Programme Guide

At the end of this European Concert, flowers rain down on the conductor and orchestra. And with rapturous applause tinged with a little sadness, the audience in Palermo’s Teatro Massimo say farewell to Claudio Abbado as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. With the 2002 European Concert, Abbado’s final tour at the head of the orchestra began. It took him all through his Italian homeland, culminating in Vienna in Austria where Abbado – with his successor Sir Simon Rattle in the audience – gave his last performance as chief conductor with the Berliner Philharmoniker on 13 May 2002. 

The central work in the first half of the concert is the Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms – a work which took a while to establish itself after its composition in 1879 as it did not seem spectacular enough for the virtuoso violinists. Pablo de Sarasate for example found it an impertinence to expect him “to stand on the rostrum, violin in hand, and listen to the oboe playing the only tune in the Adagio”. Gil Shaham, on the other hand, shows just what infinite beauty lies in the subtle, tentative moments of the work.

Antonín Dvořák brings the official part of the European Concert to a close with his symphony From the New World. This is not, as is often assumed, merely a collection of quotations from Native American music and spirituals. The work receives its distinctive flavour rather by the ingenious combination of American and Bohemian elements of the composer’s innate musical idiom. Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker then give as an encore a piece which one could say plays out right at the door of the Teatro Massimo: the overture to Verdi’s opera The Sicilian Vespers.

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