On the first of May the Berliner Philharmoniker give their traditional European Concert, an annual event to celebrate the founding of the orchestra on 1 May 1882. In 2010, the concert, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, took place at Oxford University’s Sheldonian Theatre. And, as is often the case, the musicians presented their programme to the audience in the Philharmonie a few days earlier.
In keeping with the occasion, the musicians put together a German-British programme, the first half of which featured Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Barenboim had conducted this work once before with the orchestra – 40 years before, together with his then wife, Jacqueline du Pré. The soloist in this concert, making her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, was Alisa Weilerstein. Yo-Yo Ma wrote about this young American artist: “I remember that one of my first impressions of her playing was that she is so full of passion. More recently I was struck by how fearless Alisa is. Those two qualities, in combination with a great musical intelligence, really define her artistry for me.”
The German contribution to the programme consisted of the Prelude to Act 3 of Richard Wagner’s Meistersinger and Johannes Brahms’ First Symphony. It was Hans von Bülow – principal conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker – who, with regard to this work of Brahms, spoke of “Beethoven’s Tenth” – a bon mot that doubtlessly promoted the popularity of the work but which fails to do full justice to its forward-looking, individual characteristics.