Beethoven’s great Hammerklavier Sonata is still one of the most technically and musically demanding pieces of piano literature. The first to dare a public performance – long after Beethoven’s death – was Franz Liszt. The work has a slow movement of dreamlike beauty and a complex final fugue in which the theme is at one point even played backwards. Igor Levit contrasts the dreaded milestone of the repertoire with, among others, the Sonata op. 90, which ends with a graceful final rondo.
Kirill Petrenko, chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, has already presented impressive renditions of Beethoven’s music with performances of his Seventh and Ninth Symphonies. We are taking the composer’s jubilee – 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of his birth – as the occasion for a playlist with all nine symphonies. In addition to Kirill Petrenko and his two predecessors, it includes conductors such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christian Thielemann and Paavo Järvi, who have influenced Beethoven interpretation in a variety of ways in recent decades.
The Berliner Philharmoniker’s opening concert of the 2020/21 season was awaited with particular excitement: on the one hand, it was the first time since the beginning of the corona pandemic that the orchestra was able to play in front of an audience, and on the other hand, chief conductor Kirill Petrenko was to play a work by Johannes Brahms with his orchestra for the first time. The Berliner Zeitung wrote about the performance of his Fourth Symphony: “The musicians play as if liberated, and you can hear: they have not forgotten anything in the past six months. The ending is triumphant.”
The Berliner Philharmoniker’s European concert should have taken place in Tel Aviv in May 2020, but had to be cancelled due to the corona pandemic. The Digital Concert Hall now offers the opportunity to take a historical look back at the Philharmoniker's first tour of Israel in 1990 – a great moment in the history of the orchestra. On their last appearance on tour, the Philharmoniker performed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, among other works, together with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and under the baton of its chief conductor Zubin Mehta.