Abbado in Berlin – The First Year

The new chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker

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Program notes

The votes had been tallied and the decision made: Claudio Abbado was to be the new principal conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The year was 1989, and, for the first time in its more than 100-year history, the orchestra had decided for itself who its next leader would be. The result was a surprise for the music world – and for Abbado himself!

This documentary from 1990 traces the legendary conductor’s first year in Berlin, a time flushed with high expectations for Herbert von Karajan’s successor. We watch rehearsals of Abbado’s first artistic project in his new position, Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, prepared for his December 1989 début with the orchestra.

We are also taken behind the scenes to witness special moments like Abbado’s first visit to Karajan’s old room (now his), and his first birthday party with the musicians of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The documentary also features extensive interviews with members of the orchestra, who speak about their hopes and expectations of their new director. Looked back on today, the moments captured here still leave a strong impression, conveying the special magic present in the air at that time.

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