Göteborgs Konserthus Mahler with Rouvali

Event has already taken place. Season opening filled with wonderful string sounds, trembling nerves and loving playfulness with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali and cellist Claes Gunnarsson.

Concert length: 2 h 15 min incl. intermission Scene: Stora salen
370-530 SEK Student 185-265 SEK

Event has already taken place

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra opens the season with wonderful string sounds, trembling nerves and loving playfulness together with chief conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the conductor comet from Finland!

Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 vibrates to a tragic mix of dread and harmony. Trembling nerves, but also the adagietto’s wonderful string section that floats between a state of dreaming and the waking world. We can only imagine how the audience reacted when Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 premiered in Cologne in 1904 – a crazy trumpet that plays a bygone fanfare, followed by the explosion of the orchestra and then the emergence of a sorrowful melody. What an atmosphere! The entire symphony is characterised by a tragic mix of dread and harmony. The renowned adagietto features a string section that floats between a state of dreaming and the waking world – tranquil, soaring and motionless at the same time.

Just a few decades earlier, a completely different sound filled the concert halls of Europe and Russia in a completely different era. Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme represents noble classicism in a romantic costume, here reflected in all its loving playfulness by the Gothenburg Symphony’s solo cellist Claes Gunnarsson. Tchaikovsky composed his works at a time when his right to live honestly and love the one he wanted was so questioned that he tried to end his own life. Music, and this work in particular, was Tchaikovsky’s way of dealing with an inner struggle, and a reality that limited his freedom.


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! A musician from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra gives you the stories behind the music, knowledge of the composers and own reflections on what it is like to play the classical pieces. The introduction last for about 30 minutes, it is free and free seating in the hall. Warm welcome!


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) Rococo Variations op 33 Of all the composers in the history of music, Tchaikovsky ranked Mozart the highest. This admiration also made itself visible in several of Tchaikovsky's own compositions, among others in the opera The Queen of Spades, where there is a longer element with purely classical features, and in the fourth orchestral suite, the one that actually goes by the name Mozartiana. 1876 he received an order for a work for cello and orchestra, and reconnected with the Rococo spirit of the 18th century. The order came from the cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, who had left a brilliant European soloist career to become a professorial colleague of Tchaikovsky at the Imperial Conservatory of Music in Moscow. By this time, he had already participated in the premieres of all three of Tchaikovsky's string quartets. Tchaikovsky gladly accepted the order and composed his new work in a version for cello and piano. Not until the soloist had carefully studied the notes and suggested technical changes in the solo part did he deal with the instrumentation. The one-movement composition came to consist of an introduction and a theme with eight variations – and it was first performed at a private performance. When Fitzenhagen later played the piece in public for the first time, he had made a number of changes to the music. Among other things, he had changed the order of the variations, and in that design the music also found its way to the publisher's printing press, to Tchaikovsky's despair. More recently, the original version has been sought out, which has also been played from time to time. However, it is in Fitzenhagen's version that the work has become known and loved all over the world.

