Daniel Barenboim Celebrates 60th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall Debut, Leading Staatskapelle Berlin in Venue’s First Single-Season Cycle of Bruckner’s Numbered Symphonies (Jan 19–29)
“Barenboim’s approach is organic and animated. … The idiomatic spontaneity that ran through this performance was Bruckner to treasure.”
– The Guardian
This January, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin make their long-awaited return to Carnegie Hall, performing for the first time in the venue’s history a complete cycle of Anton Bruckner’s numbered symphonies in a single season (Jan 19–29). Presented chronologically in nine concerts, six of them completed by Mozart piano concertos led by the conductor-pianist from the keyboard, this epic undertaking celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barenboim’s Carnegie Hall debut. Since then, he has built an unparalleled career as a conductor, pianist, and public intellectual, proving himself not only, for many, “the world’s greatest living musician” (Financial Times), but also one of its most influential cultural pioneers. Whether addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict, the reunification of Germany, innovative educational projects, or the current migration crisis, he remains a staunch and visionary advocate for music’s transformative humanity. As he has explained:
“Harmony in personal or international relations can also only exist by listening, each party opening its ears to the other’s narrative or point of view. … People who listen to each other, both musically and in all other ways, can achieve greater things.”
Barenboim’s ideals are further exemplified in two of his newest initiatives in Berlin: the Barenboim-Said Academy, which builds upon the vision of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra by offering training in music and the humanities to students from the Middle East and Europe; and the Pierre Boulez Saal, a Frank Gehry-designed concert hall opening in March 2017. Both are being built across from the home the of the Staatsoper Berlin, the Unter den Linden theatre, which is in the final stages of a renovation and will reopen in fall 2017.
Barenboim and Bruckner
It was eight years ago that Barenboim last took the Staatskapelle Berlin to Carnegie Hall, collaborating with his longtime friend Pierre Boulez to present a complete cycle of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. In the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini reported that Barenboim’s account of Mahler’s First was “as communicative and emotional a performance as you are likely to hear.”
While some of Bruckner’s symphonies may be unfamiliar to Carnegie’s audiences, they have long loomed large for the conductor. He recalls:
“I was 15 years old, and I was on my first tour to Australia. I played with a conductor that I admire, Rafael Kubelik. He said to me, ‘What are you doing after the rehearsal this afternoon?’ I said, ‘Nothing special.’ ‘Well,’ he says, ‘Maybe you should come. I am rehearsing the ninth symphony by Bruckner.’ And then and there, I decided I wanted to conduct Bruckner one day. Because I liked the complexity of the slow movement, I liked the ferocious nature of its character – it was like 20th-century music.
“And I was fascinated by the Bruckner universe, which gave me the feeling that he’d traveled over several centuries. The form is really Baroque, classical Baroque; the musical language is post-Romantic, post-Wagnerian; and there’s something in some of the music, in the Fifth for instance, which sounds almost of the Middle Ages. And so I felt that in the Bruckner symphonies there was a huge journey through the history of mankind.
“One often talks about the architecture of the music. But with Bruckner symphonies, sometimes I have the feeling that it goes deeper and deeper, more like an archeological expedition rather than an architectural building.
“One of the characteristics of the Bruckner symphonies is that the music does not start as being ‘here.’ It rather becomes. In the later symphonies, you very often feel that this is a kind of delayed action. There’s no music, there are just strings trembling before the music actually starts.”
