Anniversary Concert: 5 Years of Elbphilharmonie

Happy Birthday, Elbphilharmonie! – The 5th-anniversary concert live from the Grand Hall. Video available until 11 Jan 2023.

Concert stream available until 11 January 2023.


If the City of Hamburg and the Elbphilharmonie were a couple, they would be celebrating their wooden wedding anniversary. Or their rose wedding, as we call it here in the north. Nearly five years ago, after a lengthy  construction phase, the people of Hamburg finally surged through the doors of the city's new landmark.

There are certainly plenty of reasons to celebrate: the concert hall by the river Elbe has attracted millions of visitors not only with its spectacular architecture, but also with a first-rate programme of music from all genres. Since the opening in 2017, the number of people attending concerts in Hamburg has tripled.

A festival week

To mark the anniversary, the Elbphilharmonie is holding a one-week festival. The anniversary itself on 11 January 2022 features a concert given by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra – the Elbphilharmonie's orchestra in residence – under its chief conductor Alan Gilbert, playing contemporary music by John Adams, Thomas Adès and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

5 Years of the Elbphilharmonie

For a whole week, from 9 to 17 January, the Elbphilharmonie will be celebrating its birthday with a series of top-class orchestras and soloists.

Alan Gilbert Alan Gilbert © Peter Hundert
Anu Komsi Anu Komsi © Maarit Kytöharju
Kirill Gerstein Kirill Gerstein © Marco Borggreve


NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

Anu Komsi soprano

Piia Komsi soprano

Kirill Gerstein piano

conductor Alan Gilbert


John Adams
Tromba lontana / Fanfare für Orchester
Short Ride in a Fast Machine / Fanfare für Orchester

Thomas Adès
Konzert für Klavier und Orchester

- Pause -

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Wing on Wing

Alan Gilbert – Conductor

Alan Gilbert
Alan Gilbert © Peter Hundert

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra © Nikolaj Lund

Kirill Gerstein – piano

Kirill Gerstein
Kirill Gerstein © Marco Borggreve

Anu Komsi – soprano

Anu Komsi
Anu Komsi © Maarit Kytöharju

Piia Komsi – soprano

Piia Komsi
Piia Komsi © Unbezeichnet

SPACE MUSIC :About the programme

When choosing the music for this evening’s jubilee concert, conductor Alan Gilbert instantly knew what to go for: »The Elbphilharmonie is a wonderful performance space that lends itself beautifully to spatial music. We chose this programme to celebrate the sense of wonder and experimentation that has been a hallmark of the Elbphilharmonie during its short but dazzling existence.«


The spatial effect of John Adams’s »Tromba Lontana« (Distant Trumpet) is already built into its title. His score provides for two trumpets, tossing musical fanfares to and fro whilst remaining grounded in a constant orchestral pulse. Composed in 1985, the piece is a classic example of minimalism, a movement that arose in the United States in the 1960s as an alternative to the European avant-garde. Minimal music is based on the repetition of tiny musical cells, or »patterns«.

John Adams
John Adams © Margaretta Mitchell

»You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?« This is how Adams – never at a loss for a quick-witted remark – commented on his piece »Short Ride in a Fast Machine« from 1986. The motor is provided by a simple woodblock that ruthlessly propels the orchestra and listeners along at 150 beats per minute. »Part of the fun is making these large instruments – the tuba and double basses – move. They have to boogie through this resolute and inflexible pulse until the end, when the woodblock finally stops. It feels like the third stage of a rocket that has finally broken loose of earth’s gravity and is allowed to float.«


Thomas Adès is one of the most frequently performed of all present-day composers. In the autumn of 2020, the Elbphilharmonie devoted a series of concerts to the British musician, who appeared as both conductor and pianist.

Thomas Adès
Thomas Adès © Marco Borggreve

His musical language is broadly based and encompasses classical music, jazz and other historical models. What is astonishing is his ability to merge them into his very own distinctive style.

Adès’s Piano Concerto is cast in traditional three-movement concerto form (fast – slow – fast), but its stylistic language is entirely new. Its first performance in 2019 with Kirill Gerstein was a triumph, impressing even the New York Times.

»As ever, the craft is astounding, the orchestration ceaselessly brilliant. The voice is wholly his own. I can’t wait to hear it again.«

New York Times


Esa-Pekka Salonen composed his orchestral piece »Wing on Wing« for the first season of the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where he was then Principal Conductor.

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen © Clive Barda

Its title derives from sailing terminology, as Salonen explains: »When a sailboat opens both its foresail and mainsail to a 180° angle to produce the maximum amount of sail area, the beautiful sculptural constellation is called ›wing on wing‹.« Obviously, this association relates to the architecture of the new hall designed by Frank Gehry, to whom the piece is dedicated. Born in Helsinki in 1958, Salonen – like Adès – is equally gifted as a conductor and as a composer. His score includes two sopranos who are used instrumentally and move around the hall.

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall © Gehry Partners, LLP

He also employs sampled sounds of Frank Gehry’s voice and sounds produced by the plainfish midshipman, a type of fish that lives in the waters off southern California and is able to produce loud humming courtship calls. Salonen’s decision to incorporate these into his score is also an allusion to Gehry, who has regularly designed objects and sculptures in the shape of fish. And even though Salonen may have had a different concert hall in mind when he composed this piece, it still gives the impression of having been specially written for the Elbphilharmonie here in Hamburg’s harbour.

Author: Clemens Matuschek

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