Göteborgs Konserthus To Heaven with Hannigan

Pure beauty with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Barbara Hannigan and the Gothenburg Symphony Choir.

Concert length: 2 h incl. intermission Scene: Stora salen
370-530 SEK Student 185-265 SEK

The conducting soprano Barbara Hannigan always surprises her audiences with well-considered and innovative concerts. On this occasion she gathers the ascension of Handel’s Messiah, Stravinsky’s choral tribute to the Lord in the firmament of his power and symphonies for wind instruments, and Ligeti’s harmonic crystal sounds – music that has triumphed over gravity. Pure beauty from three orchestral masters who have made invaluable contributions to the history of music.

Igor Stravinsky is considered perhaps the most significant and influential composer of the 20th century. His contribution to music history is invaluable and his influence on both his contemporary and subsequent generations of composers places him in a special position in music history.

Barbara Hannigan is the principal guest conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

The previously announced Nuages ​​from Debussy’s Nocturner have been replaced by Stravinsky’s Symphonies for Wind instruments.


Introduction to the concert

Take a seat in the Great Hall one hour before the concert begins and learn more about the music you will soon experience! You will get the stories behind the music, knowledge of the composers and own reflections about the classical pieces. The introduction last for about 30 minutes, it is free and free seating in the hall. Warm welcome!


GYÖRGY LIGETI (1923-2006) LONTANO György Ligeti grew up and was educated in communist Hungary and was forced there to write more or less traditional music, often based on folk music. But for the drawer - and for better times - he secretly composed many experimental works. It was only when he fled his homeland in 1956 that the world became aware of his epoch-making innovations and he suddenly came to be counted among the most significant and avant-garde artists on the barricades. He hit like a bomb with works like Atmosphères, Aventures, Nouvelles Aventures and Requiem. Ligeti presented himself as an iconoclast who was bolder and consistently more modern than anyone heard of, and he thoroughly shook up the establishment. But over time, the modernist became something of a classic, a part of music history. He left a rich and varied output with orchestral pieces, solo concerts, choirs, organ works, chamber music and the opera Le grand macabre, written for the Stockholm Opera. He was also a sought-after lecturer and pedagogue who had long been involved at the Academy of Music in Stockholm. The title of the piece to be played has to do with distance, with something far away. This is also how the music is structured: it begins with a lonely distant sound that comes closer and is filled with more and more instruments, and it ends with a long fade to disappear again into the distance. In between we find sonorous associations, or as the composer himself put it: as a window to the long suppressed dream world of childhood. Ligeti wrote this work commissioned by Südwestfunk, Baden-Baden, and it was premiered, like the orchestral work Atmosphères, in Donaueschingen, curiously on the same date: 22 October, but six years later, in 1967, with Ernest Bour conducting the Südwestfunk Symphony Orchestra. Bour and the orchestra had the work dedicated to them. It is thus a purely orchestral work and can be seen as an instrumental sequel to the choral work Lux aeterna written the year before. With a little imagination and good will, one can perhaps still imagine voices in the orchestral sound. Here is a micropolyphony with wide arches, almost like in Palestrina's Renaissance choirs, as well as a spaciousness and a strong sense of different distances. Simple chords seem to be closer, the brass feels more present than the strings. The simultaneously sounding high and low notes give a sense of vertical expansion. Flutes and trumpets are allowed to play in uncomfortably high positions, which creates a special intensity - while the bottom is filled by tuba, contrabassoon and the unusual contrabass clarinet. Unison sounds become like pillars around which the music takes shape with strong kinetic energy in a constantly fascinating piece. STIG JACOBSSON

Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992) L'Ascension In Olivier Messiaen, the visionary and the mystic are united with the inspired and skilled craftsman. In 1933 he completed his first major orchestral work, the symphonic meditations with the collective name L'Ascension. A few years later, at the publisher's request, he reworked the music for organ, which was quite different (with a completely new third movement), and this version has come to overshadow the original orchestral version and was published as early as 1934. The second movement is based on a then unpublished Fantaisie for violin and piano. But the four orchestral movements are superior in their dizzying contrasts, chord blocks, richness of harmonics, melody and timbre. The oldest parts of the work originate from Paris in May 1932, grew in Neuchâtel and were completed in Monaco in July of the following year. The first performance took place in the Salle Rameau in Paris on 9 February 1935 with Robert Siohan as conductor. The orchestral version was printed in 1948. It is typical for Messiaen to provide his works with elaborate and colorful titles, preferably filled with Catholic mysticism and deep piety. The titles of the four parts can be translated as: "Christ's majesty beseeching the Father for his exaltation", "Peaceful Hallelujah from a soul longing for heaven", "Hallelujah on trumpet, Hallelujah on cymbal" and "Christ's prayer ascending to the Father". Although Messiaen's compositional style is complicated, it is rooted in traditional tonality and the movements have been provided with key designations. It is about music that has a firm grip on the listener and that puts them almost in a trance. STIG JACOBSSON

Intermission 25 min

On several different occasions, Igor Stravinsky wrote musical works in memory of departed friends and acquaintances. These works include Chant funèbre (1908) in memory of his teacher Nikolaj Rimsky-Korsakov, Symphonies for Winds (in memory of Debussy in 1920) and Elegy for JFK in 1964. To these tribute works you can also add Greeting Prelude for conductor Pierre Monteux's 80th birthday in 1955 .Common to all these works is that they are very short and concise, some have playing times of just a few minutes. In an interview in The New York Times, Stravinsky describes Symphonies for Winds as "a grand song, an objective scream of wind instruments, instead of the warm human tone of the violins". Immediately upon hearing that Claude Debussy had died, he telegraphed his condolences to the widow Emma, and wrote a short fragment which was published in a supplement to La Revue Musicale. This fragment was the first he wrote for what would become Symphonies for Winds, but in the finished composition this is the very conclusion. The work came to consist of nine quite distinct motifs used as short choruses and episodes. The score was dated 30 November 1920, and premiered in London on 10 June 1921, without particular success. It must have appeared an odd bird alongside the works of Glazunov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Scriabin played at the same time, and did not fare better when it was subsequently performed in Geneva, Paris, Philadelphia and New York. Stravinsky himself was displeased and never allowed this version to be published. (Now this version is also available in print.) He withdrew the piece, and between 1945 and 1947 it underwent a thorough and simplified revision, which was published in 1948, at which time he gave the work its established title: Symphonies (in the plural!) for wind instruments . It is not a symphony, and that word should be understood as "consonance". Although it is the memory of fellow composer Debussy that is apostrophized, Stravinsky certainly did not strive to imitate Debussy's tonal language. Rather the opposite. But it is obvious that it is a solemn tribute to a great colleague. STIG JACOBSSON

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) Symphony of Psalms During the First World War, Igor Stravinsky left the Russia of his childhood and subsequently lived for a time in Western Europe, above all in France, where in the mid-1920s he was strongly connected to the Paris Russian Orthodox congregation. He was not particularly religious, but nurtured a strong desire to write a larger religious work. He had an inner spirituality, and like most other Russians in exile, he kept the Russian tradition alive. When in 1930 he received an order from the conductor Sergei Koussevitsky, who was also a Russian exile, to write something for the Boston Symphony Orchestra's fiftieth anniversary, he saw an opportunity to make his dreams come true. He was given free rein to write something entirely of his own accord, and, to the great dismay of the management, ditched the orchestra's admired violins and violas, but called for a four-part choir, augmented brass and woodwinds (but no clarinets), plus timpani and two pianos. But despite the large resources, the musical material is used in a very economical way, which does not prevent the result from being both powerful and expressive. Stravinsky later revised his work and presented a revised version in 1948. Stravinsky wrote a work with a very elaborate structure, in which a huge fugue takes center stage as the second movement. It is expressive music, but it lacks the rhetorical figures and the bombasm that many choral works blossom into. In fact, one can very well enjoy the music without trying to listen to the lyrics. The words are used as phonetic elements, and the same word can be stressed in different ways on different occasions. The choir sings Bible texts from the Psalms, but the text is not interpreted. It becomes what you can call "absolute music". The impression is timeless and surprising. But for Stravinsky the texts were still so important that he wrote that "this is not a symphony in which I have included some sung verses from the Psalms, on the contrary, it is these sung verses that I have made a symphony out of". It is austere music, sometimes downright archaic, without a single unnecessary note. Several musical forms are hinted at here: Gregorian chant, Renaissance motet and pure jazz. STIG JACOBSSON

