Program 16 August 2011  

18.00 Symphonic Concert

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall

Evgeni  Bozhanov Evgeni Bozhanov (piano) - Bulgarian pianist. His international career took off after he won prizes in several competitions, including the Svyatoslav Richter in Moscow, the Queen Elisabeth in Brussels, the Van Cliburn in Fort Worth and the Fryderyk Chopin in Warsaw. more »

 

 

 

Jacek Kaspszyk Jacek Kaspszyk (conductor) - Polish conductor. Since 2008, he has participated regularly in the ‘Chopin and his Europe' festival. Since 2013 artistic director of the Warsaw Philharmonic. more »

 

PROGRAMME:

Fryderyk Chopin

  • Piano concerto in E minor, Op. 11

[intermission]

Gustav Mahler

  • Symphony No. 10 in F sharp major /Deryck Cooke's version/

About the programme [+]

Fryderyk Chopin: Piano Concerto in E minor, Op. 11

The E minor Concerto (chronologically Chopin’s second concerto, as it was written in 1830, a year later than the F minor, yet called No. 1 on account of its earlier publication), shares with the F minor Concerto the same form and texture, and above all the same Romantic poetic aura. The Allegro maestoso (first movement) was composed in April 1830. In May, Chopin completed the Larghetto, which he wrote under the spell of Konstancja Gładkowska, his ‘ideal’ at the time. The final movement of the E minor Concerto, the Rondo, was written during a difficult period – a time of choices and vacillation. Over the whole summer of 1830, the question of Chopin’s going out into the world – to earn a position and renown – was debated. But before his departure, he still had to finish his new concerto, organise rehearsals and present the work to the Warsaw public. In August, the Rondo was ready. In September, Chopin tried out the whole work in three rehearsals before a private audience, at first with quartet, and then with a small orchestra, subsequently stating: ‘Rondo – effective; Allegro – strong’. In October 1830, at the National Theatre, the work was performed for the first time, with the composer himself naturally playing the solo part.

The E minor Concerto has the traditional three-movement cyclic form, shaped in many respects similarly to the form of brillant concertos by Hummel and Kalkbrenner. The essence of the piano texture in Chopin’s two concertos is a play between the themes and the rich, pearly figurations, most often derived from those themes.

The opening Allegro drives the narrative along in a distinctive and vigorous manner. The middle movement Larghetto, called a Romance in the score, transports the listener into a world of tonal magic and reverie. The composer himself described the Larghetto in a letter to Tytus Woyciechowski: ‘it is more romance-like, calm, melancholic; it should give the impression of a pleasant glance at a place where a thousand fond memories come to mind’. He then added: ‘It is a kind of meditation on the beautiful springtime, yet to moonlight’

The Rondo follows the captivating middle movement fluently, attacca, rousing the listener from his reverie with forceful means: dance rhythm, vivace tempo and powerful gestures. The themes intertwine here with bravura pianistic figurations. The refrain of the Rondo bears the features of a krakowiak: its rhythm, distinctive articulation, liveliness and jocularity.

 

 

The Festival’s opening concert programme which features the music of two great Romantics is also linked to the figure of one of the most distinguished Polish writers on music – Bohdan Pociej. From the outset he was involved with our Festival, contributing to its programme booklet his comments on the intricate, intriguing, interesting and informative relationships and contexts as well as overt and covert meanings of works featured during the Festival. Had he not reached the after-world of eternal harmony a few months ago, he would undoubtedly have written a commentary to tonight’s concert. With gratitude and sorrow, mindful of the Author’s absence, we can however recall from his memorable essay on the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, the closing fragment related to Symphony No.10 written in connection with the publication of the work’s complete and reconstructed version. The art of writing on music, like music itself, generates exceptional works which need to be frequently revisited.

Bohdan PociejGustav Mahler (1860-1911) – Symphony No.10

The matter relates to Mahler’s last, unfinished work which closes the corpus of his symphonic writings; to the composer’s last will and testament, drawn up during the final phase of his life. A tragic work (to a greater degree – albeit not as sharply and directly felt – than his ninth symphony, or indeed any of Mahler’s other works). The composer’s notes to the 3rd, 4th and 5th movements of the work have survived:

“Purgatory or hell. Death. Transfiguration! Mercies! O God, why have you abandoned me? Scherzo. I dance with the devil. I’m overcome by madness. Be damned, annihilate me, so as I can forget that I am, so that I cease to exist, so that…Completely subdued drums: only you know what that means! Ah! Farewell, my lyre! Farewell! Finale: To live for you! To die for you! Almschi!”

These notes characteristic of Mahler’s creative process, speak of the particularly “pathological” tension that surrounded the birth of this exceptional, superhumanly sensitive music.

