During 14 years, Dmitrij Kitajenko was the principal conductor of the Bern Symphony Orchestra. Now the maestro returns to the Swiss capital for this year’s traditional Gala concert. The first work on the program is Piotr Tchaikovsky’s charming and colorful Flower Waltz from his ballet The Nutcracker. The audience then will experience Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations with the Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, a composition in which the composer transfers Paganini’s virtuoso violin playing to the piano.

The Paganini Variations were composed in 1934 within a few weeks. It’s the last orchestral work, in which Rachmaninov uses the piano as solo instrument. The variations are based on a theme from Niccolo Paganini’s 24th Caprice, one of the simplest musical ideas, which can easily be remembered by the salient rhythmic form. Paganini’s theme has inspired numerous composers, among them Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt.

The concert’s last work is Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, about which the composer wrote in a letter to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck: “This is Fate, the fatal Power hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles, incessantly poisoning our souls.”