In 2006, the traditional New Year’s Eve concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker was broadcast live by German public broadcaster ZDF for the thirtieth time. Bringing that year’s celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth to a close, Sir Simon Rattle presented the composer’s Piano Concerto in D minor K 466, one of his most popular solo concertos, with Mitsuko Uchida as the soloist. It was framed by late-Romantic delicacies from the pen of Richard Strauss: his early tone poem Don Juan and the finale of Der Rosenkavalier with a star-studded cast of singers.
Mozart wrote his first piano concerto in a minor key in early 1785 in such a hurry that there wasn’t even time before the first performance for a run-through of the final movement with the orchestra. Nevertheless, the concerto was a great success, despite (or perhaps because of) its sombre D minor, reminiscent of Don Giovanni and Mozart’s Requiem in the same key. Mitsuko Uchida once again gave a ravishing performance on this New Year’s Eve, and the music critic Klaus Geitel hailed her as “a gentle fanatic of precision, lightness, profundity. Her interpretations are always, as it were, blissfully earnest. A cleverness born of love that strips away all conventions. Ms Uchida always plays even the most classic of works as if they were being performed for the very first time, fresh as the morning dew.”
Richard Strauss paid his tribute to the famous ladies’ man Don Juan he was a youthful 24-year-old kapellmeister. He based his work on a poem by Nikolaus Lenau which, at the end, shows the eponymous hero tired and burned out: “The fuel is all consumed and the hearth is cold and dark.” More than 20 year after this early masterpiece, he showed in his “Comedy for Music”, Der Rosenkavalier, that love stories can also have a happy ending: the Feldmarschallin magnanimously gives up her young lover, Octavian, who is madly in love with Sophie. Camilla Nylund, Magdalena Kožená and Laura Aikin made this ethereal and soaring operatic finale a lesson in pure harmony, before the orchestra sent its audience on its way into the cold New Year’s Eve with two rousing encores by Johann Strauss II and Antonín Dvorák.