Mahler began work on Symphony No.10 in 1909 (probably before the completion of his ninth) and continued it the following year. He had planned a five-movement work with a programmatic title of either Dante-Sinfonie or Inferno-Sinfonie (the title itself or programme would probably have been abandoned in the final draft of the work – as happened with Symphonies 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Moreover, he composed in his usual manner: initially making a draft sketch of the symphony with parts in short score usually in four staves. He did in fact compose the whole planned symphony: the drafts are complete. Furthermore they contain indications of instrumentation – precisely and completely stated in the first movement (Adagio), rather loosely and generally in the remaining movements (2,4,5) (…).

Mahler’s last work was left fully composed yet incomplete: only the first movement is orchestrated with author’s hand – in the full sense of the word; as are 28 bars of the third movement (Purgatorio). It would appear the composer had a strong feeling of inadequacy towards this symphony, a feeling that the results were not as adequate as intended. In a fit of depression he wrote to his New York doctor that he would prefer it if the score was burned after his death. Later he apparently changed his mind, allegedly saying to his wife that the draft of the Tenth is practically finished and that she may do with it whatever seems best. (…)

In 1959 the task of completing Symphony No.10 was undertaken by Deryck Cooke, the English musicologist and musician (1919-1976), renowned and valued music commentator for the BBC and author of among others The Language of Music and Mahler, 1860-1911. And so began the thrilling history of laborious work on the composition, through many years and several stages of endeavour; an arduous ascent by degrees of excellence towards an ideal design – as consistent as possible with the composer’s intended orchestral colour and instrumentation.

Cooke’s attitude is commendable for its modesty, simplicity, dignified humility and servitude towards the work. From his commentary it emerges that he places himself in the shade; that he is open to professional criticism of his undertaking yet deeply convinced of the necessity and legitimacy of his goal.

When embarking on the orchestration of the remaining drafts of Symphony No.  10 (Scherzo and Scherzo II. Finale) Cooke had to transfigure himself, so to speak, into the composer, arrive at the essence of his compositional method, expose the most secretive contents of Mahler’s thinking on tone-colour and  all the basic designs of his compositional style, start to think and feel in orchestral colour as Mahler himself would have done. (…)

In Symphony No.10 one is struck by its specific aura of strangeness enveloped in a sense of openness. The “endlessness” of the work’s first sketches is not I think the only reason for this impression of openness… From the opening Adagio (some of us have perhaps become familiar with it from earlier performances and recordings), disseminated and unfurled between ecstasy and airy, seductive (“Viennese”) dancing with that incredible cluster-like “torn curtain” towards its finale; through the dance-like whirling motion, weightiness, stringency and certain extremeness of the first Scherzo; through the incredibly fluorescent subtlety of the brief “purgatorial” episode (Purgatorio); and through the acuteness, darkness and vehemence of Scherzo II – at last to the Finale. The latter is the most complex, fractionate, perplexing, problematic (“dense”), and – in terms of form and architectonics – the most freely structured; yet also the most dramatic and tragic. With its vacuous, disruptive and persistently repetitive beat of the drum and piercing darkness (double basses, bassoons, tuba); with its characteristic tenacity of purpose, struggling to reach the light of day; with its ability to focus on various structural methods of: varying, developing, lyrically stylising a new – intuitive, prophetic, newly discovered idea – a structural method that today we would call “bruitilist” and “pointillist”. Reminiscences from the first movement (as well as the indescribably acerbic cluster-chord) and Purgatorio (characteristic main motif) now reappear; as do echoes and distant traces of the past, reaching as far back as Symphony No. 2; yet here all these traces of “time past” are developed in a strange manner. Here Mahler’s conceptual idea of an ecstatic adagio is developed and expanded; having journeyed along such a protracted and complicated path, by no means do we feel its conclusion, its definitive end. Instead there is clarity and hope.

This music (like the rest of Mahler’s music, except that here its form is particularly moving) is generated through an abrasive encounter of two intentions, an inclination to introduce and contrast two worlds, two orders. Consequently here the ecstatic and the divine encounter “the elements” of earth; awe and fear, the grotesque and sense of fun, human love and longing. However these two “orders” are reconciled by one impassioned desire: to deliver the music, to deliver its beauty – strength – power; from any fractures, from the growing and impending “new reality”.

Bohdan Pociej
(extracts from the essay Mahler Symphonies first published in “Ruch Muzyczny” no.6/1975)  


21.00 Oratorio concert

The Church of the Holy Cross

Ilse  Eerens Ilse Eerens (soprano) - Awarded first prize in the Euriade Vocal Contest in Kerkrade and in September 2004. more »

 

Andrew Foster-Williams Andrew Foster-Williams (baritone) - Acclaimed throughout the press for his authoritative, sonorous and regal voice, has established himself as an exciting, young talent in the Classical Music world. more »

 

 

The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées

 

Collegium Vocale Gent & Accademia Chigiana Siena Collegium Vocale Gent & Accademia Chigiana Siena

 

Philippe Herreweghe Philippe Herreweghe (conductor) - Founder of the Collegium Vocale and Orchestre des Champs-Élysées. more »

 

PROGRAMME:

Johannes Brahms

  • Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 for soprano, baritone, mixed choir and orchestra

About the programme [+]

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted – with these words from the Sermon on the Mount according to the Gospel of St. Matthew, Brahms opens his exceptional work – German Requiem. These words contain the key to its concept: this is not a prayer for the salvation of departed souls as in a Catholic Requiem, but rather comforting words addressed to the living. These are Biblical words of comfort carefully chosen by Luther in his translation of the Old and New Testament, proclaiming faith in the afterlife and release from earthly misery.

