Allegro non troppo
Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace
At Lake Wörthersee in Austrian Kärnten lies the small idyllic town of Pörtschach. The German composer Johannes Brahms spent the summers of 1877-1879 there. He wandered in the beautiful surroundings and felt so harmonious and happy that the first summer he composed his second symphony in D major and the following summer his violin concerto, also in D major, an unusually positive key for the composer, who was often considered heavy-hearted and worried. The middle of the 1870s and the beginning of the 1880s was the time of the great orchestral works for Brahms, who had previously devoted most of his time to songs, piano, organ pieces and chamber music apart from his great Ein deutsches Requiem from 1868. The second piano concerto, the violin concerto and all four symphonies was created 1876-1885.
One of Brahms' best friends was Joseph Joachim, already a successful solo violinist when they both met in their 20s. It was also Joachim who introduced him to Robert and Clara Schumann in 1853, an important event in Brahms' career and life.
Since he was not very familiar with the violin's technical possibilities, Joachim became his advisor during the composition of the violin concerto. It became a struggle from time to time, Joachim wanted the concert to show his virtuosity in an emotional romantic spirit. Brahms would rather have a dialogue and an equal interplay between orchestra and soloist, demanding for the solo violin, of course, but not a show number of empty display. This does not prevent Brahms' only violin concerto from being a test of strength for the soloist.
At first, the composer wanted a four-movement concerto. But he soon realized that it did not fit into his arrangement of the work. The intended scherzo movement was removed. Brahms is said to have said that there was such an abundance of melodies in Pörtschach that one had to be careful not to step on them! After the orchestra's introduction with powerful rhythmic sections, the soloist gets to begin his interpretation of the energetic music in dialogue with the orchestra. Then everything stops for the soloist's solo cadenza, which at the premiere showed Joachim's fantastic improvisation skills. It was eventually written down and is still often played, although several famous violinists have made their own. At today's concert, however, we get to hear Brahms' approved version of Joachim's cadenza. The second movement is a wonderful, idyllic contrast. It is the oboe that gets to introduce its long beautiful melody before the solo violin takes over for an equally breathless continuation. As a Rococo-inspired depiction of nature in pastoral harmony and sincerity. The third movement has the designation "allegro giocoso" - a playful allegro - but not too fast. Joachim's Hungarian background is celebrated in both the virtuoso solo part and the orchestra's equal expression of joy in the folk dance rhythms of the rondo form and a furiously accelerating ending.
At the premiere in Leipzig on New Year's Day 1879, Johannes Brahms himself was at the conductor's desk. The reviewer Dörffel wrote that "Joachim played with such love and affection that in every measure he could directly or indirectly convey how much he was involved in the work's creation". Today, Johannes Brahms' violin concerto is one of the most played and loved. Time has caught up with both content and technology.
Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade 47 min
NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
SCHEHERAZADE OP 35
The sea and Sinbad's ship
The Tale of Prince Kalender
The young prince and the young princess
Festival in Baghdad and the shipwreck
Among Russian composers, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov undoubtedly ranks high, but he had trained for something completely different: he was a naval officer and as such had traveled around the world and experienced many things. Not least, his experiences from the east would rub off on his compositions. We notice it in exotic works such as the symphonic suite Scheherazade, in the second symphony Antar and in the majority of his operas. Rimsky-Korsakov, like his colleagues Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Cui and Borodin, was a member of the St. Petersburg-based group of composers "The Mighty Five", who valued Russian tradition very highly, in contrast to the more Western-oriented Moscow composers. As a symphonist, Rimsky-Korsakov hardly reached Tchaikovsky's level, but in his program music he is the great master.
In the symphonic suite Scheherazade, he leads us straight into the fairy tales included in One Thousand and One Nights: Once upon a time there was a sultan named Shakriar, who decided to kill each of his wives at dawn after each wedding night, convinced that he was about the faithlessness and falsehood of all women. But the girl Scheherazade managed to save her life by telling wonderful tales in the "one thousand and one nights" and carefully falling asleep just when something so exciting was about to happen that the sultan really had to let her live to hear the sequel. In the end, the sultan retracted his strict edict and they lived happily ever after…
Rimsky-Korsakov was one of the foremost orchestral tamers of his time, something he passed on to his students such as Stravinsky and Respighi. His ability to color his music is impressive, and in Scheherazade he has created an extraordinarily entertaining work - a kind of russified Orientalism. He denied that the melodic motifs had narrative meaning, but it is probably close enough to think of the opening theme as that of the impatient sultan, and that the seemingly improvised violin solo that runs through all the movements portrays Scheherazade telling her tales.
