The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Celebrates Double Anniversaries in 2013

By Smith, Charlotte | Gramophone, June 2013 | Go to article overview

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Celebrates Double Anniversaries in 2013


Smith, Charlotte, Gramophone


It's a big year for the Berlin Philharmonic. Not only is the orchestra celebrating the 50th anniversary of its home--Hans Scharoun's visionary and, at the time, controversial Philharmonie --but 2013 also marks 100 years since the orchestra made its first recording for Deutsche Grammophon.

Back in 1913, the Berlin Phil recorded Beethoven's Fifth Symphony under Arthur Nikisch for the Yellow Label--one of the earliest recordings of acomplete symphony. Throughout the last century the orchestra has continued its close association with DG, recording avast range of works under conducting greats ranging from Richard Strauss and Wilhelm Furtwangler to Claudio Abbado.

It is testament to the orchestra's adaptability, however, that it continues to move with the times. In celebration of the 100-year partnership, DG will release a 50-CD box-set in September, but in an internet-savvy age, the works have been chosen via an online public vote. Visitors to the DG website during April and early May were invited to choose up to 20 works that they would like to see included in the box-set from a list of over 250 past recordings, featuring more than 50 composers and 50 conductors. The process made use of digital audio, too, by providing excerpts from each of the recordings to help voters make informed decisions.

Ever the confident publicist, the orchestra also took the opportunity to offer a free 48-hour voucher to its Digital Concert Hall to all those who registered. During the orchestra's 2013-14 season, no fewer than 35 concerts, including two late-night events, will be broadcast digitally in high definition in the virtual concert hall, proof of how far the orchestra has come since Karajan inaugurated the then groundbreaking Philharmonie with a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in October 1963.

As the economic difficulties rumble on, arts institutions, which are ever the victims of financially challenging times, are continuing to find inventive ways of enticing cash-strapped audiences to support music. During April, two new UK donation programmes launched, designed to simplify the process for a digital age and to encourage modest giving from those outside the millionaires' club.

Following in the footsteps of the 'Buy a Bar' scheme, which in 2011 encouraged donors to buy single bars of a new work by Martin Suckling via social media, the Britten Sinfonia launched 'Musically Gifted' this April. The flexible funding programme will allow audiences to contribute anything from 10 [pound sterling] to 10,000 [pound sterling] towards new works during the 2013-14 season by Sally Beamish, Brett Dean, James MacMillan, Roderick Williams, Mark Simpson, William Cole and the winner of the OPUS2014 open submission composer's competition. …

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