Friday 31 March 2023: The event ends at approx. 20.00
Saturday 1 April 2023: The event ends at approx. 17.00


The Gothenburg Symphony, called "one of the world's most formidable orchestras" by the Guardian, has toured the USA, Europe, Japan and the Far East and performed at major music centres and festivals throughout the world. Chief conductor is Santtu-Matias Rouvali who started his tenure in 2017. Barbara Hannigan and Christoph Eschenbach are principal guest conductors since 2019. Already at the orchestra's very first years, the great Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar was appointed principal conductor, contributing strongly to the Nordic profile of the orchestra by inviting his colleagues Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to conduct their own works. Subsequent holders of the post include Sergiu Comissiona, Sixten Ehrling and Charles Dutoit. During Neeme Järvi's tenure (1982-2004), the orchestra became a major international force. In 1997 it was appointed the National Orchestra of Sweden. During his celebrated tenure as music director (2007-2012), Gustavo Dudamel took the Orchestra to major music centres and festivals in Europe, making acclaimed appearances at BBC Proms and Vienna Musikverein. The list of prominent guest conductors has included Wilhelm Furtwängler, Pierre Monteux, Herbert von Karajan, Myung-Whun Chung, Herbert Blomstedt and Sir Simon Rattle. The orchestra also runs extensive concert projects for children, and regularly releases digital live concerts free on gsoplay.se. The orchestra has been involved in many prestigious recording projects, the latest one the complete Sibelius Symphonies with Santtu-Matias Rouvali for Alpha Classics. Earlier, the orchestra has issued over 100 recordings on BIS, Deutsche Grammophon, Chandos, Farao Classics and several other labels. The Gothenburg Symphony is owned by the Region Västra Götaland.

She has been called "an artist who aims straight for the heart and never misses". Since 2019, Canadian Barbara Hannigan has been the first guest conductor for the Gothenburg Symphony, a contract she extended in September 2022 through the summer of 2025. She performed her first concert with the Gothenburg Symphony in 2013 – already a success – and was the orchestra's Artist in Residence in the 2015-2016 season. As a singer and conductor, she collaborates with leading orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the French Radio Philharmonic where she is Première Artiste Invitée, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Barbara Hannigan's debut album as a singer and conductor, Crazy Girl Crazy, was released in 2017 and received both a Grammy and a Juno for Best Vocal Album. In 2021, Barbara Hannigan was appointed an honorary scholarship holder by the Stenastiftelsen and received a scholarship amounting to SEK 300,000. In September 2022, Barbara Hannigan performed the acclaimed La Voix Humaine by Poulenc together with the Gothenburg Symphony. Her commitment to the younger generation of musicians led her to create the mentor initiative Equilibrium Young Artists 2017.

The choir was founded in 1917 by cousins Elsa and Wilhelm Stenhammar. Elsa Stenhammar was one of the driving forces in turn-of-the-century choir life in Gothenburg and became the choir's first rehearser. On December 8, 1917, the choir debuted in Beethoven's Choir Fantasy with Wilhelm Stenhammar as soloist at the grand piano. As the country's oldest symphonic choir, they were able to celebrate their 100th anniversary in 2017 with a big celebratory concert where Mozart and Brahms as well as Stenhammar, Elfrida Andrée and Björn & Benny were on the program. The Gothenburg Symphony Choir is a non-profit association that is linked to the Gothenburg Symphony. The choir participates in concerts and performances under both the orchestra's and its own auspices. The music is mixed and the repertoire extensive. The Gothenburg Symphony Choir has participated in concerts in, among other places, the Royal Albert Hall and Canterbury Cathedral in England, as well as participated with the Gothenburg Symphony in the annual music festival in the Canary Islands and on a tour to China.

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