Symphonic Concert – Schumann | Strauss
29 April 2017, 7:00 p.m.
Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Krakow
“I cannot write a concerto for the virtuosos. I must try for something else…” – these are words from Schumann’s letter to his fiancée, the magnificent pianist Clara Wieck, he wrote in 1839. At that time, he was processing intensely an idea to create a concerto of a new type – different from the compositions that ruled the then stages, intended solely to show off the soloists’ skills. In the years to come, he returned a couple of times to his project and finally in 1845, he completed Concerto in A minor op. 54. Already with its first performance, commentators noticed that the composition marked a new era of the concerto genre, and the piece (Clara, who was already Schumann’s wife, was the first to perform it) soon gained great popularity on European stages. Compliments (but also initial criticism) were expressed with the odd synthesis of genres, combining ideas of a symphony, a concerto, and a sonata. The traditional dialogue of the soloist with the ensemble gives way to the frequent integration of the piano part in the symphonic tissue, as if it were an orchestral instrument. The path indicated by Schumann turned out attractive for his followers – the great Romantic and neo-Romantic concertos (particularly Grieg’s Concerto in A minor that is similar in terms of its idea) more or less referred to this very concept.
In the solo part, the tonight’s concert will feature Florian Uhlig – an outstanding German pianist, who among his impressive achievements can pride himself on a project to record all piano works by Schumann (previously, he recorded an analogous set by Ravel). The collection numbers 9 CDs already and has been well received both by the audience and critics.
Several years after the Concert in A minor, in 1848, Schumann composed theatre music for the staging of Lord Byron’s Manfred. Of its several movements, the brilliant and dramatic overture – one of Schumann’s best symphonic works – gained particular popularity. It will resound during the Sinfonia Iuventus evening, conducted by the orchestra’s principal guest conductor Michail Jurowski. The grim expression and dramatic tensions of the piece correspond with the story of the Faustian hero whose soul, tormented with guilt for the death of his beloved, is fought over by demons.
Several music works became famous for their extraordinary “opening gestures” which became well-known motifs, recognised all over the world. Among them are the beginnings of Bach’s organ Toccata in D minor, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 or Richard Strauss’s tone poem Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1896). Absolutely amazing, powerful and exalted fanfare (depicting, according to the author’s commentary, a sunrise) with “archetypical” fifths and C major chord, supported with organo pleno, has been particularly popular since Stanley Kubrick used it in his Space Odyssey (1968). Therefore, it is worth to listen to the entire, dazzling piece from which it comes from – the tone poem of a neo-Romantic genius, master of vibrant orchestrations, dedicated especially to programme music – such that has been developed upon a poetic or literary message. Here, the inspiration was obviously the very famous treaty by Friedrich Nietzsche who puts his own views on the nature of being, the death of God, and the idea of eternal recurrence into the mouth of the legendary Persian priest. At the same time, it is a very rare and extremely interesting attempt to describe with music not events or characters, but ideas and philosophical insights which are introduced with titles named after nine chapters of the elaborate poem.
Florian Uhlig – piano
Roman Perucki – organ
Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Michaił Jurowski – conductor
Robert Schuman Uwertura „Manfred” op. 115, Koncert fortepianowy a-moll op. 54
Richard Strauss „Also sprach Zarathustra” op. 30