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2010/2011 at St David’s Hall, Cardi f f

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Welsh National Opera at St David’s Hall

“WNO’s new music director, Lothar Koenigs, brings a cracklingly precise electricity to the constantly astonishing score, and the orchestral playing and singing are superlative.” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH ON WOZZECK, SEPTEMBER 2009

Come with me on a fascinating orchestral journey.

Photo by Darryl Corner

Lothar Koenigs, Music Director

“Lothar Koenigs orchestra was thrilling” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ON DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NüRNBERG, JUNE 2010

“the signs are that great times lie ahead” THE TIMES REVIEW OF SALOME, FEBRUARY 2009

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Welcome to Welsh National Opera’s 2010/2011 concerts at St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Our performances are part of the International Concert Series. In this brochure I will personally guide you through the three programmes and share my thoughts with you about the works I have selected for you to enjoy. A common thread runs through each of these programmes. Different pieces of music are brought into a relationship with one another and I believe that through these juxtapositions the beauty, diversity and sensuality of each piece will become even clearer. By the end of each evening you will have experienced a complete spectrum of colour and emotion. In addition to the three orchestral concerts, the Chorus of Welsh National Opera will join us for a seasonal performance of Handel’s Messiah, my first for the company. Both the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera and I look forward to seeing you at St David’s Hall. With best wishes,

Lothar Koenigs, Music Director

Welsh National Opera orchestral concerts at St David’s Hall are supported by Mathew Prichard

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Rachmaninov Isle of the Dead Ravel Piano Concerto in G Webern Six Pieces for Orchestra Stravinsky Firebird

Friday 29 October 2010, 7.30pm

Conductor Lothar Koenigs Piano Jean-Philippe Collard In this concert we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the composition and first performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird, which made him famous internationally. Together with Firebird you will hear Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead and Anton Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra. These two pieces could not be more different from each other in texture, sound world and aesthetic ideas. I think it is fascinating that all three were composed around the same time, 1909-1910. What an exciting time that was! I look forward to working again with Jean-Philippe Collard, soloist in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, a work of genius, which combines more than one style of music.

Franz Marc, Birds

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Welsh National Opera at St David’s Hall

Sergey Rachmaninov Isle of the Dead (1909) Isle of the Dead is a symphonic poem. It bears the same title as the sombre, atmospheric painting by Arnold Böcklin, and shows the increasingly morbid trend of neo-romanticism. The sequence of the Latin Requiem mass, Dies Irae (Day of wrath) is the central motif and the theme on which the entire piece is based. Almost all of the music is based on 5/8 time, which represents the rocking of the boat and the rippling of the waves. The harmony is characterised by ‘labyrinthine chromatics’ which, in the end, despite its distinctly Russian character, goes back to the ‘Tristan’ harmony. Maurice Ravel Piano Concerto in G (1929) Ravel began to work on his two piano concertos in 1929, finishing them together later that year. The outer movements of the Piano Concerto in G are of sheer brilliance. In its seemingly carefree and daring mixtures of styles the concerto reminds one of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, of the neo-classicism of the 1920s, of Rachmaninov, Jazz and Music Hall. By contrast, the middle movement flows with grand, elegiac calm and post-romantic tunefulness. Anton Webern Six Pieces for Orchestra (1909/1910) From 1945 until the 1960s it was Anton Webern’s works that had the greatest influence on the next generation of composers. Today, they are considered a vital part of the curriculum of all music conservatoires and universities. During his lifetime, however, his works were more or less unknown. The Six Pieces for Orchestra were clearly inspired by Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra. Although Webern’s textures are more transparent than those of his teacher, there are many passages in which short melodic phrases are passed

from one instrument to the next. This is in the style of Klangfarbenmelodie (tone-colour melody), which Schoenberg wrote about in his Harmonielehre (Study of harmony) of 1911. The fourth, and longest of the Pieces is written in the style of a funeral march, with a notable use of percussion, emphasising low-pitched bells and gongs. These pieces of music mark the middle of Webern’s progression towards the final discovery of his own musical language. Repetitions or melodiously expanding lines are rare. The tutti passages are short, despite the large orchestra: “No motif is developed; it happens, at most, that a short phrase is repeated instantly. Once the motif is introduced, it expresses everything it contains; it then should be followed by something new” (Anton Webern). We will perform the 1928 version. Igor Stravinsky Firebird (1909/1910) Firebird was originally written as the score for a ballet. The storyline of Firebird was written by Michael Tolkien (after Russian folk tales and legends) in close cooperation with Stravinsky. Stravinsky wrote the music in St Petersburg between November 1909 and May 1910. From the outset the ballet was highly successful and made Stravinsky famous internationally. Musically, the piece is based on opposing sound worlds: one is purely diatonic (progressions in tones or semitones conforming to our basic system of scales), representing the prince and the princess; another, made up of dazzling chromatics, represents Koshchey, the evil sorcerer; while the firebird shares both sound worlds. The colourful score is rich in contrasts, and switches between impressionist sound-qualities and expressionist rhythmic outbursts. We will perform the 1919 version. Listen to a clip from each piece wno.org.uk/stdavids

