Brahms Rachmaninoff Petrenko
Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Smetana
Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Smetana
A titanic piano work and symphonic poetry.
Simon Trpceski returns to Oslo to perform Brahms' monumental Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko. Petrenko will also lead the orchestra through some of the most inspiring symphonic poems, rich in association, in the classical repertoire. Rachmaninov provides a dark sound base to Böcklin's symbolistic painting in Isle of the Dead, and Smetana proudly offers up segments of culture and nature from his homeland. We travel across the landscape in a trip along the Moldau before listening to him recount the legend of the warrior woman, Sárka.
It might be commonly claimed, that while Beethoven's “Emperor” concerto (his fifth) occupies a unique position amongst Romantic piano concertos, Johannes Brahms´(1833−1897) Piano Concerto No. 1 is its heir. With a reach, expressive register and monumentalism with surpassed its predecessor, Brahms set a new standard for the genre. Despite the fact that the concerto sets formidable technical demands for virtuosity and brilliance, it is not the bravura in and of itself which is the focal point. In this concerto, the soloist weaves his way into a drama which plays out within and together with, the whole orchestra.
In line with tradition, Brahms' first concerto for piano has three movements, and the composer builds on earlier models also in terms of form. The first movement has a classical sonata form, but the content and length of the various parts are untraditional. The symphonic drama, with the soloist playing the principal part, is followed by a far calmer second movement. “I am painting a tender portrait of you”, Brahms is to have said of this movement to Clara Schumann. Others have been more captivated by the way it floats, almost like Palestrina's vocal polyphony, and by its spiritual aura. At the start of the finale, the soloist takes back control and thunders away with both rhythmical panache and virtuosic flair. Brahms' first concerto for piano had its world premiere in Hannover in 1859 and was the composer's first successful work for orchestra.
Like Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninov (1873−1943) used the piano concerto to establish himself as an orchestra composer. When he composed the symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead in 1908, he had already experienced a huge success with his second piano concerto, and might already have had his third in his mind. Rachmaninov was inspired to write The Isle of the Dead when he saw a black and white reproduction of Arnold Böcklin's painting of the same name in Paris in 1907. “If I had seen the original, I would probably not have written The Isle of the Dead. I like it in black and white”, he remarked in disappointment, after having seen the painting in colour some years later. Nevertheless, the music is colourful, although the darker hues dominate as the composer rows us slowly towards the god-forsaken island, reminding us of death with the old Dies irae-hymn. The Isle of the Dead was performed for the first time in Moscow in 1909.
The mood lightens as we follow the little streams which flow playfully through the woodwinds, coming together to form one great river in the exquisite theme for strings as Bedrich Smetana (1824−1884) portrays Vltava (The Moldau) in the second symphonic poem in the collection Má Vlast (My Homeland). Smetana was a great musical painter of words and melodicist. This tone poem really conjures up images of floating downriver, watching the Bohemian landscape glide by on both sides. In the third of six tone poems, Smetana has swapped picturesque nature for Czech cultural heritage. The theme in this dramatic tone poem is the legend of Sárka − the female warrior who ties herself to a tree, seducing her opponents to approach her, only to drug and murder them while they sleep. The two symphonic poems were first performed in 1875 and 1876 respectively.
(In photo: Simon Trpčeski; Text: Thomas Erma Møller; Translation from Norwegian: Sarah Osa)
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