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The Berliner Philharmoniker can look back on a remarkable Mahler tradition. The composer himself appeared several times conducting the orchestra, presenting his Second and Third Symphonies with them – the former even as a world premiere. Mahler was a controversial figure during his lifetime and for many years after, but the orchestra’s high regard for the composer is clearly demonstrable: the monumental Eighth Symphony was performed in Berlin as early as 1912, the first German Mahler cycle took place here in 1923, and the Resurrection Symphony was heard at the Berliner Philharmoniker’s radio debut one year later.
Conductors who performed works by Mahler with the orchestra included Bruno Walter – a close confidant of the composer – Rafael Kubelík, Otto Klemperer and Leonard Bernstein, who gave an unforgettable performance of the Ninth in his only programme with the orchestra. After Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan, who had maintained a rather distant relationship with the composer (although Karajan’s interest increased in his later years), two proven Mahler experts were appointed to lead the orchestra: Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle.
The music of Gustav Mahler and its tradition with the Berliner Philharmoniker is also very important to chief conductor Kirill Petrenko. In 2020, he first presented the Sixth Symphony, then – at the Europakonzert under pandemic conditions – a chamber version of the Fourth Symphony, followed by the Seventh Symphony at the 2022 season opening concert. We can certainly look forward to a continuation. Our playlist already offers you a foray through Mahler’s oeuvre, which is characterised by symphonies and lieder.