In addition to finding the “hidden treasures” of the music, the focus of the work of the Berliner Philharmoniker and its chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle is still the constant renewed examination of the symphonic tradition – from Haydn to Mahler, from Brahms to Lutosławski. In a sense, what lies at the heart of this examination are the nine symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven which have been closely linked to the orchestra’s history from its very beginnings. After a first complete performance with Sir Simon in 2008 when the nine works were juxtaposed by the compositions of Anton Webern, “pure Beethoven” followed in the 2015/2016 season, with the complete cycle being given in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, New York and Tokyo. It is now available as an audio recording, and video recordings – like the complete performances of Rattle’s predecessors Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado – are available in the Digital Concert Hall.
Beethoven perfected the genre of the symphony which was still new in his time and, with the choral finale of the Ninth to Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” – brought it to its first conclusion. The expression ranges from unfathomable despair to irrepressible wit to the evocation of human love and brotherhood. Programmatic aspects such as in the “Eroica” and the “Pastorale” meet the visionary mastery of the compositional principles of absolute music.
Daniel Finkernagel and Magdalena Zięba-Schwind accompanied the ascent of this symphonic “Mount Everest” (Rattle), the rehearsals, concert performances and recordings. Their film Living with Beethoven gives a fascinating insight into the work of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Rattle illustrates some passages on the piano, members of the orchestra talk about their experiences of previous performances and show how their individual voice is integrated into the overall sound. “Beethoven fever” can be felt in all of them, and everyone is inspired by the desire to make the often performed works sound again as if they were just written.
Living with Beethoven
A film by Daniel Finkernagel, Magdalena Zięba-Schwind (2015)
Sir Simon Rattle, Berliner Philharmoniker