Sthlms konserthus Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm Concert Hall

Virtuoso magic with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali and violinist Nicola Benedetti.

Concert length: 2 h incl. intermission

This night Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra plays in Stockholm Concert Hall.

With her deep musicality and stage charisma, violinist Nicola Benedetti has positioned herself as one of the world’s foremost soloists in classical music. On this, her long-awaited return to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, she treats us to the American jazz musician Wynton Marsalis’ wonderfully bluesy Violin Concerto, which he composed specifically for her. She and conductor Cristian Macelaru each received a Grammy in the category ”Best Classical Instrumental Solo” for their work with this very Violin Concerto.

After the intermission we meet Richard Strauss’ masterful and lavish Ein Heldenleben, a wonderfully self-absorbed heroic tale in which the composer uproariously illustrates friends and enemies, war and peace. But this work also has an element of seriousness in its undertones – Strauss was highly aware of what a phenomenal orchestrator and orchestral magician he was, as he made clear when he gallantly waved his magic wand.

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


Rhapsody Rondo Burlesque Blues Hootenanny This concerto was written for Nicola Benedetti. The inspiration comes from her life as a traveling artist and educator where she teaches and delights people around the world with enchanting virtuosity. The concerto is composed for symphony orchestra, with tremendous respect for the demands of this instrument, but written from the perspective of a jazz and blues musician born in New Orleans. We believe that all people share the essential basic elements of life: birth, death, love and joy; that our deepest personal experiences are also universal (especially pain); and we have understood that when this pain is expressed in pulsating music, it is a first step towards healing. Nicky asked me to "invite people from different backgrounds to share the experience of this piece". For me, the search for and cultivation of a common musical ground between different arts and musical styles has always fascinated me, so I was already prepared to welcome them. It may seem simple enough, but reconciling different perspectives is never easy. As life today is an integrative experience, it is not difficult to find natural connections. Converting these into something meaningful and playable, however, is another story. It must be lived and reflected. That's why I searched for real-life examples of historical collaborations between jazz and symphonic music, and for environments and experiences that connect Nicky and me. I thought of her Scottish origins, the great African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass's love for the Scottish poet Robert Burns, my love and immense respect for the Scottish baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley (and his recitation of cheeky limericks), and the illuminating but little-known progress which was made by the American horn player Francis Johnson, the father of the American cornet tradition and one of the first American composers to have his music published...and was also good on the violin. These sources also led me to the Anglo-Celtic roots of African-American music. The piece opens with Nicky whispering a solitary note before the orchestra enters, as if to say "So it happened once" or "Once upon a time". Then we find ourselves in a composition with four sides - like the four corners of the world, where the journey takes her. Each of the four movements reflects a different side of her dream, which becomes reality in the virtuoso performance of the story. The first movement, Rhapsody, is a multifaceted dream that turns into a nightmare, then fades into silence and dissolves into the legacy of the ancestors. The second movement, Rondo Burlesque, is syncopated New Orleans jazz, steam organ, circus clown, African gumbo, Mardi Gras party in odd time signatures. The third movement, Blues, moves from flirtation, courtship and closeness to preaching, final loss and the ultimate loneliness that lurks in us all. The fourth movement, Hootenanny, is a noisy, stomping and wild barn party. She excites us with all kinds of virtuosic tricks and intoxicates us in the party, then continues along the Lord God's path to places not yet seen or imagined. As in the blues and jazz tradition, our journey ends with an optimistic, uplifting and jubilant conclusion. WYNTON MARSALIS

