When Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, first guest conductor of the London Philharmonic and chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, debuted with the Berliner Philharmoniker in October 2010, the press wrote that it had been a “memorable evening” with a “rising star in the conducting firmament”. At this guest appearance with the Philharmoniker, the effervescent Canadian conducts Béla Bartók’s First Violin Concerto. The soloist is Lisa Batiashvili, who gave a “brilliant debut” with the Philharmoniker in 2004: The young Georgian found her way – free of all technical troubles – to a “luminous inward quality; it is gripping and inspired, virtuosic and intelligent” (Der Tagesspiegel).
After the interval, Yannick Nézet-Séguin takes on Dmitri Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony together with the bass Mikhail Petrenko and the male voices of the Rundfunkchor Berlin. The work was composed in 1962, and is a confessional work against anti-Semitism, which was increasingly gaining ground in the USSR in the 1960s. The textual basis of the symphony is Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s 1961 poem Babi Yar, in which the poet recalls the mass murder of 34,000 Jews by the SS in September 1941 and in the last stanza identifies himself with the victims. “At the premiere,” the Russian music historian Boris Schwarz writes, “the government’s box remained empty, and the planned television broadcast did not take place. … There was spontaneous applause after the first movement; when the work, an hour in length, was over, an enthusiastic storm of applause broke out in the audience such as one experiences only rarely.”
Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony was officially hushed up. The Soviet press wrote that the “content of the ideas contains fundamental errors”; in addition, the composer had “lost his feeling for the time”. A score was published in the USSR only in 1971, but with the vocal text changed in places. Today Babi Yar, a vocal-symphonic masterpiece of the 20th century that since then has lost none of its shattering impact, is among Shostakovich’s best-known compositions.
23 Jun 2016
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1, Sz 36 (28 min.)
Lisa Batiashvili Violin
Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, op. 113 “Babi-Yar” (70 min.)
Mikhail Petrenko Bass, Men of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, Gijs Leenaars Chorus Master
Yannick Nézet-Séguin in conversation with Sarah Willis (14 min.)