Göteborgs Konserthus Intoxication and Witches in the World of Berlioz

Event has already taken place. A concert rich in contrast, with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali and violinist Valeriy Sokolov.

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

Event has already taken place

As a composer, Berlioz had a temperament that was boundless and self-disclosing. In this concert we meet his Symphonie fantastique, with smoke rising from opium intoxication, and terror burning in the eyes on the way to the scaffold. With an orchestration that was stupendous and revolutionary at the time, he set the world of music alight. The ancient Christian hymn Dies irae, ”the Day of Wrath”, concludes this life story, with church bells that ring out into the endless spaces of the universe during the witches’ sabbath.

In contrast to this, we meet Sibelius’ unique sensitivity for the innermost nuances – just listen to the introductory tones in his Violin Concerto, or the stratospheric flageolets in the finale. In a way that few others can, he opens the door to unknown worlds, rooms filled with light and horizons that never end, with a masterful handling of the orchestra in which melancholy strings meet strident woodwind instruments. Soloist Valeriy Sokolov is the person who holds the key to these enchanting worlds.

The concert is led by the acclaimed Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.


Get to know the classical pieces.

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!


Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) Violin Concerto Op 47 The violin concerto was written between the second and third symphonies in the summer of 1903 at the Järnefelt family's farm in Lojo. It was first performed in February 1904 with the composer as conductor and Victor Novácek as soloist. The performance was not a great success and Sibelius found that he was not entirely satisfied with certain sections. He therefore revised the concert in the summer of 1905, and the new premiere was conducted by Richard Strauss himself in Berlin. Over the brooding D minor harmonies of the orchestra, the violin sings a melody that turns out to be the main theme, and it is also taken up by the deep woodwinds before leading to a broad violin cadence. The first movement then develops in a freely treated sonata form, which gives it an almost rhapsodic character. The violin part is brilliant, the music dramatic, the orchestra engaging. This grand movement is also longer than the next two combined. The slow movement begins with a wistful woodwind phrase and it also echoes with the other wind players. Even the violin's song theme is sad and serious. The whole set is characterized by a sublime simplicity. The closing allegro has been called a "polonese for polar bears" and is a rondo with only two themes. The first is presented by the violin and the second by the orchestra. The music is very virtuose and even if the soloist dominates, the orchestral part never becomes uninteresting.

Intermission 25 min

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) Symphonie fantastique Op 14 Rêveries Un Bal Scène aux Champs Marche au Supplice Songe d’une nuit du Sabbat 1830 was a year of revolution in Paris and nothing could be more typical than that it was precisely this year that Hector Berlioz threw his bomb "Symphonie fantastique" into the tired musical life that was dominated by today more or less forgotten composers like Spontini and Meyerbeer. Immediately, the 26-year-old came into the limelight, he became a symbol of everything new. By this time, Berlioz had fallen in love with Shakespeare, whose Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet had just experienced their first performances in Paris in 1827 – or was his passion rather the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, who played the leading roles in these dramas? Although he had a serious love affair with Camille Moke in the meantime, it was Harriet he was obsessed with. He was also obsessed during the two months he worked on the symphony. He completed this autobiographical musical confession on April 16, and gave the work the subtitle "an episode from the life of an artist". It is thus a program symphony, a five-movement work with an autobiographical, narrative plot that can be followed. It's about the despairing love of a young hypersensitive musician - the theme of the beloved keeps coming up. But when Berlioz described the fourth movement, there were violent protests. Here he understands that he has been insulted and therefore now poisons himself with opium. In the nightmare that follows, he sees himself having murdered his beloved, and now he is led through the streets to his own execution. It would get even worse in the finale's "witches' sabbath", where Harriet is now found among the diabolical creatures dancing an orgiastic dance in which the Gregorian Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) sequence of the death mass also plays a big role. The director of the concert hall could not stomach these blasphemous excesses, so suddenly Berlioz found himself having engaged 130 musicians, but lacking a venue. There was nothing to do but postpone the performance. In the end, the problems had been solved and the premiere took place on December 5, 1830, and the success was unheard of.


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.

Since 2017, Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony. He also has a successful international conducting career and has been hailed by The Guardian as "the latest great talent in the Finnish conducting tradition that you just have to listen to". Santtu-Matias Rouvali is also chief conductor of the Tampere City Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. He has toured with the Gothenburg Symphony and pianist Hélène Grimaud in Nordic capitals as well as with pianist Alice Sara Ott and percussionist Martin Grubinger in Germany. Throughout the season 2022-2023, Santtu-Matias Rouvali continues his relationships with top level orchestras across Europe, including Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Symphoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Münichner Philharmoniker, as well as returning to the New York Philharmonic for his annual visits. He works with soloists including Víkingur Ólafsson, Nemanja Radulovic, Yuja Wang, Nicola Benedetti, Behzod Abduraimov, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Alice Sara Ott, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Vadim Gluzman, Randall Goosby, and Vilde Frang.

"His performance of Bartók’s Second Concerto is a revelation. After the opening urgent Hungarian rhythms played with easy flair, the second movement’s hushed intensity takes your breath away, until the thrill and dynamism of the third movement keeps you on the edge of your seat." (Classic FM) Ukrainian Valeriy Sokolov plays regularly with very high-level orchestras, including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich. Among the conductors he has collaborated with are Vladimir Ashkenazy, David Zinman, Susanna Mälkki, Andris Nelsons and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Among Valeriy Sokolov's many recordings is Enescu's Violin Sonata No. 3 with pianist Svetlana Kosenko. He has recorded the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Born in 1986 in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Valeriy Sokolov is one of the leading violinists to emerge from Ukraine in the last twenty years. Valeriy left his homeland at the age of 13 to study with Natalia Boyarskaya at the Yehudi Menuhin School in England. He continued his studies with Felix Andrievsky, Mark Lubotsky, Ana Chumachenko, Gidon Kremer and Boris Kushnir. Valeriy Sokolov has had a violin concerto (2014) and a sonata (2017) written for and dedicated to him by the significant Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovich.

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