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Bach Brandenburg Concerto No 3 Bartók Piano Concerto No 2 Kurtág ...quasi una fantasia... Beethoven Symphony No 7

Friday 21 January 2011, 7.30pm

Conductor Lothar Koenigs Piano Peter Donohoe This concert is themed around the art form of the concerto grosso. We will see how different composers have used it in vastly differing ways throughout the history of music. J S Bach used this form in many of his works including his six Brandenburg concertos. We open the concert with the third of these celebrated concertos. More than 200 years after Bach wrote his piece, Bartók composed his second piano concerto, combining Lisztian romantic virtuosity with elements developed from Bach’s concerti grossi. György Kurtág follows Bartók’s tradition in …quasi una fantasia… a piece which quotes a Beethoven piano sonata. The concert will climax with Beethoven’s magnificent 7th Symphony. I am particularly pleased that Peter Donohoe, a favourite with WNO audiences, will play the solo part in Bartók’s concerto as well as in …quasi una fantasia...

Adolph Friedrich Erdmann Menzel, Sketch for The Flute Concert

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Welsh National Opera at St David’s Hall

J S Bach Brandenburg Concerto No 3 In his earlier years as court organist and later as chamber musician and as leader of the orchestra at the Weimar court (1708-1717), Bach was fascinated by the formal structure of the Italian concerto, as well as the solo concerto and the concerto grosso. The third Brandenburg concerto is an orchestral piece in which Bach explores the tonal and contrapuntal possibilities of three string groups, the violins, violas and cellos (representing the treble, alto and bass parts), with additional cello and harpsichord providing the continuo. The nine string parts are on equal terms. They sometimes come together in ripieno (tutti, all instruments), and at other times play individual solos or together in small groups. In this way every musician has the task of acting as a solo player away from his continuo group, while also playing together with them in the ripieno sections. Béla Bartók Piano Concerto No 2 Bartók’s second piano concerto was written between October 1930 and October 1931 in Budapest and premièred on 23 January 1933 in Frankfurt. Rosbaud conducted the piece with the composer himself playing the piano part. In the formal structure of the work the paths of two types of music cross: firstly, the romantic virtuosic showpiece influenced by Liszt and secondly the concerto grosso, further developed from J S Bach, with neatly executed concertino parts, in which the rest of the players, especially the wind instruments, show off their strengths. Bartók said of the concerto: “The first movement is orchestrated for wind and percussion, the Adagio for

muted strings and timpani, the Scherzo for strings and for part of the wind and percussion sections: only the third movement uses the whole orchestra.” György Kurtág …quasi una fantasia… György Kurtág was born on 19 Febuary 1926 in Logoj, Romania. Béla Bartók’s music was the starting point for Kurtág’s works. Although in his first string quartet (1959) Anton Webern’s influence is very audible. …quasi una fantasia… refers directly to Beethoven’s piano sonata op.27/1. The movement headings underline the characteristics of a fantasia: Introduzione, presto minaccioso e lamentoso (like a confusing dream), recitativo, aria adagio molto. As in Luigi Nono’s œuvre, this composition involves Raumklang (spatial sound). Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No 7 Beethoven’s image in our time is characterised by his reputation as a symphonic composer. In particular, his Ninth Symphony and the enthusiasm which it unleashed in many composers of the 19th century (including Wagner) contributed to the fact that Beethoven’s symphonic creations have a much stronger appeal, even to modern audiences, than for instance his late string quartets. In his lifetime Beethoven’s symphonies provoked a great deal of debate. The première of the 7th Symphony on 8 December 1813 was the first to be received with enthusiasm by the Viennese audience. Richard Wagner described the work as the expression of “joy, which carries us away with mighty bacchanalian power through all spaces of nature, through all rivers and seas of life… this symphony is the apotheosis of dance itself.” Listen to a clip from each piece wno.org.uk/stdavids

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Wagner Siegfried Idyll Bruckner Symphony No 7

Friday 29 April 2011, 7.30pm

Conductor Lothar Koenigs The main work of this concert is the 7th Symphony by Anton Bruckner, one of the greatest and most important of the romantic symphonic composers. During his lifetime he received little recognition; his admiration for Richard Wagner went against the opinions of many of his contemporaries. In the Adagio movement of the symphony Bruckner expresses his great sorrow at Wagner’s death. The Siegfried Idyll is the only purely symphonic work by Wagner to have established its place within the concert repertory. Its music is pure sound and pure poetry.

