John Storgårds is one of an impressive group of conductors who studied under the Finnish teacher Jorma Panula. The former chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, who currently holds conducting positions in London, Ottawa and Lapland and also performs as a violinist, has developed an unusually broad and stylistically diverse repertoire. This can also be heard in his debut programme with the Berliner Philharmoniker, which includes music from the Romantic period and early Modernism to the present day.
Carl Nielsen, who conducted his own works with the Philharmoniker in 1903 and 1922, was inspired for his Helios Overture by a trip to Greece. Nielsen pays homage to the titular sun god at the beginning of his overture through the evocative musical depiction of a sunrise over the Aegean Sea.
Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony, which was first performed in its entirety years after its author’s death by the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Gustav Mahler, contains one of the most beautiful slow movements of the Romantic period. Alongside it is an unusual scherzo that forgoes memorable melodic figures. Other highlights of the work are the harmonically bold coda of the first movement and the masterly bringing together of themes from different movements at the end of the finale.
The middle work of the programme is the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Double Bass Concerto. Barry, who enjoyed great success with his Oscar Wilde opera The Importance of Being Earnest, is considered one of the most accomplished and at the same time humorous composers of our time. The soloist is the Philharmoniker’s principal bass Matthew McDonald.