Janáček, Chopin and Lutosławski

  1. The Cunning Little Vixen, suite
  2. Piano Concerto No. 2
  3. Concerto for Orchestra
  1. Juanjo Mena conductor
  2. Jan Lisiecki piano

Polish-Canadian star pianist Jan Lisiecki visits Oslo to perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is a work replete with the kind of melodic poetry and virtuoso elegance that only the Polish piano master could conjure up. Then, fireworks spark as ominous drumming kicks off Lutoslawski’s dynamic and colourful work, the exceptional Concerto for Orchestra. Conductor Juanjo Mena also brings us The Cunning Little Vixen, here performed as a symphonic suite based on Janáček’s imaginative, tragi-comic opera. 

It took some time before Leoš Janáček’s (1854−1928) music became a standard feature of the repertoire of European orchestras. Today, more and more people are discovering his fascinating mix of folk music elements, modern melodies and sound. Janáček used the rhythm and intonation of the Czech language as inspiration and foundation for his musical style. In his opera The Cunning Little Vixen we follow the fox’s activities, and everything is communicated in Janáček’s inventive musical language. The work received its world premiere in Brno in 1924.

Folk music was a key ingredient also in Frédéric Chopin’s (1810−1849) stylistic development almost a century earlier. Chopin often wrote mazurkas and polonaises, and drew inspiration from typical melodies from Polish folk music. First and foremost however, Chopin was a musical lyricist who had the ability to draw spellbinding harmonies, brilliant ornamentation and sheer enchantment from the piano keys — both as a virtuoso concert pianist and as a composer.

His second piano concerto opens with a mighty maestoso where the piano soloist lifts his themes out of the orchestral introduction, breathing life into them. In the second movement, the poet Chopin reveals himself, producing a stream of bewitching melodies which could easily come straight out of one of his nocturnes. His Polish heritage blossoms fully in the finale when the mazurka rhythms unleash an explosive virtuoso stream of fireworks. The concerto was first premiered in Warsaw in 1830 with the composer himself at the keys.

Witold Lutoslawski’s (1913−1994) Concerto for Orchestra contains some of the same explosive qualities. Here, one of the great composers of the 20th century − not only in a Polish, but in a European context − took a leaf out of Bartók’s book and gave each instrument a solo role. The melodies reveal the composer’s origins, and are inspired by Polish folk music, but in this work they are compressed to form to a modern style where he uses complex sounds, atonal passages and an exceptionally rich use of counterpoint as musical effects.

Lutoslawski also refers to earlier music when he fills Baroque frameworks with sounds belonging to the 20th century. This is evidenced by the mighty passacaglia which concludes the work. Moreover, the work is characterised by Lutoslawski’s vibrant and masterful orchestration where he spares no orchestral effects, alternative playing techniques or new sound combinations. Concerto for Orchestra received its world premiere in Warsaw in 1954 and played a great part in making Lutoslawski famous far beyond Poland’s borders. 

(In photo: Jan Lisiecki, Photo: Holger Hage; 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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