Lebrecht Music & Arts, Otto Bohler, Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner

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Welsh National Opera at St David’s Hall

Anton Bruckner Symphony No 7 Today Bruckner is often deemed to be the most significant symphonic composer between Beethoven and Mahler. In his lifetime he received comparatively little attention and understanding from his fellow composers. Only after his death did the greatness of his work begin to be acknowledged. It was gradually appreciated that at the time of their creation his symphonic works took the position of an avant garde, and that Bruckner had created a new monumental type of symphony with a bold and modern tonal language. The conservatives around Eduard Hanslick fought against Bruckner not least because of his emphatic support for Wagner’s works. Consequently they branded him an “anarchist”, “a bungler and fanatic”, and “a harmonic heretic”. Even his more sympathetic contemporaries and his students did not always recognise the legitimacy of his symphonic work and its stringent structural logic.

Wagner’s death on 13 February, reached Bruckner, the composition had progressed as far as the coda. Bruckner wanted people to understand the entry of the tubas and horns (at letter X) as “music of mourning to the memory of the master’s passing”. Thematic connections with the last movement of the ‘Te Deum’ reveal in the Adagio an underlying Christian idea of hope: “Non confundar in aeternum”. Richard Wagner Siegfried Idyll Wagner said the Idyll was “the only one of my works which grew out of my life”. It is amazing that Wagner, right up until the end of his life, and even after composing Rheingold, Siegfried, Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger, held this work in such high esteem, even though it is in every sense a modest piece of chamber music. Irrespective of all the motivic threads connecting it to the Ring, this music is pure tone and poetry. Its force becomes even more obvious as the thematic links transform themselves and dissolve.

The seventh symphony was the first work to bring him actual success, and it opened the doors of concert halls to his other symphonies. A close analysis of the score makes one marvel at the boldness of conception, the modernity of the tonal language and the curious structural logic. His boldness and modernity are most obvious in his use of harmony, in which Bruckner is more progressive than Brahms. There is a story about the creation of the symphony’s Adagio that has contributed to the establishment of its fame. Bruckner had a premonition of Wagner’s death as he finished the draft of the Adagio around 22 January 1883. When the news of Listen to a clip from each piece wno.org.uk/stdavids

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Messiah Handel Sunday 12 December 2010, 7.30pm

Conductor Lothar Koenigs Soloists include Laura Mitchell, Patricia Bardon, Robin Tritschler and Darren Jeffrey This Christmas the Chorus and Orchestra of Welsh National Opera give a seasonal concert performance of Handel’s sublime masterwork – Messiah, the greatest of all oratorios. From the jubilant ‘Unto us a child is born’ and ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ to the haunting ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’, Messiah is a dramatic, life enhancing experience that will leave you moved and exhilarated.

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Welsh National Opera at St David’s Hall

Book now

Tickets £10 – £40 (Messiah £10 – £30) 029 2087 8444 stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk £10

Tiers 5,10 & 12 (rear)

£15

Tiers 9 & 13

Seating plan

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Front Centre Stalls, Tiers 3, 4, 6 & 7 Tiers 10 &12 (front), Tier 11 (rear)

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12 13

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£19.50 Front Side Stalls, Tiers 10 & 12 (mid) £22

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10

SIDE STALLS

2 Centre stalls

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£27

Side & Mid Stalls, Tiers 2 & 8, Tier 11 front

£32

Rear Centre Stalls, Tier 1

platform

£40

Platinum Ticket – Tier 1 (front)

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SIDE STALLS

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Seating and price plans are for orchestral concerts. Separate seating and price plans are used for Messiah. Platinum Ticket includes prime seat in Tier 1, interval glass of champagne and programme.

Save money

Book for all three WNO orchestral concerts and add another International Concert Series concert to make savings. Call St David’s Hall Box Office on 029 2087 8444 for details. Listen to a clip from each piece wno.org.uk/stdavids

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Photo by Brian Tarr

Welsh National Opera at St David’s Hall

12 Listen to a clip from each piece wno.org.uk/stdavids


Welsh National Opera at St Davids Hall