Date of EventSunday, 31. 5. 2020 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 22.00
Event placeRudolfinum – Dvořák Hall
Price850 - 2 900 CZK
- Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 4 in C minor D 417 “Tragic”
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major Op. 61
- Philippe Herreweghe - conductor
- Isabelle Faust - violin
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This year’s Prague Spring festival offers a comprehensive programme of works that will pay tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven as we mark the 250th anniversary of his birth. While the composer was born in Bonn, the music centre of his day was Vienna and naturally the city was central to Beethoven’s artistic aspirations as well. And he was successful in his endeavours, becoming the architect of the modern symphony and, alongside Mozart and Haydn, a great exponent of the First Viennese School. It is our objective to present the music of Viennese Classicism through its authentic representation: The Wiener Symphoniker (Vienna Symphony), together with a legend in the period interpretation of early music, conductor Philippe Herreweghe, and violinist Isabelle Faust, were perfect choices in this endeavour.
The Wiener Symphoniker plays a fundamental role in the colourful mosaic of Vienna’s music scene. Since its founding in 1900 its aim has been to cultivate the strong traditions of the city and approach them in an innovative way. In this spirit the orchestra gave the world premieres of a whole series of works that are now part of the gold collection – Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, or Schönberg’s monumental Gurrelieder. Today the orchestra performs around 150 concerts each year, the majority of them in their domestic environment, either in Vienna’s famous Musikverein or its Konzerthaus.
The orchestra has been led by a series of now legendary conductors – Bruno Walter, Richard Strauss and George Szell, with Herbert von Karajan etching his name into the orchestra’s history in the period following the Second World War. Other celebrated names would regularly collaborate with the ensemble in subsequent years – Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado or Sergiu Celibidache. Wolfgang Sawallisch left his mark as Principal Conductor in the years 1960-1970.
The Wiener Symphoniker has been headed since 2014 by Philippe Jordan, with whom they are in the final stages of recording the complete Beethoven symphonies. “They succeeded in creating something amazing: The symbiosis of the fine Viennese sound and the directness and transparency of historical performance practice,” stated a reviewer in the German classical music magazine Concerti.
Belgian conductor Philippe Herreweghe is renowned as a pioneer in the authentic interpretation of early music and as a leading authority on Bach. He established a series of notable ensembles – over fifty years ago, together with fellow students from the conservatoire, he founded Collegium Vocale Gent, a prominent early music ensemble which immediately became a dynamic presence on the European scene. In 1977 he launched the Paris-based ensemble La Chapelle Royale, which specialises in music of the court of Louis XIV. He then started up the group Ensemble Vocal Européen, which performs Renaissance polyphony, and also formed the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées with the aim of presenting the Romantic repertoire. He has worked as a guest conductor with many famous orchestras, including the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. He has recorded over sixty CDs for the harmonia mundi label (for example Bach’s St Matthew Passion, the complete Beethoven and Schumann symphonies and Kurt Weill’s Berlin Requiem).
German violinist Isabelle Faust, a world leader in her discipline, came to the Prague Spring last year to give a superb performance of Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin. The New York Times wrote that “her sound has passion, grit and electricity but also a disarming warmth and sweetness that can unveil the music’s hidden strains of lyricism”. Isabelle Faust has built up a broad repertoire spanning various periods, from Johann Sebastian Bach to contemporary authors whose works she often presents in their world premieres (including a concerto by Czech composer Ondřej Adámek). She regularly works with conductors Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe and Daniel Harding, and she teamed up with Claudio Abbado to make a recording of Beethoven’s and Berg’s violin concertos, which won awards in France, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. Faust also participates in chamber recitals performing with the piano or harpsichord. She recorded Mozart’s complete violin concertos with the Italian ensemble Il Giardino Armonico in 2016, and also Beethoven’s violin concerto with Claudio Abbado eight years ago, a feat which garnered numerous awards. A reviewer for BBC Music Magazine declared: “Isabella Faust’s sweet tone is consistently delightful, and she imparts due weight to the music with a light touch and comparatively sparing vibrato. Her invigorating performance offers an abundance of cogent new insights into one of the most well-loved concertos in the repertoire”.
Violin Concerto in D major by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was written in 1806, but it only earned international recognition nearly forty years later after it was performed by the London Philharmonic under Felix Mendelssohn conducting the 12-year-old violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim. This is the composer’s only violin concerto and it provides a distinct contrast to his piano concertos which are more dense in structure. Beethoven wrote his violin concerto for the concertmaster of the Theater an der Wien, Franz Clement, whose exceptional, refined performance style he very much admired. He was perhaps also conscious of what the public might expect from a solo concerto. He didn’t want the piece to be a mere display of technical virtuosity, but intended it to bring out the true depth of the player’s talent. The first part Allegro is longer than both the remaining parts together. Here the composer gradually exposes the main themes of the piece, thus presenting the entire splendour and variety of the Classical concerto form. In the middle movement, the Larghetto, the soloist enters with a decorative cantabile melody, which wends its way towards the key idea of the final Rondo, conveyed on the violin’s lowest string. After a brief tranquil episode, the main subject returns once again, and two energetic chords bring the piece to its close.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) took part as a torchbearer in Beethoven’s grand funeral procession in Vienna, although he only survived the great maestro by one year. Schubert wrote Symphony No. 4 in C minor at the age of nineteen and only later added the title “Tragic”. This designation corresponds to the character of the first movement whose introduction communicates a spirit of darkness and resignation. The vigorous main subjects in the first and last parts provide a contrast to the lyrical middle movements written in different keys, while the Menuetto (3rd movt.), with its dance elements, lasts a mere three minutes. The work as a whole manifests the inspiration of Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn, all of whom were great examples to Schubert in his compositional endeavours. The first public performance of the piece was held in Leipzig twenty-one years after the composer’s death.