The set titles arouse curiosity and associations and some can be linked to specific fairy tales. The one about Sinbad is well known, the Tale of Kalender is about a beggar prince. But the titles only set the mood. They don't tell tangible stories. Originally, he intended to give neutral titles to the movements: Prelude, ballad, adagio, finale.
Scheherazade is a graceful, entertaining work of great beauty and dreamy sounds that was first performed in the fall of 1888. Once upon a time…
Thursday 16 November 2023: The event ends at approx. 21.00
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
The Gothenburg Symphony was formed in 1905 and today consists of 109 musicians. The orchestra's base is Göteborgs Konserthus, the funk gem at Götaplatsen that has gathered music lovers since 1935. Since the 2017-2018 season, Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been Chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony. Since the 2019-2020 season, Barbara Hannigan is Principal guest conductor. We are also a proud partner of Barbara Hannigan's Equilibrium mentoring program focusing on young singers at the start of their careers.
Wilhelm Stenhammar was the orchestra's chief conductor from 1907 to 1922. He gave the orchestra a strong Nordic profile and invited colleagues Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to the orchestra. Under the direction of conductor Neeme Järvi from 1982-2004, the orchestra made a series of international tours as well as a hundred disc recordings and established themselves among Europe's leading orchestras. In 1996, the Swedish Riksdag appointed the Gothenburg Symphony as Sweden's National Orchestra.
In recent decades, the orchestra has had prominent chief conductors such as Mario Venzago and Gustavo Dudamel, following Kent Nagano as Principal Guest conductor. Sten Cranner is CEO and artistic director, Gustavo Dudamel honorary conductor and Neeme Järvi chief conductor emeritus. The orchestra's owner is the Västra Götaland Region.
The Gothenburg Symphony works regularly with conductors such as Herbert Blomstedt, Joana Carneiro, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Christian Zacharias and Anja Bihlmaier.
Santtu-Matias Rouvali conductor
Since 2017, Santtu-Matias Rouvali is the chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. He also has a successful international career as a conductor and has been hailed by The Guardian as "the Finnish conductor tradition's senesta stortade påvning man bara muste lysna på". Since 2021, Santtu-Matias Rouvali is also the chief conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. He has toured with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and pianist Hélène Grimaud in Nordic capitals as well as with pianist Alice Sara Ott and percussionist Martin Grubinger in Germany. The years 2013-2022 Santtu-Matias Rouvali was chief conductor and artistic director of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland.
During the 2023-2024 season, Santtu-Matias Rouvali will continue to collaborate with orchestras at the top level throughout Europe and the USA, such as the BBC Proms, the New York Philharmonic and many more. He collaborates with soloists such as Leif Ove Andsnes, Arabella Steinbacher, Nemanja Radulovic, Leonidas Kavakos, Bruce Liu, Alice Sara Ott, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Vadim Gluzman, Randall Goosby and Vilde Frang.
When he is not conducting, he devotes himself to farming and fishing at his farm outside Tampere.
Arabella Miho Steinbacher violin
Arabella Steinbacher is hailed as one of today's leading soloists, known for her varied repertoire consisting of music from Glazunov to Gubaidulina. Highlights of the 2023-2024 season include the tour with the Gothenburg Symphony and concerts with orchestras such as the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, Münchner Symphoniker, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra. Arabella Steinbacher will also return to the Klosters Festival in Switzerland, where she performs with the Kammerakademie Potsdam, and to the Beethoven Festival in Warsaw.
Other orchestras she has collaborated with include the New York Philharmonic, Boston, Chicago and Seattle Symphony Orchestras, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Dresdner Philharmonie, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. She has toured extensively with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchester Philharmonique de Strasbourg and the Deutsche Radiophilharmonie Saarbrücken.
Arabella Steinbacher works with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Herbert Blomstedt, Christoph von Dohnányi, Christoph Eschenbach, Andris Nelsons and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Her latest recording with the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester exclusively for Pentatone brings together works by Arvo Pärt and Johann Sebastian Bach. Previous recordings include her highly acclaimed Mozart cycle with Festival Strings Lucerne and the critically acclaimed Four Seasons by both Astor Piazzolla and Antonio Vivaldi.
Born into a musical family, she has been playing the violin since the age of three and began her studies with Ana Chumachenco at the University of Music and Theater Munich when she was eight. Arabella currently plays Antonio Stradivari violins, Cremona, 1718, known as "ex Benno Walter", and Guarneri del Gesù "Sainton", Cremona, 1744, both generously provided by a private Swiss foundation.
Arabella Steinbacher made her first appearance with the Gothenburg Symphony in 2009 in Dvorák's violin concerto.