The name Kurt Weill appears on concert programmes of the Berliner Philharmoniker as early as 1923 and then a few more times until 1933. The young composer’s path to the orchestra was certainly also smoothed by the fact that he was a student of Ferruccio Busoni, who was closely associated with the Philharmoniker, not least as a committed advocate of contemporary music. Weill’s First Symphony, premiered posthumously in 1957, will now be heard for the first time in a Philharmoniker concert under the baton of chief conductor Kirill Petrenko to launch the online festival “The Golden Twenties”. The work was written in 1921 and was inspired by a religious drama by the poet (and later GDR Minister of Culture) Johannes R. Becher. The dissonant chords that open the symphony as a kind of motto already reveal the ambition of the concept. The interwoven chorale passages at the end refer to Becher’s piece, which announces in its subtitle the “awakening of a people to God”.
As the second major work from the 1920s, Kirill Petrenko conducts Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus rex. The composer’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Greek drama, written with Jean Cocteau, is sung in Latin, while the passages by the narrator are to be performed in the local language of each performance venue. In this way, the tragic plot about King Oedipus, who kills his father and marries his mother, simultaneously distances and draws in the audience. The influences Stravinsky refers to in his composition, which is characterised by underlying tension and formally subdued emotionality, include Baroque composers and Giuseppe Verdi.