Göteborgs Konserthus Music of the Spheres and Close Friendships

Music of the Spheres with the Gothenburg Symphony, Barbara Hannigan conductor and vocals and Christian Lindberg trombone.

Concert length: 2 h incl. intermission Scene: Stora salen
380-540 SEK Student 190-270 SEK Youth up to 29 190-270 SEK

Experience Debussy’s soaring clouds and shimmering vocals conducted by Barbara Hannigan. It is also about friendship, both in Strauss’ Tod und Verklärung and in a premiere with trombonist Christian Lindberg.

Canadian Barbara Hannigan is Principal Guest Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and a specialist in putting together distinctive and emotional programs. In this concert, she leads the Gothenburg Symphony in newly written music and well-known classics by Debussy and Richard Strauss. We also get to hear her sing the soprano solo in the rare “I am not a tale to be told” by Golfam Khayam, a meditation on the situation of women in Iran based on Persian poetry. The piece was commissioned by Barbara Hannigan herself and premiered in Reykjavik in the summer of 2023 .

Jan Sandström’s newly written concerto dedicated to the world trombonist and friend Christian Lindberg is about close friendship, the third trombone concerto that this fantastic duo creates together.

When musical romanticism at the end of the 1890s was at its zenith, Richard Strauss like no other clothed the great emotions in magnificent orchestral splendor. The symphonic poem Tod und Verklärung is a musical depiction of a heroic destiny. The slow introduction describes a sick camp, the stormy allegro of the second movement a feverish death struggle. In the third movement, life passes revue before the final redemption is reached in the sublime clarity of the last movement.

Previously announced Atmosphères by Ligeti has been replaced by Khayam’s I am not a tale to be told.


Get to know the classical pieces.

Get to know the composer Jan Sandström.

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!


Nocturnes Clear parallels between music, poetry and painting can be discerned around the turn of the century in 1900, and are also noticeable in Debussy's music from the same period, when he was inspired by the French Impressionists and Symbolists. His style was strongly influenced by other art forms, with its color cascades and its diffuse, evocative harmonics, as well as the dreamy and sensitive touch. Les Nocturnes (1900) is a symphonic triptych with women's choir, and the work in which Debussy is closest to contemporary artists. The title refers to a series of paintings of the same name by Debussy's favorite artist, the American-British painter James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), who was living in Paris at this time. Debussy tried to recreate his clair-obscure technique musically, and the three movements are named Clouds, Festivals and Sirens. In the preface he wrote: "The title Nocturnes should be understood here [...] in a more decorative sense. So it is not about the usual form of notturno, but about all the impressions and special illuminations that can be found in this word. [...]" Debussy reused themes and ideas from 1892, originally conceived as an orchestral piece inspired by the French poet Henri de Régnier. The work was then called Trois Scènes au Crépuscule (Three Scenes at Twilight), and was reworked early in the development for solo violin and orchestra for the violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe. However, the project was put on hold, but Debussy now had the seed of what would become Nocturnes. The three sets differ markedly from each other. The opener, Nuages (Clouds), is a calm and very atmospheric prelude, which with its diffuse atmosphere resembles an ever-changing sky. An ominous theme in the English horn recurs incessantly, until the movement ends with a somber tremolo in the double basses. In the sparkling, frivolous and playful second movement, Fêtes (Festivals), the characteristic trumpet melody takes the lead in the grand and triumphant festive procession that the music portrays. The final calm and melancholic movement, Sirènes (Sirens), contains echoes of Balinese gamelan, music that Debussy heard at the Paris World's Fair in 1889. A ghostly, wordless female chorus floats fluidly over a velvety orchestral background. The music increases in intensity to new exciting and harmonically restless heights, and after a final effort by the harp, the music slowly and quietly fades away. ANDREAS KONVICKA

In connection with the first trombone concert (The Motor Cycle Concert,1989) and the first performances around the world, (to date there would be over 700 performances by Lindberg), this time in Monaco and Nice in January 1993, Jan Sandström and Christian Lindberg visited the beautiful mountain village of Eze near Nice. Jan is said to have mentioned during the visit that he would someday like to write a piece with the exact title "The chords from Eze". The project would take 30 years to complete. In between, the second concerto Don Quixote was written for Lindberg, and the double concerto Echoes of Eternity, both often performed on world stages. The chords from Eze are - as it appears in the score - a story about almost 40 years of deep friendship, from the couple's first meeting in 1986 in Reykjavik's hot springs, about shared experiences, and about the origin of the work on the beautiful January day in the French mountain village. Trombone Concerto No 3 is commissioned by European Gramophone. Jan Sandström, composer

