Brahms and Sibelius

  1. Piano Concerto No. 2
  2. Symphony No. 5
  1. Vasily Petrenko conductor
  2. Simon Trpceski piano

A swan hymn and a mighty piano work.

In Jean Sibelius’ fifth symphony, we can almost imagine the whole orchestra being elevated to a higher plane when the “Swan Hymn” lifts the music out of the Finnish forests and into infinity. This concert programme puts the spotlight on the horns: a horn introduces Sibelius’ famous symphony, as well as the Swan Hymn in the finale. With their lyrical melody, the horns also feature prominently in the introduction of one of the great piano concertos of our time. Although Brahms’second piano concerto can be said to be more symphonic than virtuosic, Simon Trpceski will have ample opportunity to demonstrate his outstanding technique to the fullest as he navigates the composer’s overwhelming waves of sound.

 “Good God, what beauty”, wrote Jean Sibelius (1865−1957) in his journal when sixteen swans circled over him one spring day in 1915, and he was inspired to write the horn theme from the finale of Symphony No. 5 (1919). Nature inspired Sibelius, but his final works seem to be expressions of the universal and the infinite, elevated above any imitation or wordly inspiration. Symphony No. 5 is arguably one of his most perfectly formed masterpieces in this sense: already from the pastoral idyll of the opening, all melodic and harmonic ideas lead to the “Swan Hymn” and the famous concluding salutes where time seems to stand still for a moment. The concept of symphonic unity and what he himself described as “deep logic” was important to the composer, who strived for a concentrated and powerful expression, but also desired variation and innovation in terms of sound and texture in the process of creating this. Since its very first performance in Helsinki in 1919, Sibelius’ fifth symphony has counted among Sibelius’ most often performed works and constitutes a highlight of Nordic musical history.

Another composer who was concerned with symphonic unity and deep logic was Johannes Brahms (1833−1897). He therefore imbued his solo concertos with symphonic proportions, form types and weight, and not only mere virtuosity. With its four massive movements, his second piano concerto counts among the real heavyweights in the classical repertoire and is notorious among pianists. Although many call it a symphony with piano, the soloist is immediately cast out into technical challenges, such as the cadenza, which starts only a few bars after the first movement. Behind the mighty facade, Brahms’ second piano concerto is varied in terms of both expression and character. Listen to the cello solo, for instance, which gently strokes you across the cheek in the third movement, and which Brahms later made into the song Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer (My slumber is growing ever softer) or the dancing Hungarian rhythms in the graceful final movement. The latter was particularly well-received when the work received its world premiere in Budapest in 1881, with Brahms himself as the soloist. 

(In photo: Simon Trepčeski; Text: Thomas Erma Møller; Translation from Norwegian: Sarah Osa)

Tickets

  • Adult: 100 - 470 NOK
  • Senior: 100 - 375 NOK
  • Student: 100 - 235 NOK
  • Child: 100 NOK
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