Playing new music is sometimes a bit bizarre.
It's happened on MCO tours before, that we rehearsed a piece intensively for days on end, only to find that as soon as the first concert was over, all our preparation went up in smoke. Coming back to a work like that was basically like starting over.
It was quite a different matter, however, at the world premiere of Wolfgang Rihm's Horn Concerto in Lucerne and the subsequent concert of it at the Musikfest Berlin. The piece is rooted in the late Romantic era and in Alban Berg's tonal language, to the effect that it seems largely familiar, harmonious, and personal from the start.
By the second meeting, it already feels like an intimate friend.
The soloist Stefan Dohr was facing overwhelming hurdles – the ones Rihm wrote literally for his lips. The chamber music hall audience must have sensed this blend of familiarity and virtuosic vision, not just in the piece itself but in the combination of Daniel Harding, the MCO, and Dohr, the Berlin Philharmonic's solo horn player.
When Rihm himself came on stage in Lucerne and Berlin to truly exuberant final applause and heartily embraced the principle performers, the audience appeared to be united in the opinion that premieres of new music can generate a harmonious and familial atmosphere.