Intermission 25 min

GUSTAV MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 5 1. Trauermarsch. In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt 2. Stürmisch bewegt. Mit grösster Vehemenz. 3. Scherzo. Kräftig, nicht zu schnell 4. Adagietto. Sehr langsam 5. Rondo-Finale. Allegro. Allegro giocoso. Frisch Let's start in the middle of Mahler's symphony, in the famous adagietto. No, it's not about the midpoint of the range. Nevertheless, many listeners perceive the well-known phrase as an emotional centerpiece, and there are also a kind of emotional connecting links that run both backwards and forwards. Philosopher Theodor W Adorno, who often has grumpy comments in his back pocket, writes in his dense Mahlerbook that it borders on "genre sweetness through its flattering timbre". When Luigi Visconti chose this particular movement as the central piece of music for his film Death in Venice (based on Thomas Mann's short story but with a composer, not a writer, in the sad lead role) the sweetness immediately turned nauseating. The image has such power that it becomes difficult to remove it from the retina when the music is left to stand on its own again. It has been called "song without words" (after Mendelssohn's piano genre), and it is even the case that Mahler goes back to the Rückert song Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. In fact, Mahler is said to have given his future wife Alma the movement as a gift of love - instead of a letter. But the road to the adagietto is long. First, a mournful march with two trios that hardly eases the dense atmosphere, then a passionate outburst of anxiety that, however, provides an unexpected space for an intruding light in a chorale. This breakthrough does not have direct repercussions, as the ending reverts to minor, but in the latter parts of the symphony it is the light that rules. First in the scherzo’s various dance swirls where a rich form scheme includes both two trios and a completion, but then also in the third section. After the adagio follows a conclusion which Mahler called a rondo, but which others have tried to interpret as a mixture of rondo (where a main line is interrupted by various intermediate episodes) and sonata form (with theme presentation, execution and repeat). Here, one should not be surprised if reminiscences from the previous movement appear - although the yearning eroticism has now become a feather-light affirmation. And that's exactly the movement: a yes to life.


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.

Hailed by The Guardian as "the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition," the 2018/19 season will see Santtu-Matias Rouvali continuing his positions as Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside his longstanding Chief Conductor-ship with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra close to his home in Finland. Rouvali has regular relationships with several orchestras across Europe, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Bamberger Symphoniker and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. As well as making his debut with the Münchner Philharmoniker this season, he also returns to North America for concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Following a very successful Nordic tour with Hélène Grimaud last season, the Gothenburg Symphony is back on the road in February 2019 for a tour hitting major centres in Germany and Austria with pianist Alice Sara Ott, and percussionist Martin Grubinger who premieres a new percussion concert by Daníel Bjarnason. Rouvali looks forward to other ambitious touring projects with his orchestras in the future, including appearances in North America and Japan. In addition to the extensive tour, Rouvali's season in Gothenburg opens with Strauss' Alpine Symphony accompanied by Víkingur Ólafsson Mozart Piano Concerto No.24, and he looks forward to collaborations with Janine Jansen, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Baiba Skride throughout the rest of the season. As another cornerstone to his tenure in Gothenburg, he is adding his mark to the Orchestra's impressive recording legacy. In partnership with Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Baiba Skride, a recording featuring concertos from Bernstein, Korngold and Rozsa is released in autumn 2018.This continues his great collaboration with Baiba Skride following their hugely successful recording of Nielsen and Sibelius' violin concertos with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in summer 2015. Rouvali has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013. Highlights of the tenure so far include a Sibelius symphony cycle in autumn 2015, and the Orchestra's first tour to Japan in spring 2017 where they were accompanied by an exhibition of original Moomin drawings by Tove Jansson to mark the opening of the new museum at the Tampere Hall. He opens the 2018/19 season with a Beethoven programme with pianist Javier Perianes. Alongside an extremely busy symphonic conducting career, as Chief Conductor in Tampere he has conducted Verdi's La forza del destino and most recently world premiere of Olli Kortekangas's My Brother's Keeper (Veljeni vartija) with Tampere Opera in spring 2018.

Cellist Claes Gunnarsson has toured all over the world as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician and teacher. He debuted at a young age as a soloist in Dvorak's Cello Concerto together with the Gothenburg Symphony and was subsequently invited as a solo cellist. A position he has held since 1998. As an active chamber musician, Claes Gunnarsson has collaborated with the violinists Leonidas Kavakos and Nikolaj Znaider, the pianists Christian Zacharias, Peter Jablonski and Hélèn Grimaud, but above all has given concerts for 20 years together with his colleagues Sara Trobäck and Per Lundberg in the piano trio Trio Poseidon. Claes Gunnarsson is also a teacher at the College of Stage and Music at the University of Gothenburg. He plays a cello built in 1707 by David Tecchler, a generous loan from the Järnåker Foundation.

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