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Conducting on the royal road

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna presents a Christian Thielemann cycle for the third time in a row. It extends into the year 2025, which marks a quarter of a century in the history of interpretation that links Christian Thielemann, Vienna and the Musikverein.

<© Brand photography

“It’s best to work at a small theatre, conduct operetta, become second conductor, then first conductor, then GMD, sometimes guest conductor – that’s how it should go until 30. And then you’ll be fine.” This is how Christian Thielemann once outlined the ideal career for a conductor. That was in 2022, in conversation with “Musikfreunde”. Thielemann adhered to this maxim of slow but thorough learning, patient growth and development – and then celebrated some of his greatest triumphs, not least at the Vienna Musikverein. This is not only due to the particularly close relationship with the audience as well as with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the foundation stone for which was laid in the fall of 2000: At that time, Thielemann was still General Music Director at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. There, of course, in the city of his birth, he began working as a répétiteur at the age of 19 and also assisted Karajan. Gelsenkirchen, Karlsruhe, Hanover: stations on the famous “ox tour”, working your way up, which in the best case turns out to be the royal road to the most prominent desks in the music world. First Kapellmeister at the Düsseldorf Rhine Opera, then Germany’s youngest GMD at the Nuremberg State Theater – and the big sensation there with Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde”. At the debut above in the Golden Hall, Thielemann had just completed his first summer in the “mystical abyss” of the Bayreuth Festival with the “Mastersingers of Nuremberg”.

© Brand photography

But he also stuck to the operetta thing in particular. The seemingly simple, merely entertaining: It requires every conceivable musical sophistication. “Operetta only becomes good when it is performed at a high level,” says Thielemann – and draws a perhaps surprising lesson from this: In this genre, you can “learn the art of light, tasteful tempo shifts. With Wagner, you sometimes have to use a mallet. But then it’s also about the most subtle shading … Operetta trains tastefulness.” Seen in this light, one can expect a lesson of the most enjoyable kind when Thielemann, together with Christiane Karg, Piotr Beczała and the Vienna Philharmonic, delights with an operetta pastiche – also and mainly because the program includes some rarities from the oeuvre of Johann Strauss Sohn. The fact that Thielemann is no less able to guarantee extraordinarily gripping experiences with conventional repertoire was already evident in the 2023/24 season with music by Johannes Brahms. He now continues this thematic thread on the podium of the Vienna Philharmonic with two magnificent works: the Janus-faced, energetic Symphony No. 4, which looks to both the past and the future and his “Fifth” in disguise, the late, expressive double concerto for violin (Augustin Hadelich) and cello (Gautier Capuçon). The autograph of this work is in the archives of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna and is part of the precious Brahms collection, which Unesco has recognised as a “Memory of the World”.

“The quiet, or better, the differentiated: you spend half your life on the podium striving for it” this Thielemann wisdom will also be confirmed in the third program, in which the conductor will make his first guest appearance in the Golden Hall with his new orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, the orchestra of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, where Thielemann will succeed Daniel Barenboim as General Music Director in autumn 2024. With orchestral songs by Richard Strauss, sung by Erin Morley, and Anton Bruckner’s “Keckster”, his equally original and unfortunately often underrated Symphony No. 6, he will pay homage to two of his musical household gods – 25 years after his debut at the Musikverein.

Walter Weidringer

Concerts 24/25

September 6, 2023

06

Großer Saal

September 6, 2023

05

Großer Saal

September 5, 2023

04

Großer Saal

    Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna

    Colossal sounds

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    Simply conduct

    © Deutsche Grammophon - Andreas Hechenberger

    With charisma and temperament

    © Julia Wesely

    Strong relationships

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    Conducting on the royal road

    © Felix Broede

    Suction effect

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