Intermission 25 min

The Hero - Adversaries - The Hero's Companions - Battlefields - Deeds of Peace - The Hero's Escape from the World and the Completion of His Life (movements played in sequence) Strauss had long devoted himself to writing vital orchestral poems that made him Liszt's main successor. But in his music he also developed new ideas, which made him one of the leading modernists of the time. In the symphonic poems he had celebrated heroes: Macbeth, Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, Zarathustra, Don Quixote - all literary heroes of superhuman proportions. In order to move on, Strauss needed an even greater hero, drawn not from literature but from real life - and it hardly needs to be pointed out that he faced bitter criticism when it became clear that the hero of Ein Heldenleben was himself. Something that he met with an ironic angle with the statement that he did find himself as interesting as Caesar or Napoleon - or, in other words, that no one is more worthy than another. And by the way, this was no worse than Berlioz writing his Symphonie fantastique about himself. Strauss was 34 years old. He had left the opera in Munich to take over the directorship of the opera Unter den Linden in Berlin. He had married Pauline de Ahna, the opera singer notorious for her temper tantrums, coquetry and devoted love. All of this is carefully accounted for in the music. The first section, The Hero, begins with a jubilant theme in low strings and horns. Strauss's father had for 49 years been a horn player at the court opera in Munich. It has also been noted that the key is E flat major, the same one Beethoven used in his Eroica symphony. In the second episode, the hero's accusers - the critics - are portrayed. They stand there in comic contrast to the hero, fussy and narrow-minded. That the hero's helper is his wife is quite clear. They flirt, play, kiss, cuddle and get angry - and the third part ends with an intense love duet. The battlefield of the hero is indeed a grandiose war music. The critics' themes are in effective counterpoint to his own theme, and he is morally supported by his beloved's theme. Finally, he stands victorious, and what he values in life is the work for peace - that is, his own compositions. A theme of peace is interwoven with fragments from his other heroic poems already mentioned, as well as from two works connected with Pauline: the opera Guntram and the song Traum im Zwielicht. Ein Heldenleben is a long symphonic poem in six consecutive movements for mammoth orchestra, and it ends with the hero retreating and completing his quest. It must be said that despite the self-righteous content, the piece also contains some self-critical details. Here there is no pompous heroic apotheosis at the end. On the contrary, it all ends with resignation, as a premonition of Vier letzte Lieder. It is also touching that the themes representing himself are not victory marches but lyrical melodies that rather advocate comfort and tranquility as the highest virtues. A secure bourgeois middle-class attitude, in other words. The score is dated Berlin-Charlottenburg 27 December 1898, and the first performance with the composer himself as conductor took place on 3 March of the following year. STIG JACOBSSON

Saturday 13 May 2023: The event ends at approx. 17.00


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 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.

Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of his generation. She was born in 1987 in the Scottish city of Irvine and studied at the Yehudi Menuhin school for Natasha Boyarskaya. In 2004 she won the BBC Young Musician competition and started her career as an international concert violinist. In 2015, Wynton Marsalis composed his Violin Concerto for Nicola Benedetti, a work she now performs regularly. The recording of Marsali's Violin Concerto and Marsali's Fiddler's Dance Suite conducted by Cristian Macelaru earned Benedetti a 2020 Grammy for Best Classical Solo Performance. Nicola Benedetti's latest recording of Elgar's Violin Concerto (Decca) went to number one in the UK Official Classical Albums Chart. Other recordings include works such as the Shostakovich and Glazunov Violin Concertos, the Szymanowski Concerto (London Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Harding) and Homecoming; A Scottish Fantasy, which made Nicola the first UK solo violinist since the 1990s to enter the top 20 of the Official UK Albums Chart. In 2021, BBC Music Magazine named her Personality of the Year for her online support for many young musicians during the pandemic. In 2019, Nicola founded The Benedetti Foundation, a classical music education foundation that has so far engaged over 29,000 participants aged 2 to 92. In addition to her solo performances, Nicola Benedetti is also part of a chamber trio together with the cellist Leonard Leonard Elschenbroich and the pianist Alexei Grynyuk. Solo engagements in 2022-2023 include the world premiere of James MacMillan's Violin Concerto with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, a tour to Japan with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra, DSO Berlin, the St Louis Symphony, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, the Orchester de Paris and more . Nicola Benedetti last visit as a guest of the Gothenburg Symphony was in 2017 when she performed Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1.

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