Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Joana Mallwitz
August 30, 2019: A season opening with Gustav Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" in front of a sold-out Great Hall is something you never forget - even less so if it was Christoph Eschenbach's first concert as chief conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.
Two days later, the Konzerthaus opened for a "Welcome Day" with chamber music by the Konzerthausorchester for the "newcomer" and of course with Christoph Eschenbach himself - in conversation, at the conductor's podium and at the piano with our 1st concertmaster Sayako Kusaka for a Beethoven sonata.
From 25 February 25 to March 2, 2020, we celebrated Christoph Eschenbach's 80th birthday in a grand way. In addition to the Konzerthaus and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, musical congratulations were extended by Lang Lang and the Orchestre de Paris, violinist Midori, violinist Ray Chen, violist Nils Mönkemeyer, pianist Tzimon Barto and several other guests.
For Christoph Eschenbach, Johannes Brahms is a "master of the emotional side of symphonic music" whose work is particularly close to him.
He played and recorded Brahms' four symphonies with the Konzerthausorchester during his time as chief conductor. Here, some of our principals talk about this delightful collaboration.
During the farewell tour of Japan in May 2023, Christoph Eschenbach's interpretation of the Brahms symphonies met with enthusiastic audiences every evening.
Reunited in front of a Berlin audience after a 15-week break due to the pandemic: Christoph Eschenbach and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony before the summer break on June 20 & 21, 2020, in keeping with the Beethoven Year.
The atmospheric open air on the Gendarmenmarkt with its ensemble of the two cathedrals and the Konzerthaus was a gift to all those who had missed live symphonic music in the months before. Rain or shine, everyone was thrilled!
With the anniversary production of "Freischütz" exactly 200 years to the day after its premiere at the same venue, Christoph Eschenbach and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin gave the audience a special musical cinema evening from the Große Saal on June 18, 2021 – not only broadcast on ARTE Concert, but also live on the midsummer Gendarmenmarkt!
La Fura dels Baus, the renowned Catalan theatre company, staged the romantic opera. With them, we wandered deep into the German forest and the German soul. Among the renowned soloists: Our then Artist in Residence Anna Prohaska as Ännchen and Jeanine De Bique as Agathe.
Helping Ukrainian children who are exposed to hunger, illness and traumatisation as a result of the war was a "very personal concern" of Christoph Eschenbach, who had to flee himself as a young boy during the Second World War. The proceeds of the solidarity concert on March 17, 2022, and the result of an appeal for donations therefore went to SOS Children's Village Ukraine. He conducted a second benefit concert on October 27 with the participation of Ukrainian soloists.
Whether with musical companions such as violinist Midori and soprano Renée Fleming, who sang Strauss' "Four Last Songs" at the season opening 22/23, or our artists in residence as the piano duo Lucas and Arthur Jussen in the 21/22 season – Christoph Eschenbach has given us many wonderful musical and human moments.
Just as imperturbable as the Dutch Jussen brothers and our audience in waterproof clothing, Christoph Eschenbach conducted an open-air concert on 28 August 2021, where at times it poured like from buckets. Needless to say that the Konzerthausorchester on the Freitreppen stage also held out bravely!
From May 9 to 14, 2023, the Konzerthausorchester toured Tokyo, Yokohama, Fukuoka and Nagoya with Christoph Eschenbach. On the programme: The four Brahms symphonies, Schumann's Violin Concerto with Midori, Dvořák's Cello Concerto with Haruma Sato and, as a special greeting from the Gendarmenmarkt, the Freischütz Overture.
Christoph Eschenbach's relationship with Japan has deepened over the span of decades:
“It is always a very special experience and a great pleasure to play with an orchestra in Japan. We all know the outward signs of enthusiasm there: the auditorium is always full. And after every concert, countless individuals gather in lengthy queues, holding albums in hopes of receiving autographs and expressing their gratitude. In Japan, there really is an enormous understanding of music that is rooted in a tendency towards inwardness. Only those who possess this inclination can truly comprehend the very essence of music. I was in Japan for the first time in 1969 as a pianist. I fell in love with the country, literally absorbed the culture and have identified with it ever since.”
To witness how much the audience there also reveres and appreciates Christoph Eschenbach was particularly moving!
What can you play after Schubert's "Unfinished" and Mozart's Requiem? Actually, only Bach, Christoph Eschenbach noted. The Konzerthausorchester Berlin felt the same way: it bid him farewell as principal conductor on June 18, 2023, after four seasons with the chorale "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" from the cantata "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben", played by the strings led by concertmaster Suyoen Kim. Standing ovations that lasted for minutes in the sold-out Great Hall, a huge bouquet of flowers and other gifts from the orchestra, and a very touched Christoph Eschenbach are among the impressions of the weekend during which he conducted three concerts. At the reception afterwards, he joined general director Sebastian Nordmann, orchestra musicians and invited guests in a toast to the past four years - and to further projects that will connect him with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin in the future.
Thank you very much for everything, dear Christoph Eschenbach. We wish you many more music-filled years. See you soon in the Großer Saal!