Kobayashi season ticket 1
Is it a measure of the worth of a piece of music to be modern, or to have been considered so back in its own time? For a long time, popular opinion said it was indeed. In “better circles”, it was normal to give preference to innovative composers and condemn those who were “behind the times”. Nowadays we see things differently, looking primarily at the richness of the work’s message, the quality of its artistic elaboration, and on its poetry and evocativeness. This concert presents three works that will help the audience ponder precisely these questions of modernity and traditionalism.
Born in Moscow 45 years ago and now based in the United States, Olga Kern is one of the most successful and virtuosic pianists of our time, one who over the course of her career so far has shown intense interest in the Russian repertoire, which is perhaps a good reason for the fact that we’ll be hearing her play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3, one of the most popular – and at the same time, most difficult – concert works ever written for her instrument. This composition, typically late Romantic in its melodic and harmonic worlds, was written in 1909, as was Five Orchestral Pieces by Arnold Schönberg, who was born in 1874, making him a year younger than Rachmaninov. It is a ground-breaking and modern composition that brought new colours and means of expression to the world of music. The two composers therefore interpreted their calling differently: Rachmaninov spent his entire life in a relationship with tradition, while Schönberg believed in change and developing new techniques and even an entirely new method of composing music. Now we will get to hear and marvel at the music of both composers. In spite of the fact that many people consider Brahms’s Symphony No. 4, with its passacaglia in the fourth movement built on a Baroque pattern, as “conservative”, Schönberg proved, in a great study published on the centenary of Brahms’s birth, that he was nevertheless a forward-looking composer.
Az egyik legismertebb olasz dirigens. Olyan világhírű zenekarokkal működött már együtt, mint a Londoni Szimfonietta, a milánói Scala Zenekara, a Belga Rádió és Televízió Zenekara vagy a Tokiói Szimfonikusok.
Olga Kern is recognized as one of her generation’s great pianists. She began studying piano at the age of five and she was the winner of the first Rachmaninov International Piano Competition when she was seventeen.
I. Vorgefühle II. Vergangenes III. Farben IV. Peripetie V. Das obligate Rezitativ
In 1912, Schoenberg briefly kept a diary. He attempted to make notes of all events he deemed important. In this diary we can read a few lines about the titles of his Five Orchestral Pieces written in 1909. The composer was none too enthusiastic for the idea. In music, he noted, “what is marvellous is that he that understands comprehends all and yet the creator’s secrets remain.” The titles, he felt, “blurt out” these secrets. “Those titles, which I will give, do not blurt out anything” he continues “because partly they are entirely obscure, partly they are technical only. Which is to say “Premonitions” – everyone has them; “Bygones” – same again; Chord Colours (technical), Climax (a pretty general term); the Obligatory recitative.” In the end, these titles were appended to the Peters edition, although the third piece was renamed “Colours” instead. We cannot add much to the first two. “Premonitions” is music that from the very beginning arouses fear and unease, and by its end has become a frightening vision. The musical image of “Bygones” is gentler and quieter.The middle movement has inspired reams of literature from musicologists.
What does Schoenberg mean by “Colour?” True, one obvious aspect of it is its varied orchestration. At the beginning, we hear the same five voice chord repeated in two different orchestrations. In the final chapter of his textbook on harmony completed in 1911, Schoenberg brought up the idea of “Klangfarbenmelodie”, which is to say that besides pitch and rhythm, he argued that perhaps sound colour should no longer be a secondary contributory element as it was in the past. Why should it not be possible to create musical forms with melodic value using changes of sound colour (the ultimate case would be a sequence of notes of the same pitch but each one having a different sound colour)? The middle movement of the Five Orchestral Pieces undoubtedly takes steps in this direction. By the same token, it is very consciously constructed polyphonic music: the progression of chords is strictly determined (each voice sooner or later moves up a minor second, and then down a major second). Much later, Schoenberg admitted that a summer experience inspired the composition. At dawn, he was on a boat on the smooth waters of the Traunsee and was overwhelmed by the play of the light – perhaps the small motives that dart around and above the chordal progressions should be taken as fish … After his move to the United States, Schoenberg revised the work and its title becomes more revealing: “Summer morning by a lake (Colours).”
After the relaxed “slow movement”, the fourth truly begins with an excited climax. The title of the last piece is the hardest to explain. It is essentially the unique continuation of one of Richard Wagner’s ideas. Wagner felt that the four and eight bar structure generally underlying all classical music was reminiscent of verse. He believed that artists of the Romantic era should liberate themselves from this stereotypical method and approach music with the freedom of prose. In this piece, Schoenberg takes Wagner’s concept (which Wagner never truly realised himself) to its logical conclusion. There is no periodic articulation, or any repetition that we can discern at first hearing. There is no “theme”, no “bridge”, just infinite musical discourse. It is as if a biblical prophet is relaying what the higher powers have whispered to him, not bothering whether anyone hears it or if they understand his words.
Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is widely considered to be the most difficult keyboard work of all times. That view is based on the immense technical challenge that the piano solo poses, the rhythmic complexity of the rich musical fabric, as well as the difficulty of playing together for both soloist and orchestra. Rachmaninov composed his work for his first American concert tour in the summer of 1909. It received its premiere in New York on 28 November, and in January 1910 he gave another performance of it under the baton of Gustav Mahler. The three movements of the concerto are closely linked in terms theme. The main theme of the first movement returns in the second (Intermezzo) and in the finale, which follows without interruption. This main theme is reminiscent of Russian liturgical and folk melodies, but the composer denied the similarity was conscious. Rachmaninov composed two cadenzas for the first movement; one with a more densely chordal fabric, and a lighter one. He himself always played the latter, and initially other pianists followed suite, but recently the first has become increasingly popular, too.
Brahms spent the summer of 1885 in Mürzzuschlag, during which time he created one of his most majestic compositions, his Fourth, crowning all of his symphonies. However, it did not always enjoy the popularity it does today. In its time even Brahms’s closest friends failed to understand it. Max Kalbeck believed the work lacked unity, his suggested remedy being to omit the two last movements (and compose new ones instead), and Eduard Hanslick is alleged to have exclaimed, while listening to the opening movement, ‘For this whole movement I had the feeling that I was being given a beating by two incredibly intelligent people.’ Brahms, however, was unwilling to make any changes and his decision was justified by the immense success of the Meiningen premiere. Critics analysing the work believe that Brahms’s insistence on leaving the work unchanged was more than just a rational decision. His obstinacy is thought to have been motivated by the confessional character of the symphony. The series of thirds in the first bars of the opening movement would reappear in his Four Serious Songs with the text ‘O Tod, o Tod’; the famous bass progression in the finale is related to the following line in J. S. Bach’s cantata no. 150: ‘My days spent in sorrow / God ends nevertheless with joy’.