“We all have something of Don Quixote within us”, Ludwig Quandt, 1st Principal Cellist of the Berliner Philharmoniker, has said in an interview conducted for the Digital Concert Hall. And what makes Quixote so fascinating for him? “The way he perceives the world. There’s a great discrepancy between his imagination and reality.” A flock of sheep or windmills are an enemy army that, in Quixote’s eyes, needs to be combatted; an ugly peasant girl ignites his heart because he considers her to be Dulcinea, the most beautiful woman in the world. At his side there’s his faithful, pragmatic squire Sancho Panza, who fatalistically endures all his lord’s follies. Miguel de Cervantes’s tale of the knight from la Mancha, published in 1605, is among the most important novels in European cultural history. With it, the Spanish writer created a parody of the chivalric novels so popular at the time. Cervantes’s parodistic approach and the situations that Quixote experiences in his delirium inspired Richard Strauss to his tone poem Don Quixote, in which he satirizes the musical form of the variation in a humorous, ironic fashion. At the same time, he succeeded in creating a brilliant characterisation of Don Quixote in terms of music psychology, depicted instrumentally by a solo cello, and his squire Sancho Panza, to which the solo viola lends its voice. On this concert programme Amihai Grosz, the orchestra’s 1st Principal Violist since 2010, is companion to Ludwig Quandt, who will bring the eccentric knight to life musically on the cello.
The conductor for this programme has been an artistic friend of the Berliner Philharmoniker for many years: Zubin Mehta, whom the orchestra appointed an honorary member last season, and who enjoys programming works by Richard Strauss and Ludwig van Beethoven together. It’s all the more surprising that he has never yet conducted the Philharmonic in one of the best-known symphonies by the Viennese master, his Eroica. With this work, the composer broke with the norms of the time for the genre – not only thematically, formally and harmonically, but also in view of the fact that it establishes Beethoven’s monumental style. At the same time, the symphony, created under the impression of France’s revolutionary music and which refers thematically to Beethoven’s ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, conveys a political message: it grapples with the ideal of a new humanity, engendered by the societal upheavals brought about by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.