The deep connection he feels for the numbered symphonies has led the conductor to record no fewer than three complete Bruckner cycles, first with the Chicago Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic, and most recently with the Staatskapelle Berlin for his own digital record label “for the thinking ear,” Peral Music. In January 2017, Deutsche Grammophon releases Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin’s recordings of Bruckner’s complete symphonies – currently on Peral – as a box set. Thanks to the orchestra’s operatic training, which he credits for “a certain freedom in the playing, a certain freedom in the phrasing, and … a certain vocal – as opposed to purely instrumental – quality,” he considers the Staatskapelle Berlin particularly well placed to explore the symphonies’ lyric potential. Over the past season, they gave live accounts of Bruckner’s music together in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, and at London’s BBC Proms, where the UK’s Telegraph hailed their performance as “an intoxicating mixture of drama and passion,” calling the conductor “the consummate maestro whose every movement offers some psychological insight into the whole process of conducting.” Likewise, the Evening Standard added, “Barenboim was able to explore that terrain of subjectivity that is the hallmark of his music-making and which can, as here, hold an audience spellbound.”
Click here to see Barenboim talk about Bruckner’s symphonies and the upcoming series at Carnegie Hall.
Barenboim in Berlin
A longtime resident of the German capital, it was Barenboim who led the Berlin Philharmonic in its historic Philharmonie concert just two days after the Wall came down in November 1989. He was later appointed General Music Director and subsequently Chief Conductor for Life of the Staatsoper Berlin and its orchestra the Staatskapelle, which has a history dating back nearly 450 years. Over the past 25 years, Barenboim has successfully helmed their metamorphosis – which paralleled that of the newly reunified nation – into a major player on the international scene. Next fall, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden reopens its doors following a substantial renovation that includes a significant expansion of its production capacity, a restoration of the building’s historic features, and an acoustic overhaul. The return to the Unter den Linden theatre in 2017 coincides with Barenboim’s 25th anniversary as the institution’s head, a tenure that has seen the founding of the annual FESTTAGE, a celebration that draws music lovers to Berlin each spring; the free, outdoor Staatsoper für alle series; and two educational initiatives: the Orchesterakademie, which funds vocational orchestral training for gifted young conservatory graduates, and the Musikkindergarten Berlin, whose dictum is “Education through music, not musical education.” Other milestones include his leadership of three sold-out “Ring” cycles in Japan, on a Grammy Award-winning recording of Tannhäuser, and of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” in an open-air concert to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In response to the current migration crisis, this past March he joined forces with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin under Ivan Fischer to give a free concert for all the refugees and aid volunteers now gathered in their beloved native city.
Barenboim is also spearheading the creation of two new cultural institutions soon to open in Berlin. Building on the vision of his now-legendary West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he founded with Edward Said to give Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians the chance to coexist and interact with one another through music, the Barenboim-Said Academy offers a four-year bachelor degree program in music and the humanities to students from the Middle East and Europe. Housed in the former stage depot of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, a designated landmark building, the Academy enrolled its first class of young students this fall. The Academy will feature a new 620-seat concert hall, the Pierre Boulez Saal, designed by Frank Gehry, who has donated his work as a contribution to the project. Scheduled to open next March, the hall will showcase music – like Barenboim’s Peral Music recording label – “for the thinking ear.” Meanwhile the pianist-conductor looks forward to the release of his own latest album, recorded on his customized Steinway and titled On My New Piano, in the coming season.
To download high-resolution photos of Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, click here.
Daniel Barenboim: 60th anniversary concerts at Carnegie Hall
Complete Bruckner symphonic cycle
Daniel Barenboim: conductor and piano soloist
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat, K. 595
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 1
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 2
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 3
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 26 in D, K. 537, “Coronation”
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4, “Romantic”
(Pre-concert talk with Walter Frisch, Professor of Music, Columbia University)
MOZART: Sinfonia concertante in E-flat for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and orchestra, K. 297b (with Gregor Witt, oboe; Matthias Glander, clarinet; Ignacio García, horn; Mathias Baier, bassoon)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 6
MOZART: Sinfonia concertante in E-flat, K. 364 (with Wolfram Brandl, violin; Yulia Deyneka, viola)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7
(Pre-concert talk with Paul Hawkshaw, Professor in the Practice of Music History, Yale School of Music)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9
# # #
© 21C Media Group, October 2016