Symphonic Concert – Brahms | Grieg| Reinecke
June 24th 2017, 7 pm
The Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio, Warsaw
Johannes Brahms always defended the autonomy of music and identified himself with the beliefs of his friend Edward Hanslick, an influential critic from Vienna, who passionately questioned the foundations of programme music – that instrumental music is allegedly able to convey content or ideas. This is why Brahms’s two concert overtures (a genre perceived as programme music!), which were composed at the time and somehow complemented each other, are so special among his other works. While the humorous Academic Festival Overture holds no secrets, being simply a cute potpourri of popular student songs, the Tragic Overture op. 81 has become the object of unending speculations of Romantic interpreters, as the composer did not help them and left no clue of any non-musical inspiration. The sources believed to have stimulated Brahms included his beloved dramas (particularly Shakespeare’s King Lear and Hamlet, and Goethe’s Faust), as well as his biography and usually unfortunate emotional relationships … Even if there were some direct inspirations, we will never find it out, and theorising seems pointless and contradicts the author’s intentions. Maybe he wished to create a work that is immensely suggestive in its epic scale and, at the same time, expressing nothing but a universal symbol of tragic emotions which music is able to convey.
One of the most talented (and awarded in numerous prestigious competitions) flautists of the young generation – Marianna Żołnacz – will perform a rarely presented in Poland, yet extremely impressive Flute concerto in D major by Carl Reinecke, a German composer who was esteemed during his era and almost forgotten afterwards. It is one of the last pieces by the over eighty years old composer. Although written in the 20th century (1908), it pays tribute to the masters of the author’s youth – especially to Mendelssohn, who was his teacher, but also to the music of Brahms. This warm and fairly nostalgic work can be seen as the last Romantic flute concerto and a brilliant retrospection of the gracious, virtuoso and expressive style, typical of flute music from the preceding century.
Soon after completing his studies at the Leipzig conservatoire, Edvard Grieg, being almost two decades younger than Reinecke, found the ideological direction for his artistic work, namely inspiration with national Norwegian folklore. His friendship with the famous violinist Ole Bull and a young Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak (who died prematurely at the age of only 23) turned out to have been significant stimuli. They drew Grieg’s attention on the traditional music of their country, its beauty and autonomy, as well as the epic heritage of old sagas and legends. As the years passed, Grieg, who settled in his home town of Bergen, got entirely absorbed with the Norwegian national idiom, and he turned towards lyric and intimate forms of composing expression, with a preference for piano miniatures and songs. At times, however, he kept coming back to symphony. At the request of the great playwright Henrik Ibsen, Grieg composed some incidental music for the premiere performance (1876) of Ibsen’s new and innovative drama Peer Gynt. It tells the story of a journey of the title character stretching from Norway to North Africa. The adventures and creatures met along the way refer to Norwegian fairy tales and literary topos, but also provide an occasion for philosophical and moral reflection on the present. The colourful and figurative music by Grieg (collected later in two concert suites) outshone, in terms of popularity, Ibsen’s play, which is rarely staged outside Norway, and has become, next to Concerto in A minor, the most popular piece by its author in the world.
The concert will be conducted by Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk, the director of the H. M. Górecki Silesian Philharmonic, since November 2016 – the artistic director of the Polish Orchestra Sinfonia Iuventus; since 1999 – the artistic director and juror of the Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors in Katowice. The artist appears at all Polish stages (including the Warsaw Philharmonic) and abroad. He has recorded tens of CDs with the Silesian Philharmonic ensembles and conducted many world premieres.
Marianna Żołnacz – flute
Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk – conductor
Johannes Brahms – Uwertura tragiczna op. 81
Carl Reinecke – Koncert fletowy D-dur op. 283
Edvard Grieg – Peer Gynt – I suita op. 46
Edvard Grieg – Peer Gynt – II suita op. 55