Live at the Brandenburg Gate: Kirill Petrenko conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
24 Aug 2019
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125 with Final Chorus “Ode to Joy”
Marlis Petersen soprano, Elisabeth Kulman mezzo-soprano, Benjamin Bruns tenor, Kwangchul Youn bass, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Gijs Leenaars chorus master
“Freude, schöner Götterfunken” – This season the Berliner Philharmoniker have two reasons to rejoice: Kirill Petrenko takes up his new position as the orchestra’s new chief conductor and, at the same time, 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth. Kirill Petrenko takes the special occasion of his inaugural concert to present himself as a Beethoven interpreter – with his Ninth Symphony, one of the Viennese master’s most revolutionary, visionary works. As Petrenko and the Philharmoniker want to share their happiness about this new beginning with as many people as possible, the musicians will be heading out into the city to present their new chief conductor to the people of Berlin and guests of the capital with a free, open-air event the day after the season opening concert.
The fantastic backdrop for this event is Berlin’s famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate which, like Beethoven’s Ninth, represents freedom of the people. A monument to the separation of the city into East and West from 1961 to 1989, it became a symbol for German unity and the peaceful coming together of both German states after the fall of the Berlin wall.
How would Ludwig van Beethoven have perceived the Brandenburg Gate? When the then 25-year-old composer came to Berlin for his only visit in 1796, it had only been erected at the end of the boulevard Unter den Linden a few years before. The then King Friedrich Wilhelm II had it built in the classical style as a magnificent monument for the city, bearing the word “Friedenstor” (Peace Gate) in bronze lettering. Beethoven spent about two months in Berlin, during which time he demonstrated his outstanding pianistic and musical skills at the royal court. He probably got to know the heir to the throne, the later King Friedrich Wilhelm III, who was the same age as he was. Thirty years later, Beethoven dedicated his Ninth Symphony to him, under whose reign Prussia was reformed into a modern state.
Looking to the past and the future: On this late summer evening, Beethoven’s composition in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, and at the same time celebrates the beginning of the collaboration between Kirill Petrenko and the Berliner Philharmoniker. An inspiring gift to all who with open ears and open hearts wish to be there.