Tansman / Haydn / Gruber / Prokofiev
The winner of last year’s Prague Spring International Music Competition Huw Morgan is one of the most sought-after trumpet players of his generation. As a founder and member of the London brass ensemble Septura, who currently holds the position of first trumpet with the Sinfonieorchester Basel, will be introducing himself to the festival public with two starkly contrasting compositions: Haydn’s famed Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E flat major Hob. VIIe:1 and 3 MOB Pieces by the contemporary composer HK Gruber.
Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809), one of the supreme representatives of musical classicism, composed his Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E flat major Hob. VIIe:1 for his friend Anton Weidinger. Around the year 1793, this virtuoso and member of the orchestra of the Court Opera in Vienna began promoting a trumpet that was fitted with keys modeled after the systems of keys found on woodwind instruments. This gave his trumpet the ability to play the entire chromatic scale. Although the instrument enjoyed considerable popularity in its day, the system of keys did not prove to be successful for brass instruments, and after 1820 it was replaced valves, which are still used today.
3 MOB Pieces by the Austrian composer Heinz Karl Gruber (*1943) is a work written for the ensemble MOB-art & tone-ART, of which Gruber is a cofounder and member. The group focuses primarily on performing its own compositions, and it is sometimes called the “Third Viennese School”, but according to the composer himself, this is related more to an attempt to find new paths in the area of contemporary music than a reference to Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. His music is in fact in many ways almost directly opposed to the principles of the Second Viennese School: “We were trying to do things informally, to create a friendly atmosphere, and to get ourselves into places where no living composer had ever set foot before.” The relaxed atmosphere inspired by jazz, which Gruber admires, is exactly what is characteristic of this trumpet concerto, along with a return to melodiousness and tonality. The second part is – as its title tells us – a tribute to Heinrich Heine, whose poems, according to Gruber, “begin in a very romantic, flowery manner, but then end in utter despair.”
The evening’s programme will also feature Four Polish Dances by Alexandre Tansman (1897 – 1986) and the Symphony No. 7 in C sharp minor Op. 131 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953), the composer’s last symphony, full of melancholy, completed just a year before his death. After 1948, Prokofiev (like Shostakovich) was subjected to harsh official propagandistic criticism, accusing him of being a decadent, bourgeois composer. For that reason, performances of many of his works were forbidden in the USSR at the time, and the composer found himself on the brink of poverty. There is a truly bizarre story connected with the premiere of the symphony: in order for Prokofiev to escape the existential crisis he was facing and to have a chance at winning the Stalin Prize worth 100,000 rubles, at the conductor’s suggestion he added a triumphant conclusion, because a somber ending was not compatible with the current official directives. He still did not win the prize. He much preferred the original, quiet ending, and he begged his friend the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich: “You will live much longer than I will; you must insist that the new ending never existed.” By an irony of fate, Prokofiev died on exactly the same day as Stalin, the instigator of his oppression. The Soviet daily musical journal mentioned Prokofiev’s death only briefly – on page 116, because the first 115 were devoted to Stalin.
The British trumpet player Huw Morgan was last year’s winner of the Prague Spring International Music Competition. Currently a student at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Frits Damrow), he has collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and he has given recitals in halls including Wigmore Hall, the Purcell Room, and Bridgewater Hall. He is a passionate proponent of contemporary music, of which he gives frequent world premieres. In addition to his solo recordings, we can hear him on the soundtrack to the film Me and Orson Welles (2008), which was nominated for a BAFTA award.
The Warsaw native Lukasz Borowicz is a graduate of the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy, where he studied under the guidance of Antoni Wit. From 2007 to 2015 he served as the principal conductor of the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and since 2006 he has held the post of principal guest conductor of the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra. He has guest conducted the Royal Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra. He is a winner of two prestigious Diapason d’Or awards and two Fryderyk Chopin Prizes, and he is a sought-after opera conductor (Warsaw State Opera, Kraków Opera).
The Prague Symphony Orchestra is one of the leading Czech music ensembles with a remarkable tradition. Among the important Czech and foreign conductors who have stood at its helm have been Václav Smetáček, Jiří Bělohlávek, Petr Altrichter, and Serge Baudo, to name a few, and the orchestra had long periods of collaboration with Václav Neumann, Zdeněk Košler, and Vladimír Válek. Besides a number of internationally recognized guest conductors (Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Charles Mackerras) and soloists (Reneé Fleming, Mischa Maisky, Murray Perahia), the orchestra boasts extensive recording activities both for radio and television. On its frequent concert tours, it has been heard by audiences in most European countries, the United States, South America, and Asia. Its present principal conductor is Pietari Inkinen, whose inaugural concert with the orchestra took place at Prague Spring in May of 2015.
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