Finally the time has come! For the first time, Kirill Petrenko will stand before the Berliner Philharmoniker as their new chief conductor. For his inaugural concert, he has chosen one of the greatest symphonic masterpieces of the 19th century: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work in which almost out of nothing, from a simple fifth, the formidable musical tension Beethoven creates finds redemption and exaltation in the anthemic, visionary choral finale “Freude, schöner Götterfunken” (Joy, thou beauteous godly lightning).
The symphony has great symbolic power in a number of ways: on the one hand, the magnificent final movement with its closing chorus of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” could hardly better express the delight with which Petrenko and the Philharmoniker start off on their future together; on the other, the Ninth also conveys an important message: a clear commitment to humanity, to the equality of all mankind.
In addition, the performance of the symphony is the first in a series of Beethoven concerts this season to mark the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth in 2020. At the same time, it pays musical homage to previous chief conductors of the Berliner Philharmoniker: from Hans von Bülow, who once presented the work twice in a row in one concert, to Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan, who included the symphony among other works for the opening of the newly built Philharmonie in 1963, and finally to Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle, each of them delighted audiences with his own, inimitable interpretation of the Ninth Symphony.
The season opening concert also sees the first appearance by soprano Marlis Petersen as the 2019/20 Artist in Residence. The singer has already worked with Kirill Petrenko on several occasions. In the summer of 2019, she will make her role debut as Salome in the eponymous opera by Richard Strauss under his direction at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Audiences can see her here in Berlin in two very contrasting works: she sings the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Ninth and the vocal part in Alban Berg’s Symphonic Pieces from the opera Lulu which are to be heard at the beginning of the season-opening concert. The role of Lulu gave Marlis Petersen her international breakthrough. In the Symphonic Pieces, which the composer published in 1934 to spark interest in his new opera Lulu among audiences, conductors and directors, she again has the opportunity to present some facets of her most famous role.