A “St. Petersburg Night” with Daniel Barenboim and Zubin Mehta at the Waldbühne

29 Jun 1997
From the Berlin Waldbühne

Berliner Philharmoniker
Zubin Mehta

Daniel Barenboim

  • Mikhail Glinka
    Ruslan and Ludmilla: Overture (6 min.)

  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in B minor, op. 23 (41 min.)

    Daniel Barenboim piano

  • Modest Mussorgsky
    Khovanshchina: Prelude (6 min.)

  • Modest Mussorgsky
    Sorochintsy Fair: Gopak (1 min.)

  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
    The Tale of Tsar Saltan: The Flight of the Bumble-Bee (3 min.)

  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
    Capriccio espagnol, op. 34 (16 min.)

  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Swan Lake: Waltz (7 min.)

  • Sergei Prokofiev
    Romeo and Juliet, op. 64: Tybalt’s Death (5 min.)

  • Paul Lincke
    Berliner Luft (7 min.)

In his autobiography, Zubin Mehta calls his friendship with Daniel Barenboim “a stroke of good fortune for me”. It began in 1956, when Mehta was 20, and Barenboim was 12 years old. Although their meteoric careers soon took the musicians to distant parts of the globe, they played together again and again, and Barenboim has performed as a pianist more often with Mehta than with almost any other conductor. This partnership has resulted in performances and recordings of piano concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Brahms. For years, they have performed at each other’s important birthdays, whether with Barenboim’s Staatskapelle in Berlin or at the Maggio Musicale Festival in Florence, where Mehta was music director from 1985 to 2018. And at a special encounter in 1969, when Barenboim at the piano performed Schubert’s Trout Quintet with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Jaqueline du Pré, Mehta unceremoniously took on the double bass part. What both musicians also have in common is that since the 1960s they have been among the Berliner Philharmoniker’s most significant and loyal artistic partners and now belong to the orchestra’s exclusive circle of honorary members. Barenboim’s second performance with the Philharmoniker saw their first collaboration with the orchestra: under the direction of Mehta, he played Wilhelm Furtwängler’s Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. They also later recorded another rarity together: Richard Strauss’ Burleske. Russian music provided them with yet another highlight in their collaboration with the Philharmoniker: together, they appeared at the 1997 Waldbühne concert which is traditionally held at the end of the season. The weather also contributed to an unforgettable experience with warm temperatures and an atmospheric sunset. Barenboim – whose ancestors had emigrated from Czarist Russia to Argentina – was the soloist in Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famous First Piano Concerto, a work in which two virtuoso outer movements frame a beguilingly elegiac Andante semplice. Together with the other works of the programme, a panorama emerged of 19th century Russian music: it ranged from the Ruslan and Ludmilla overture by Mikhail Glinka, who was considered the founding father of the musical nation, to Tchaikovsky, to pieces by Modest Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov; two composers of the so-called Mighty Handful, who initially opposed Tchaikovsky – criticised for being too Western and academic – before the relationship thawed in later years. The performances in the concert combined electrifying rhythms with detailed precision: “Under Zubin Mehta the short pieces collected under the theme of a 'Saint Petersburg Night' showed themselves to be not only crowd pleasers, but also pieces of music full of fine features. Mehta replaced garish sound with distinctive characteristics and almost big-band-like precise rhythms” (Berliner Zeitung).

© 1997 VIDEAL / brilliant media, EuroArts Berlin, SFB, NHK Tokyo

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