Intermission 25 min

Golfam Khayam (b 1983) I am not a tale to be told I have always been fascinated in reframing traditions into new forms. This is especially apparent in Persian musical traditions which are part of my identity. I'm interested in making transparent bridges between west and east, seeking an individual language, for I believe there are so many cultural hidden gems, ancient or actual, under the dust of politics which could bring a deeper way of dialogue through music. More than ever in this chapter of our history, this collaboration is meaningful and precious to me. I am deeply honored to be collaborating with Barbara Hannigan. The piece "I am not a tale to be told" is based on a poem published in 1955 by Ahmad Shamlou, a contemporary Iranian poet and one of Persia's cultural icons. Shamlou's poems are beyond time and space, speaking from the depths of an ancient land, speaking to you, me and us on nowhere-land. I had the privilege to grow up in a family to whom Shamlou was a close friend. I used to call him "Uncle". I grew up with his poems, and this particular poem has also been the narrator for so many silent voices seeking light through dark times. "I am not a tale to be told" includes musical cells/phrases in a controlled improvisation which gives liberty to the instrumentalists and soloist. It creates a Persian "carpet" upon which the soloist can perform. The music gathers vocal and instrumental gestures from Persian music, such as ornamentation, modal contours, and drones which are rooted in our tradition. This also includes Maqam (midal contours) from regional music of the Kurdish provinces, as mourning gestures, and typical modal phrases which are rooted in vocal practice, all reframed as in a new picture. The final phrase being exclaimed, its notes opposing to the constant drone note of b natural, is sung, in Farsi, on b flat: Man dardé moshtarekam, Maraa faryaad kon: "I'm the common pain, scream me out!" Golfam Khayam 2023

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) Tod und Verklärung op 24 Richard Strauss sometimes made himself the hero of his symphonic poems (such as in Ein Heldenleben and in Sinfonia Domestica), and it was long believed that it was a period of severe illness that he described in Tod und Verklärung ("Death and Transfiguration"). However, there are no documents that support such reasoning, on the contrary, there is a letter from 1894 to Friedrich von Hausegger in which Strauss tells us that "it was six years ago that I had the idea for a tone poem depicting the moment of death of an artist, a person who sought the highest the ideals... My illness didn't come until two years later. So it was an inspiration like any other." In the letter, he further tells about his thoughts: "the sick man lies dozing, breathing heavily and labored, but brighter dreams bring a smile to the tormented man's face. His sleep becomes easier, he wakes up, terrible pain immediately begins to tear him to pieces and a fever shakes his body. When the attack calms down, he thinks back to his life. His childhood, his youth with all its tribulations pass before his eyes... At last he is confronted with the goals and ideals of his life... The moment of death approaches, his soul leaves the body to fulfill its purposes in eternity. This results in him finding his ideals in a way that he could not reach down here." The composer has nowhere else expressed himself in such detail about the content, and the question is how much to care about the letter. The poem by Alexander Ritter that Strauss had printed in the score has a completely different meaning; political, revolutionary and full of transcendental metaphysics. The fact that it starts in C minor and ends in C major, he thought in the end was a sufficient explanation of the program. So it all ends with redemption. On his deathbed in September 1949, he whispered to his daughter-in-law: "Funny, Alice, dying is exactly as I imagined it in Tod und Verklärung." Now it is absolutely wisest to listen to this music without caring about the 26-year-old composer's possible thoughts, although it is undeniably an unusually moving and expressive music he has created. The composer conducted the first performance of the composition on 21 June 1890 during the festival in Eisenach. Stig Jacobsson

Wednesday 4 October 2023: The event ends at approx. 21.30


The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1905 and currently consists of 109 musicians. The orchestra is based in Gothenburg Concert Hall – a gem of functionalism on Götaplatsen square that has enchanted music lovers since 1935. Wilhelm Stenhammar was the orchestra’s Chief Conductor from 1907 until 1922. He gave the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra a strong Nordic profile and invited his colleagues Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to collaborate with the orchestra. Under the leadership of Chief Conductor Neeme Järvi between 1982 and 2004, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra undertook a number of international tours and made a hundred or so album recordings while establishing itself as one of Europe’s foremost orchestras. In 1997 the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra received the title of the National Orchestra of Sweden. Since season 2017-2018 Santtu-Matias Rouvali is Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Since season 2019-2020 Barbara Hannigan is Principal Guest Conductor. Christoph Eschenbach was also Principal Guest Conductor of Gothenburg Symphony in the years 2019-2022 – together they formed a strong three-leaf clover consisting of three completely different types of artists. We are also extremely proud to be an official partner of soprano Barbara Hannigan’s mentor initiative Equilibrium, with focus on young singers and musicians who are just beginning their careers. Sten Cranner is the orchestra’s CEO and Artistic Director, while Gustavo Dudamel holds the title of Honorary Conductor and Neeme Järvi that of Principal Conductor Emeritus. Region Västra Götaland is owner of the orchestra. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra works regularly with conductors such as Herbert Blomstedt, Joana Carneiro, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Christian Zacharias and Anja Bihlmaier.

Soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan is first guest conductor for the Gothenburg Symphony since 2019. She is also Première Artiste Invitée of Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Associate Artist of London Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (2024/25 onwards). Embodying music with an unparalleled dramatic sensibility, soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan is an artist at the forefront of creation. Her artistic colleagues include John Zorn, Krszysztof Warlikowski, Simon Rattle, Sasha Waltz, Kent Nagano, Vladimir Jurowski, Andreas Kriegenburg, Andris Nelsons, Esa Pekka Salonen, Christoph Marthaler, Antonio Pappano, Katie Mitchell, and Kirill Petrenko. The late conductor and pianist Reinbert de Leeuw has been an extraordinary influence and inspiration on her development as a musician. The Canadian musician has shown a profound commitment to the music of our time and has given the world première performances of over 90 new creations. Hannigan has collaborated extensively with composers including Boulez, Zorn, Dutilleux, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Sciarrino, Barry, Dusapin, Dean, Benjamin and Abrahamsen. The past few seasons have brought the premiere of a new production of Poulenc's opera La Voix Humaine, and recent world premieres include Golfam Khayam's I am not a tale to be told with Iceland Symphony Orchestra, John Zorn's Split the Lark and Star Catcher, Zosha di Castri's In the Half Light with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and a new project with Katia and Marielle Labeque inspired by the life and music of Hildegard von Bingen. 2023-2024 includes further world premieres by John Zorn, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Jan Sandström. Last season, Barbara made her conducting debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, with further debuts with Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, as well as ongoing musical collaborations with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, LSO, Santa Cecilia, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Munich Philharmonic. On record, Barbara Hannigan’s fruitful relationship with Alpha Classics began in 2017 with the release of Crazy Girl Crazy, which won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal album. Five critically-acclaimed recordings followed, including Vienna: fin de siècle with pianist Reinbert de Leeuw, La Passione featuring works by Nono, Haydn and Grisey, and in 2023 Infinite Voyage, joining her colleagues of the Emerson String Quartet for their final album, in works of Schoenberg, Hindemith, Berg and Chausson. Spring 2024 brings the release of the ecstatic vocal works of Messiaen with pianist Bertrand Chamayou. Barbara’s commitment to the younger generation of musicians led her to create the mentoring initiatives Equilibrium Young Artists (2017), and Momentum: our Future Now (2020). In 2021, Barbara Hannigan was appointed an honorary scholarship holder by the Swedish Stenastiftelsen and received a scholarship amounting to SEK 300,000. In 2022, she was named Artist of the Year by Gramophone magazine. In the 2022-2023 season, Barbara Hannigan performed works by Poulenc, Ligeti, Messiaen and Stravinsky together with the Gothenburg Symphony and the Gothenburg Symphony's choirs. She also did a guest performance at the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg and participated in the Swedish national day concert in Slottsskogen, Gothenburg. Barbara resides in Finistère, on the northwest coast of France, directly across the Atlantic from where she grew up in Waverley, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Christian Lindberg has been voted "History's greatest brass musician" by the great classical radio station ClassicFM. Having premiered over 300 works for trombone (over 90 major concerts), recorded over 70 solo records and received an international soloist competition in his name, Christian Lindberg is today nothing less than a living legend. He has a close collaboration with the composer Jan Sandström, which until today has resulted in three trombone concerts. The first of these was the Motor Cycle concert which Lindberg premiered in 1989 and which has enjoyed great success all over the world. In addition to his unparalleled career as a trombonist, Lindberg also has a very successful conducting career. He was chief conductor of the Nordic Chamber Orchestra in Sundsvall 2004-2010 and has held the same role with the Wind Symphony in Stockholm. He has also been the artistic advisor and chief conductor of the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway since its founding in 2009. Lindberg has also had major conducting collaborations with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra (performed and recorded all symphonies by Allan Pettersson), the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Nürnberger Symphoniker, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and Taipei Symphony Orchestra. With the Gothenburg Symphony, Christian Lindberg has made a long series of appearances since 1982.

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