Within days of the official opening of Suntory Hall in October 1986 the Berlin Philharmoniker paid their first visit to this breath-taking concert hall and immediately felt at home, which was hardly surprising since the new hall was modelled on its counterpart in Berlin. From the very outset Suntory Hall established a place for itself in the top league of international concert halls. The Berliner Philharmoniker perform here each time that they visit Japan, and in November 2000 they delighted their Japanese audience with performances of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony and Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto. The conductor was Mariss Jansons and the soloist the exceptionally talented American violinist Hilary Hahn.
Jansons first conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in 1976 and since then has developed a particularly close relationship with it. “I love this orchestra. The musicians are not only absolutely fantastic instrumentalists but are also genuinely passionate about their work. Their artistic commitment is incredible. Each time I conduct them, it is a pleasure to appear with this top orchestra.” In Tokyo in November 2000 he led them in a Slav programme. Each of the four movements that make up Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony is marked by the countryside, moods and music of his Bohemian homeland, and we can only agree with Dvořák when he said: “Here I’m not just a pure musician but a poet.”
After the interval Hilary Hahn, performing just a day before her twenty-first birthday, dazzled her Japanese audience with her performance of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, one of the most challenging works in the whole of the violin repertory – its technical demands are a reflection of the abilities of its dedicatee, David Oistrakh. Hilary Hahn effortlessly mastered all of these difficulties, having already performed the work at her Philharmonic debut in December 1999, also under Jansons, when she had provoked veritable storms of enthusiasm on the part of the local press. Der Tagesspiegel praised her “perfect projection and soaring phrases played with the most delicate pianissimo”, while the Berliner Morgenpost summed up her performance as follows: “The sensitivity with which she took up the orchestra’s mood of heaviness and oppression in the opening movement with her delicate and extraordinarily beautiful tone attests to a profound understanding of music and presupposes both sensibility and imagination as well as a lively intelligence. The question as to outstanding virtuosity is one that we no longer need to ask with Hilary Hahn, for she possesses it in abundance.”