Friday, January 27, 2017

Beethoven in Berlin

No. 238 of the ongoing  ITYWLTMT series series series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

This week’s Blog and Podcasts brings back a pair of works we featured during our BeethovenProject of 2011-2012, performed by two Berlin-based orchestras.

There are currently around 50 professional symphony orchestras in Germany – and about as many chamber and youth orchestras. The history of these ensembles goes back decades, if not centuries. Great composers, conductors and soloists have all contributed to the success of Germany's orchestras. The city of Berlin alone counts at least six major orchestras: The Staatskapelle Berlin (the orchestra of the Berlin State Opera), Berlin Symphony, Konzerthausorchester Berlin.and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin – both based in East-Berlin before German reunification - and their west-side counterparts the Berlin Philharmonic and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin was founded in 1946 as the radio orchestra of RIAS, a West Berlin broadcasting station. It was financed by the USA until 1953 and from 1956 it also worked with Radio Free Berlin. The orchestra's first chief conductor, the Austrian Ferenc Fricsay, laid the foundations for the orchestra's very contemporary repertoire; the orchestra has premiered works by many composers including György Ligeti and John Adams.

Today’s podcast features the DSO Berlin (which was then-known as the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin) under its founding conductor joined by the trio composed of Géza Anda at the piano, violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan and cellist Pierre Fournier in a vintage performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.

The Berlin Philharmonic, which has won more international awards – including nine Grammys – than any other German symphony orchestra, was formed in 1882 by a group of Berlin amateur musicians. Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Grieg were among its first guest conductors. In 1956, Herbert von Karajan was appointed principal conductor for life of the Berlin Philharmonic as successor to Wilhelm Furtwängler. Among many achievements, the ir partnership that resulted in hundreds of recordings; for the Deurtsche Grammophon label alone, Karajan made 330 recordings primarily with his Berlin orchestra.

The orchestra’s home since 1963 (which it shares with the DSO Berlin) has been the Philharmonie near the Tiergarten. However, its much-praised Beethoven symphony cycle produced between December 1961 and November 1962, released in 1963, was recorded at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin (a venue often used by this label for its studio recordings of this orchestra and conductor during the 1960s until the 1980s).

This set of Beethoven s symphonies was a historic milestone in the industry - never before had all nine symphonies been recorded and released as an integrally planned subscription set, handsomely boxed and annotated. The superb quality of the music-making and the unique overview of the nine symphonies which the cycle provided caused it to win golden opinions with press and public alike. Like Decca’s pioneering Ring cycle and the first Beatles album (which was also released in the spring of 1963) the set quickly became one of the icons of a new musical age.

Keeping to the theme of “3’s”, I chose the Third Symphony (Eroica) for this montage.

I think you will love this music too.