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The Russian Genuises of the 20th Century

2012. 11. 04.

A small-scale and an emblematic work by Stravinsky, born just 130 years ago as well as a impetuous piano concerto by another Russian composer, Prokofjev will be staged on our next concert under the baton of a Thomas Sanderling, who was born and raised in Saint Petersburg.


To mark the 130th anniversary of the birthday of Igor Stravinsky, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, the National Philharmonic will perform an emblematic work by him. Premi?red in 1927, the two-act opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex is at once one of the key works of its composer and of 20th century music in general. The libretto, written by Jean Cocteau and based on the drama by Sophocles, features a succession of arias, duets and chorus movements linked by the words of a narrator – always spoken, according to the composer’s instructions, in the language of the audience (and thus in Hungarian for this performance). Generically speaking, the excitement of the work lies in its adaptability to both theatre stage and concert hall: its large-scale tableaux and chamber-scale music were conceived by the composer with the minimum of theatrical action and stage design.

A small-scale work by Stravinsky, originally written for jazz band but later rearranged for symphony orchestra, will feature as an overture to the evening’s concert. Scherzo ? la Russe was commissioned in the 1940s by the same Paul Whiteman, whom we also have to thank for ordering Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Prokofiev composed his fifth and final completed piano concerto in 1931, performing as the soloist at the premi?re of the work under the baton of Wilhelm Furtwängler. The work was not originally intended as a piano concerto, as evident in the five-movement structure that deviates from the classic concerto form, and indeed Prokofiev initially gave it the title of Music for piano and orchestra. It belongs among those pieces in music history that are known about but rarely performed in concert. On this occasion, however, we will have the opportunity to enjoy a performance of the work by a French pianist recognised as a world-class interpreter of the piano repertoire of the first half of the 20th century.

From the Artist’s point of view

Thomas Sanderling, conductor is speaking about his father, Kurt Sanderling, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard bernstein. Watch the interview here.



Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, soloist of the piano concerto:

For me, a great pianist is who can completely change his clothes. Of course, you can’t transform the flesh completely, but a great actor can create completely different characters.

The notion of style is extremely complex. It is a mixture of instinct and knowledge. The more you know about the composer, the more free you should be – not at all stuck in one aspect. It’s when you don’t know that you are clueless Every extra piece of historical or musicological information you can get (about the composer) is helpful. But it should help you to be free.

Will Hartman, tenor, about the Oedipus Rex:

To forge the Greek intellectual abundance, the strict rules of the Latin language, the Russian elementary force and the stunning clarity of French thinking into one piece- it is a unique venture and this is why this work is so special.


Bernstein stated that Oedipus Rex is the most "awesome product" of Stravinsky’s neoclassical period.

Bernstein refers to this as a "black joke", creating a chilling effect that is fully consistent with neoclassic musical style.