, not an oratorio, but oriented towards both genres, the piece has everything that makes up a grandiose, Romantic vocal work: effective choral scenes, intimate, lyrical, lieder-like solo numbers, and an instrumental ensemble that shows Schumann at the height of his orchestration skills. The listener is guided through all the emotions of human existence: grief, despair, hope, love, remorse, joy...
The action, which takes place in exotic locations in India, Syria and Africa, is based on the epic Lalla Rookh by the Irish poet Thomas Moore. Schumann knew the poem from his youth and recorded it in his “project book” as a possible source material for an opera, but it was not until a friend pointed out the suitability of the subject and offered him his translation that Schumann decided to set the music. The Peri is a social outcast: the child of a fallen angel and a mortal woman, who is denied a place in Paradise. Only after a series of tests is the Peri purified and accepted in the ranks of the blessed.
Schumann himself considered the piece, which brought him a triumphant success at its premiere in 1843 and marked him out as the leading composer of his day, one of his most effective creations. However, after enjoying great success during his lifetime, the work was later almost completely forgotten. His admirers included the Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini, who performed the piece with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1976. The orchestra presented the work again in 2009 under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, a great admirer of Schumann. Under the baton of Mikko Franck, who is standing in for Simon Rattle, the Berliner Philharmoniker will be joined by the Rundfunkchor Berlin and a star-studded ensemble of soloists including Mark Padmore, current Artist in Residence and Christian Gerhaher, Artist in Residence of the 2013/14 season.