After World War II, eight radio symphony orchestras were established in Germany. This Concert Hour highlights one of them, the West German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Cologne — and features a glamorous young violinist.
The orchestra's birthday celebrations included a concert cycle over a period of several months with celebrated soloists.
One of them, Arabella Steinbacher, is more than just another pretty face. The violinist of German and Japanese heritage is hailed for her perfection, her glass-clear tone and for the primal energy in her playing. Now 36, she first learned Beethoven's violin concerto at the ripe old age of 17 and has grown with it ever since.
"Seventeen is still very young, and since that time a lot changed," explained Steinbacher to DW. "I myself changed, and of course the way I play this piece also changed very much. It's like this: the first time you visit a place, you don't see many details. But then, over the years, every time you go back, you find new things like a beautiful tree or building. It's the same feeling with this concerto. Each time I return to it, I discover new details I hadn't thought about before."
Steinbacher belongs to a generation of star violinists, all women, who have made a strong impression on music life in Germany and Europe, including Julia Fischer, Veronika Eberle and Lisa Batiashvili. All, certainly not coincidentally, studied under Anna Chumachenko, the instructor at the Munich music academy who is called the "maker of violinists."
How does Arabella Steinbacher explain this new wave of female violinists? "It's not that there are suddenly so many talented women around," she says. "I think it's a sign of the times: The important positions are now occupied not only by men, political positions too. Women conductors are also emerging. It probably has more to do with the attitude of society."
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin concerto in D Major, op. 61
Sonata, op. 115 (encore)
Arabella Steinbacher, violin
West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor
Recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) in the Cologne Philharmonie on April 20, 2018