German Requiem is the first work in which Brahms unites solo voices, chorus and orchestra with the organ. In this work, as observed by Clara Schumann, the prophetic words of Robert Schumann about the fledgling composer, written in his famous article Neue Bahnen: “when he points his magic wand at the massed forces of chorus and orchestra, a wonderful view of the mysteries of a spiritual world will be revealed”, came to pass.

There is some doubt concerning the titular words of German Requiem. The composer himself had doubts about the first when he wrote: The word “German” I would gladly replace with the word “human”. Neither should the term Requiem be taken literally: it was not used to denote a Mass for the dead, since the work has nothing in common with either the Catholic or Protestant liturgy. Rather it is an expression of the composer’s thoughts on passing, death, afterlife and suggested answers he discovered in the Bible where the misery of human existence is contrasted with hope for everlasting happiness. This very personal approach to the question of death is simultaneously universal and free of restrictions imposed by the theological doctrines of various Christian faiths. It is also acceptable to people with no religious affiliations – in his choice of texts Brahms deliberately avoids those with Christian connotations of salvation, freedom from sin and references to Christ. For many such a concept was controversial and Karl Reinthaler, Kapellmeister from Bremen with whom Brahms corresponded on the subject, found it difficult to accept. However the composer did not succumb to his suggestion of writing an extra movement of a more “religious” character.

With regard to the works origins, it is impossible to unequivocally state its source of inspiration. Undoubtedly an important impulse for undertaking the work was the death of Brahms’ mother in February 1865. On the other hand, thoughts on death and passing had intrigued him for many years, particularly after the attempted suicide in 1854 of his close friend Schumann which affected him deeply. Soon after he sketched fragments of Sonata for two pianos whose scherzo he later transcribed into the tripartite “funeral march” in the second movement of Requiem. Moreover, Schumann’s role was far greater as it was in his notes that Brahms found a project for a German Requiem which he subsequently took on. Its sketches were drawn as early as the 1860s.

The idea of setting funeral music to biblical texts was nothing new. On the contrary, it was deeply rooted in the German traditions of vocal music. Examples can be found in – Bach’s cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit known as Actus tragicus and above all in works by Schutz which on the advice of Schumann, Brahms studied diligently: Cantiones sacrae, Geistliche Chormusik or Musikalische Exequien in which he found some of the texts for his own work; while in the musical layer of his Requiem particularly in the large-scale choral parts, there are strong echoes of early polyphony. Brahms’ masterly skills of exploiting counterpoint won him much admiration and he was seen as a worthy successor the masters of bygone epochs.

Initially Brahms planned a six-movement work with chorus and solo baritone. The first movement conveys hope and announces comfort, the second – with the said funeral march – the wretchedness of human existence (Each body is like straw) contrasted with hope for eternal happiness. In the next three there are returning texts spoken by the Psalmist about keeping faith with God and hopes of living in the “pleasant sanctuary” with the Lord of the Angels. The sixth movement (in final order) is the most dramatic and proclaims the resurrection of the dead to the sound of the “last trumpet” announcing not the judgement, but the transfiguration and triumph over death, crowned by a monumental choral fugue reminiscent of Handel. Like a clasp, the final movement closes the work with the words: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

The performance of the first three movements in Vienna was rather unsuccessful however the meticulously prepared premiere of the work in its entirety (still six-movement) in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Bremen on Good Friday 10th April 1868 was a resounding success for the work and its composer.

Not fully satisfied, Brahms followed the suggestion of his old teacher Eduard Marxsen and composed an extra movement which he placed in fifth position: Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (Now you mourn) with a wonderful soprano solo, without which the work would be unimaginable today – that glitters like a jewel against the background of the whole work. It also contains the most warmth and feeling as well as a reference to mother in the words of Isaiah: As a mother comforts you, so I shall comfort you. The first performance of German requiem in its complete version took place on 18th January 1869 in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus under the direction of Karl Reinecke. The work’s intensity of expression and a sense of a powerful religious experience left a huge impression on its listeners, aware of having participated in an epic event.

The general sentiments regarding the work’s greatness were echoed by Eduard Hanslick when he wrote: “Since the times of Bach’s Mass B minor and Beethoven’s Missa solemnis nothing has been written to compare with German Requiem”. The same can also be said today.

Grażyna Teodorowicz

Download: Brahms, Requiem – texts


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