Göteborgs Konserthus Hot Rays and Fairy Tales in the Night

Burning beauty with the Gothenburg Symphony, Santtu-Matias Rouvali conductor and Arabella Steinbacher violin.

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

Feel the red sun burn in Nielsen’s tribute to the sun god Helios. The threads of thousand year old tales are woven together in the suite about Scheherazade. Outstanding violinist Arabella Steinbacher is the soloist in Korngold’s beautiful violin concerto. All under the direction of Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali.

Dirigent Santtu-Matias Rouvali på podiet med taktpinnen i handen, ena armen kraftfullt riktad mot taket.

With a combination of fine-tuned lyrical tone and dazzling virtuosity, Arabella Steinbacher has positioned herself as one of the foremost violin soloists. Something she shows in Austrian Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s sonorously dazzling violin concerto. 

Threatened by the politically hardening climate in Europe, Korngold emigrated in 1934 to the United States, where he quickly became one of Hollywood’s most sought-after film score composers. His beautiful violin concerto was dedicated to Gustav Mahler’s widow Alma and premiered by Jascha Heifetz and was an instant success. 

We hear why Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is one of the greatest masters of colorful orchestration in the suite about Scheherazade, the Persian queen from the fairy tale collection One Thousand and One Nights.


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!


Carl Nielsen created the overture Helios during a stay in Greece in 1903. His wife, the sculptor Anne Marie Brodersen was there thanks to a scholarship, making copies of reliefs and statues in the Acropolis Museum. While she was working, the Athens Conservatory of Music put a study room at Nielsen's disposal. The couple's accommodation was idyllic with a sea view, and Nielsen was impressed by the changing light conditions over the Aegean Sea, its sunrises and sunsets. He was also very interested in archaeology, and with inspiration from antiquity, his interest turned to the myth of Helios, the god who brought the sun across the sky in a chariot drawn by four magnificent horses. The Helios Overture is more accessible than his other works in general. The structure is clear, which makes it easy to follow the sun's journey. He wrote the following motto at the beginning of the work: "Silence and darkness - then the sun rises with a joyful song of praise - walks its golden path - sinks silently into the sea." In the slow introduction (Andante tranquillo) moody cries rise from the horns, from a kind of musical abyss from the low strings. They are joined by undulating movements in the high strings, before the full orchestra gradually joins in. Trumpet fanfares, always the symbol of an arrival, lead in fortissimo to the sonata-shaped main section (Allegro ma non troppo). After an extended fugato section and a huge display of splendor with a heroic main theme in the violins, which is followed by a lyrical theme in the cello part, everything descends back into a leisurely tempo. Dusk is heralded, and in the slow epilogue the horns and string figures from the opening return. The music finally fades to sustained, low cello tones, and so the day ends as it began. The overture was enthusiastically received by the Copenhagen audience at its premiere on 8 October 1903. For many years it has been played on Danish radio just after midnight every New Year's Eve, to ring in the new year musically. Andreas Konvicka

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was called to Hollywood to help with the musical arrangements for Max Reinhardt's film adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Film music brought him wealth, film awards and fame, but it also meant that the concert institutions began to lose interest in him. He was no longer "serious". Korngold was sensitive to criticism and devoted his last twelve years exclusively to art music. In the summer of 1945 he worked on his violin concerto. The premiere in St. Louis on February 15, 1947 was performed by Jascha Heifetz. The concert, which was also dedicated to Gustav Mahler's widow Alma, was a great success and was soon played in many concert halls. In the violin concerto you can find themes from four of Korngold's films. The main theme of the second movement comes from Anthony Adverse (1936), a film score that earned Korngold an Oscar. The finale begins with lively staccato playing and ends with a brilliant virtuoso climax, all built on the bright and shiny main theme from the 1937 film The Prince and the Pauper. The way of working says something about the importance Korngold gave to his film music, and what quality it has.

Intermission 25 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… Stig Jacobsson

Wednesday 11 October 2023: The event ends at approx. 21.30
Thursday 12 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.

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 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.

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Nr 2 2020-2021 Tonsättarporträtt: Nikolaj Rimskij-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Nikolaj Rimskij-Korsakov har kommit att ses som huvudarkitekten bakom den ryska stilen inom klassisk musik. Men skrapar man på ytan framträder en tonsättare som i första hand ville berätta historier.

Nr 4 2014-2015 Tonsättarporträtt: Carl Nielsen 150 år

I år firas Carl Nielsens och Jean Sibelius 150-årsjubileum. Samtidigt får nordisk musik i USA en aldrig skådad uppmärksamhet.

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