“Guardians of Unity”: Conductors in conversation

“Guardians of Unity”: Conductors of the Berliner Philharmoniker in conversation with Simon Halsey

A film by Benedikt von Bernstorff and Jakob von Bernstorff (2016)

Iván Fischer, Paavo Järvi, Louis Langrée, 
Zubin Mehta, Andris Nelsons, Sir Simon Rattle, 
John Carewe

The art of conducting is something that is no easier to explain than the concept of charisma or aura. It reveals itself in the most subtle of feedback processes with the orchestra’s musicians. In contrast to instrumentalists, questions about technique and craft are also difficult to answer. So it is no surprise that the image of the “maestro” continues to be one of the most intriguing phenomena in the world of classical music. Since the orchestra was founded, the Berliner Philharmoniker have worked together with the most important conductors, and they continue today to convey a colourful image of the most diverse interpretation and conducting styles with their musical director Sir Simon Rattle and renowned guest conductors from around the world.

Simon Halsey has worked closely together with Sir Simon for many years and witnessed at first hand many of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s rehearsal processes when he was chief conductor of the Berlin Rundfunkchor between 2001–2015. In a series of interviews, he has spoken to the conducting magicians of our time about their careers, their significant teachers, and the methods they employ for their analytical and emotional understanding of a score. There are also questions about the best baton technique and the balance of authority and collegiality when working with orchestral musicians. Among those interviewed are: Sir Simon Rattle and his teacher and mentor John Carewe; Zubin Mehta and Iván Fischer, who have been giving concerts with the Philharmoniker for decades; Paavo Järvi, whose Beethoven recordings are regarded as revolutionary; Andris Nelsons, a conductor of the younger generation who, in just a few years, has performed a broad repertoire with the orchestra, and Louis Langrée, who Halsey interviewed at the time of his debut with the Philharmoniker. The result of these conversations can be seen in our film Guardians of Unity. Music examples from the extensive archive the Digital Concert Hall complete this glimpse behind the scenes.