DIGITAL CONCERT HALL
in cooperation with BERLIN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Susanna Mälkki and Gil Shaham
Prophets, With and Without a Fatherland
– Works of Busoni, Bartók and Sibelius
Goethe-Institut invites the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to its auditorium especially for the connoisseurs of Western classical music of Chennai.
We welcome you to enjoy this Digital Concert Hall with high definition video live-streaming and excellent sound to get the best close-to-real experience.
With this presentation, we hope to make some of the exclusive orchestral concerts a reality, which may be practically impossible otherwise.
Ferruccio Busoni Tanz-Walzer for orchestra, op. 53, 13 Min.
Béla Bartók Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2, Sz 112, 39 Min.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006: Gavotte en Rondeau 4 Min.
Jean Sibelius Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 43, 50 Min.
The works presented in this concert with Susanna Mälkki as the conductor look both back to the past and forward to the future. For example, Béla Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto, with soloist Gil Shaham, is in the tradition of Beethoven and Brahms but also experiments with the twelve-tone technique. Jean Sibelius’s Second Symphony, on the other hand, combines echoes of Tchaikovsky with innovative form, while Ferruccio Busoni’s Tanz-Walzer conjures up the atmosphere of a coffee house.
Ferruccio Busoni and the Berliner Philharmoniker enjoyed a long artistic partnership: The German-Italian presented the Berlin public with his own works which were represented in the musical life of the capital on a regular basis. The Berliner Philharmoniker gave the premiere of his Tanz-Walzer op. 53 on 13 January 1921. And it is with this work, inspired “by the sounds of a waltz wafting from the interior of a coffee house” (Busoni), that Susanna Mälkki starts off her guest appearance conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker.
The Finnish conductor, regarded as a specialist in contemporary music, then turns to Béla Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto, whose main theme is characterised by lyricism and broadly sweeping melodic lines. The contrasting second subject is based on a twelve-tone row which, however has distinct tonal characteristics. The soloist is none other than Gil Shaham, who has often been compared to the likes of Menuhin, Heifetz and Perlman and counts himself among the declared admirers of Bartók’s music: “The music is full of power, but is also sensitive, it is serious and full of humour, revolutionary and classic. ... Whether adapting folk melodies, or composing in the twelve-tone technique, Bartók’s style and artistic judgement constantly inspire me.”
The symphonic main work of the evening is Jean Sibelius’ Second Symphony, about which Karl Flodin, the leading Finnish music critic of the late 19th century, enthusiastically wrote: “... the more one listens to this brilliant work, the more powerful one finds its contours, the more profound its spiritual content and the more incisive the indicators that provide for the proper understanding of the composition.”
A waltz for the ages: Ferruccio Busoni
Ferruccio Busoni, on one hand, has to be content with the ambivalent posthumous reputation of an unknown great. Only a few of his numerous compositions haunt the repertoire as rarities: every performance becomes a discovery. For example, the Tanz-Walzer op. 53, which the Berliner Philharmoniker premiered under Busoni in the (old) Philharmonie on 13 January 1921 – and completely ignored after that: 100 years of silence.As Busoni himself recounted, the Tanz-Walzer “was originally written in jest (and as a personal test of my own lighter talents), inspired by strains of a waltz issuing from inside a coffee-house, heard while walking in the street. ... The work is dedicated to the memory of Johann Strauss, whom the composer sincerely admires.” Busoni’s suite of waltzes amounts to more of a mega- or meta-Strauss, however. Busoni knew how to ennoble the light, fleeting, old-fashioned character of the dance with a sense of grandeur, light and shadow, classicism and decadence, to idealize it, to elevate it from the moment to the monumental. Everything has its place in this Tanz-Walzer: melodious grace, urbane elegance, Hoffmannesque irony, thrilling energy, the bad omen and the melancholy of bidding farewell (to an era).
Every lie bounces off this artistry: Béla Bartók“Bartók, one of our greatest composer, was by no means regarded as a prophet in his fatherland during his lifetime, however. He had to endure being branded as “cosmopolitan”, “unpatriotic” and a “corrupter of youth”, since his understanding of Hungarian music, which was influenced by his painstaking research on folk music, was incompatible with the nationalist Romantic ideas of his countrymen. In the face of this aggressive propaganda Bartók felt like a stranger in his own land: “Where politics begin, art and science come to an end, equity and good faith cease to exist.” Even before he went into American exile, Bartók chose the path of inner emigration.
With a “visionary insight into the very nature of musical logic” confirmed by his student Sándor Veress, Bartók was able to generalize the unwritten laws, the typical characteristics, even the performance style of folk music from the individual case of a particular song or dance and to write compositions for which musical folklore was not merely exotic seasoning but an inner compass. The Second Violin Concerto is such a work. He complied for a “standard” three-movement violin concerto and began composing the opening Allegro non troppo. Bartók patterned its first theme after a type of slow dance which he had heard in Transylvania. He devised a twelve-tone row as the second theme, without drawing the rigid conclusions of Schoenberg’s doctrine from this idea, however. The themes from the first movement return in the finale, which is structured as a “free variation”.
With his music, as concrete as it is radical, thousand-fold thought-out, tested and shaped, Bartók created an alternative world which did not merely survive all ideologies and regimes but fundamentally questioned them. Dictators come and go, but Bartók’s musical truths remain unassailable; every lie bounces off this artistry. It shows a sense of responsibility – no note is superfluous, no bar unconsidered – which explains even his works for the youngest, for beginners on the piano, and treats them with the same seriousness, the same passion as the avant-garde compositions in which even virtuosos recognize their limits.
The movement of the water determines the shape of the river bed: Jean SibeliusJean Sibelius’s creative beginnings were influenced by European high and late Romanticism, but his fascination with Finnish mythology and intimate knowledge of the folk music of the region beyond the Romantic era led him to a breakthrough that was unparalleled in its boldness, originality, robustness and imagination.
Sibelius once compared the symphony to a river: “The river is made up of countless streams all looking for an outlet: the innumerable tributaries, streams and brooks that form the river before it broadens majestically and flows into the sea. The movement of the water determines the shape of the river bed; the movement of the river water is the flow of the musical ideas, and the river bed that they form is the symphonic structure.” This mythically idealized law of nature goes far beyond the academic perspective and central European conventional wisdom.
Sibelius’s Symphony disregards all drawing board drafts yet conveys the overwhelming feeling of musical logic, an irrefutable “this way and no other”. Sibelius’s musical ideas sound like incantations; they get caught up in the maelstrom of a ritual, fall into the intermediate state of a trance or intensify to a breathtaking musical frenzy. In the end, all literary-inspired beginnings were incorporated into the four movements of the D major Symphony – music that was always modern and is always old. And it has not lost its freshness in more than 100 years.
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